U.S. Forest Service and State of Utah reach shared stewardship agreement
By Robert Stevens
SALT LAKE CITY—The U.S. Forest Service and the State of Utah have agreed to share responsibilities in managing Forest Service lands, including those in the Manti-La Sal National Forest.
This means that state and local voices will have a greater influence in decisions on forest land issues such as clearing dead trees to reduce wildfires, timber sales and watershed restoration.
This Shared Stewardship Agreement was signed May 22 by Gov. Gary Herbert and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Shared stewardship is really a valuable tool because it allows agencies to work on projects that cross boundary lines, said Sanpete District Ranger Kyle Beagley. It enables one agency to oversee the a projects that may cross multiple ownership lines, including private land if the landowner is in agreement, he said.
A big part of this program involves improving wildlife habitat, which is especially important to the people of Sanpete County, the ranger said. A restoration project going on right now in Ephraim Canyon is a shared-stewardship venture.
Some of the trees in Ephraim Canyon are being ground into mulch and the land is being restored with native grasses and shrubs, he said. People will be able to see the work being done as they drive up the roadway.
Other projects involving shared stewardship in the Manti-La Sal include trail maintenance and trail adoption programs with both motorized and non-motorized groups participating. Another example is road improvements where the Forest Service is working with the county and state.
“We are replacing a bridge on a trail in Six Mile Canyon using our own funds and grant dollars we have applied for through state programs,” Beagley said.
As part of this Shared Stewardship Agreement, Utah and the Forest Service will work in partnership to restore priority landscapes using all resources available, including programs such as the Utah Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) and the Governor’s Catastrophic Wildfire Reduction Strategy.
Utah stands out with its WRI program, Beagley said. Under the program, the state spends millions of dollars annually on many different projects primarily on public lands. The funds come not just from state government but also from organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and National Wild Turkey Federation.
“No other state in the nation has a program that accomplishes the amount of work on the ground as does Utah’s WRI program,” he said.
According to Gov. Herbert, a big supporter of the WRI, over 1.6 million acres of priority watershed have been restored statewide.
“Our state has developed a history of working collaboratively with our federal and local partners,” said Gov. Herbert. “This new shared stewardship agreement offers us another tool in our toolkit to elevate cooperation with our federal partners. This added collaboration will help us address the most critical needs impacting the health of Utah forests and watersheds.”
Under the agreement, there is a commitment to engaging with local communities in dialogue and learning about desired outcomes.
For more information go to: Utah Agreement for Shared Stewardship.