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$274 million investment will benefit national forests in 32 states

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $274 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds for forest facilities and trails and related ecosystems and watersheds. The 191 projects are located on Forest Service lands in 32 states. Including today, more than $936 million in Forest Service investments have been announced.

"The Recovery Act projects we're announcing today are central to creating jobs and building a better, stronger economy in the future," said Secretary Vilsack. "These projects exemplify President Obama's commitment to sustainability, reducing our environmental footprint and increasing energy efficiency, which will benefit the 178 million people who visit the National Forests each year, generate additional tourism activity and stimulate local economies."

Projects announced today include installing a photovoltaic solar cell system at Forest Service sites such as the San Dimas Technology and Development Center in southern California. This improvement will produce enough electricity to meet all of the center's needs, thus making it a "zero-net-energy" facility.

In Connecticut, Forest Service Research facilities at Hamden and Ansonia will receive new lighting, solar panels, and upgrades that will greatly improve energy efficiency. Other National Forest facilities and recreation sites will benefit from other visitor facility enhancements and restoring historic structures which interpret American's unique wildland heritage.

The Forest Service Trails System provides miles of recreational opportunities and access to the backcountry for a wide diversity of users including hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, hunters, fishing enthusiasts, and all-terrain vehicle riders. Trails bring together people of all ages and abilities, encourage healthy lifestyles, and promote general well-being. Many of the projects will be accomplished through partner and youth organizations which add the benefit of collaboration and community building. Work on trail projects will provide Job Corps members with opportunities to further develop skills and gain additional experience in natural resource management. Trail maintenance activities include clearing fallen trees, repairing trail signs, improving water drainage, maintaining bridges, reducing erosion, repairing trail head and parking areas, and trail decommissioning that eliminates unneeded trails.

Related ecosystem and watershed projects will be carried out to assure that areas receiving high visitation are repaired and restored. This will protect soil, vegetation, wildlife and fish habitat, and water quality, so that the National Forests can continue to provide improved water quality, clean air, and high level recreation opportunities to the American public.

by S. C.
23 july 2009, Food & Fun > Nature

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