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La Grande Observer 12/22/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Project funding available through counties


Project funding available through counties

BAKER CITY — Federal funding to offset loss of income to timber counties is available for forest projects across the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests. Applications for Title II, under the Secure Rural Schools Act, will be accepted by county commissioners through March 14.

“Although many fiscal 2014 project proposals are developed by local Forest Service ranger districts, project applications may also be proposed by other agencies, local governments, organizations or individuals in coordination with their local Forest Service partners,” said Jeff Tomac, the Title II designated federal official and Whitman district ranger.

The project funding is intended to enhance forest ecosystems, restore and improve land health and water quality or improve the maintenance of existing facilities within the forests. Because this law is set to expire, projects must be completed no later than September.

In Wallowa County, Bruce Dunn, president of the Natural Resource Advisory Committee, said applications need to be submitted to Cynthia Warnock by Feb. 28. The submissions will then be reviewed by the committee’s technical committee and standing committee and then approved by the county commissioners. 

“We don’t know how much money we are getting, but we will rank the projects with a budget of roughly $150,000,” Dunn said.

The Northeast Oregon Forest Resource Advisory Committee reviews the project proposals and provides recommendations to forest supervisors. Since the special funding became available, more than $22 million has been allocated to projects in nine Northeastern Oregon counties.  

Dunn said the regional Resource Advisory Committee was disbanded last year when the federal government said Secure Rural Schools and Title II funding was sunsetting. Before projects across the three forests can be reviewed, the committee will have to be reauthorized.

Past projects have varied widely and have included culvert replacement to facilitate fish passage, noxious weed control, roadside brush cutting, aspen and riparian restoration, hazardous fuels reduction, forest road resurfacing and thinning contracts.

Enacted by Congress in 2000 and reauthorized in 2014, Tomac said the law has provided a secure level of funding for schools and roads over the last 10 years.


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