RALEIGH - State forestry officials will receive more than $6 million in federal economic recovery funds to reduce the spread of wildfires and help restore some of the state’s once-abundant longleaf pine forests.
The N.C. Division of Forest Resources will receive the funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In total, $4.6 million will be used to reduce the amount of dried vegetation in forests that help wildfires spread. The state agency will hire five people to identify areas where loads of forest fuels such as downed trees could help spread wildfires. In addition, ARRA funds will be used to hire private contractors for wildfire mitigation and prevention education, and to complete community wildfire protection plans. The wildfire protection plans promote the Firewise program, a statewide effort to inform people about steps they can take to protect their homes and property from wildfires. On average, North Carolina experiences about 5,000 wildfires each year.
The division will also receive $1.7 million in ARRA funding for the Regional Longleaf Pine Restoration.
Using the economic recovery funds, the state will hire temporary employees and private contractors to perform most of the restoration efforts at Bladen Lakes State Forest. Work may be conducted on other state-managed land, if ARRA money is still available. Part of the $1.7 million will also be used to hire private contractors to construct a new irrigation system to produce more containerized longleaf pine seedlings at the state Division of Forest Resources’ nursery in Goldsboro.
Part of the more than $6 million in ARRA funds also will be used to:
• Create a new grant administrative assistant position for the Division of Forest Resources.
• Retain an existing staff forester position to serve as the ARRA longleaf program coordinator, and hire an outreach and education coordinator to develop a series of educational workshops on the longleaf pine.
• Provide tuition and travel scholarships for up to 25 foresters and natural resource professionals to attend Longleaf Academies in Alabama.
• Produce promotional and educational materials that support longleaf pine restoration and management.
For more information, contact Brian R. Haines, public information officer with the state Division of Forest Resources, at (919) 857-4828.