SALT LAKE CITY– State, federal and local officials today visited forest management projects to see how Utah land managers are proactively addressing the bushfire crisis. Governor Spencer Cox hosted Deputy Chief Chris French and Intermountain Regional Forester Mary Farnsworth with the US Forest Service; Regional Conservationist Astor Boozer and State Conservationist Emily Fife with the Natural Resources Conservation Service; legislators; county commissioners; Executive Director of the Department of Natural Resources Joel Ferry; Brig. Gen. Kurt Davis, director of the Joint Staff, Utah National Guard, and more.
“This was a great opportunity to see project areas where we are working with our partners to proactively manage our forests,” Governor Cox said. “This work cannot be done by a single agency. By practicing shared stewardship, we can address the fire crisis across all lands through jointly identified priorities and shared resources.”
The Utah Army National Guard flew participants in a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter and a UH-72 Lakota helicopter over ongoing projects in the Beaver River watershed and Monroe Mountain. They also discussed the 2018 Dollar Ridge Fire, which consumed more than 68,000 acres and impacted the watershed, which cost the Central Utah Water Conservancy District more than $30 million to address and rectify.
“Looking at the landscape as a whole, fire suppression has caused fuels to build up over the last century. Prescribed burning is an important part of creating resilient forests and forest systems,” said Jamie Barnes, state forester and director of the Division of Forestry, Firefighting and State Lands. “This fuel overgrowth has created unhealthy forests and threatens our communities and watersheds that Utahns rely on. »
“The Utah Guard supports the state on an annual basis by helping fight wildfires and participating in flood management discussions; the opportunity to partner with the governor’s office and shared stewardship aligns with the National Guard’s efforts to mitigate loss of life and damage to public land and property. We look forward to our continued partnership with the Governor and shared stewardship to protect Utah’s communities, citizens and the environment,” said Colonel Erick Wiedmeier, director of military support to civilian authorities.
The group stopped midway in Beaver to take a land tour of the Beaver River project area.
« Viewing the project areas from both overhead and ground level provided invaluable insight into the size and scope of the work underway and the investment required to continue it, » said Joel Ferry, executive director of DNR. « The Beaver River Project is a brilliant example of how Shared Stewardship works with its cross-border collaborative approach to forest treatments within Beaver Canyon and the Beaver River Watershed. »
The Beaver Ranger District and its partners plan, make decisions, and implement large-scale projects that reduce wildfire risk, improve forest health, provide sustainable recreation, increase water supplies, and stimulate the economy.
« The tour of the state with federal, state and local partners underscores the importance of continued collaboration and joint decision-making at all levels to achieve our forest stewardship goals, » said Redge Johnson, director of PLPCO. « We will continue to promote meaningful coordination and joint decision-making to support forest stewardship across the state through state, local and federal shared stewardship program efforts and Utah’s nearly 20-year watershed restoration initiative. »
Since the initial shared stewardship agreement in 2019, more than $20 million in state and federal appropriations have been invested in landscape and transboundary-scale active forest management projects. In 2022, Governor Cox signed an updated shared stewardship agreement to re-establish the state’s commitment to work collaboratively with federal partners to improve forest health and create resilient forest systems to combat the ongoing wildfire crisis.
About shared management
Shared management is a cooperative approach to managing Utah forests. The program enables land managers to address urgent forest health challenges that can best be solved by local, state and federal cooperation. Utah’s shared stewardship agreement provides a framework for the state of Utah and the US Forest Service to work together in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and water providers to identify forest health priorities that need to be addressed. focus on recovery projects. The primary goals of the projects are the protection of communities and watersheds from the threat of large unwanted fires. Through shared management, we are opening our conversations to include not only the state and the Forest Service, but also communities, industry, organizations and users of our national forests. Shared management is about working with partners to do the right job, in the right place, at the right scale and at the right time for the benefit of our citizens and the environment.
Learn about the watershed restoration initiative
Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative (WRI) is a partnership-based program in Utah to improve high-priority watersheds across the state. Since 2006, WRI has focused on improving three ecosystem values: 1) watershed health and biological diversity, 2) water quality and yield, and 3) opportunities for sustainable uses of natural resources. Since the inception of the WRI program, more than 2,500 projects have been completed statewide improving nearly 2.4 million acres in Utah.