'Collaborative' forest projects to get $10 million

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Forest restoration projects in Montana and Idaho are among 10 nationwide that have been chosen to share $10 million under a new federal program meant to bring together groups such as loggers and conservationists that may have once had competing interests.

The restoration projects span from Florida to Washington state and were approved by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell on Thursday, according to organizers of the Montana project. An advisory panel recommended 10 projects out of 31 competing for funding through the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program signed into law last year.

In the Northern Rocky Mountains, Montana’s 1.5-million-acre Southwestern Crown of the Continent project will receive just over $1 million and Idaho’s 1.4-million-acre Clearwater Basin project also will get $1 million. Both were nominated because they were considered high-priority areas to restore ecological health, according to the Forest Service.

“I think this is a great signal of a fundamental shift in the Forest Service’s approach to managing forests, and it speaks to the strong history of collaboration and restoration in this part of the world,” said Scott Brennan, the co-chairman of the group that wrote the Montana proposal and The Wilderness Society’s forest program director.