The N.C. Division of Forest Resources (NCDFR) was awarded more than $6.8 million dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) for six projects across the state. Funding from two of the six projects has been used to create a grant coordinator position that oversees ARRA grants for the NCDFR.
Hazard Mitigation and Firewise Program
The division was awarded approximately $4.6 million in fire hazard reduction money with the goal of reducing the fuel loads in North Carolina forests, resulting in the expenditure of fewer tax dollars to fight wildfires while maintaining and creating jobs.
To aid the NCDFR with the creation of Community Wildland Fire Protection Plans (CWPP) an Assistant Coordinator was hired to manage the ARRA program. In addition three full time employees have been hired to coordinate mitigation efforts for each geographic regions of the state, Coastal, Piedmont and Mountain. These employees seek out areas that need mitigation and establish contracts to carry out that work. Two temporary employees were also hired as equipment operators for a mulching machine that is utilized to create fire breaks by grinding down the excessive forest fuels.
Private contractors are also being hired to provide wildfire mitigation and prevention education, and complete CWPP by collecting data in 300 fire districts and reporting the information using NCDFR protocols. The information in the CWPP’s will be used to promote the N.C. Firewise program, which provides the knowledge necessary for citizens to protect homes in the wildland urban interface from wildfire. There are currently 18 nationally certified Firewise communities in North Carolina.
Longleaf Pine Restoration Initiative
NCDFR was also awarded more than $1.7 million for the Regional Longleaf Pine Restoration Initiative through the ARRA. The division is one of five state forestry agencies across the country that is implementing the longleaf pine initiative. The overall funding for this regional project is more than $8.9 million and is being divided between North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia and Alabama. In addition to creating jobs, the initiative supports a variety of activities to restore longleaf pine ecosystems within its natural range. The longleaf pine once covered the land from Virginia to eastern Texas, covering approximately 92 million acres; approximately 3 million acres remain across the country. During the colonial and early statehood periods, the longleaf pine was a vital part of the North Carolina economy.
The majority of the longleaf restoration efforts are occurring in Bladen Lakes State Forest (BLSF) to establish longleaf pine on 700 acres within and near red cockaded woodpecker forage habitat. A number of other management activities will occur at BLSF, including the establishment of 300 acres of wiregrass groundcover under canopies of existing longleaf pine. Prescribed burns on approximately 6,300 acres of existing, and soon to be converted, longleaf stands will also occur. This work is being accomplished with the assistance of seven temporary employees and private contractors hired using ARRA grant money.
In North Carolina there are growing efforts by tree nurseries, including those managed by NCDFR, to grow longleaf pine seedlings for commercial production. Stimulus money was used to expand the containerized longleaf seedling capacity at Claridge Nursery, in Goldsboro, by 4.2 million seedlings annually. NCDFR will also produce seedlings of understory plant species typically associated with longleaf pine ecosystems, such as beargrass and wiregrass, which can be sold to support the longleaf ecosystem restoration. This work has been completed primarily by private contractors.
The Longleaf Pine Restoration Initiative has created a new position for an ARRA longleaf program coordinator. A highly qualified outreach and education contractor will be hired to develop a series of educational workshops targeting landowners in three areas – the N.C. Sandhills, Bladen Lakes and the Onslow Bight (from North Carolina’s Cape Lookout to Cape Fear regions).
NCDFR has also provided tuition and travel scholarships for 21 foresters and natural resource professionals to attend sessions of the Longleaf Academy that was provided by the Longleaf Alliance in Alabama. Promotional/educational materials supporting longleaf pine restoration and management will also be purchased or developed and distributed widely to landowners, natural resource professionals and longleaf advocates.
Keeping Sediment in Check with BMPs
A $247,000 grant has also been awarded through the ARRA to the N.C. Division of Forest Resources to fund a project entitled “Keep Sediment in Check.” Funding has helped to retain two jobs that help to protect water quality across North Carolina through educational or training workshops, stream restoration, examining logging sites, and studying the effects of timber harvesting on streams. As of July 2010, personnel with the Division of Forest Resources, whose salaries are partially-supported by this ARRA “Keep Sediment in Check” grant, have:
Fuel Hazard Reduction and Invasive Species Control
Two grants have been awarded to NCDFR’s Young Offenders Forest Conservation Program, also known as the BRIDGE (Building, Rehabilitating, Instructing, Developing, Growing, Employing) program.
DFR’s District 4 in New Bern has also been awarded an ARRA grant in collaboration with the USFS for a total of $52,220. This grant’s focus is on reducing hazardous fuels in the Croatan National Forest.