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San Juan National Forest receives $3 million from USDA program

The San Juan National Forest has been a priority for additional funding to improve forest health. (Journal file)
Investment expands forest restoration work in progress

The San Juan National Forest will receive more than $3 million for forest health projects from the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.

The funding enables land managers to expand existing projects for wildfire mitigation, forest health, critical watersheds, wildlife, noxious weed treatment and community infrastructure. How the funding will be divided among the ranger districts will be determined later.

The funding will complement the Forest Service budget and “allows for a lot more work to get done on the ground,” said Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla. “It will benefit a variety of forest health programs.”

The Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative, which identified the San Juan National Forest as a priority for additional funding for forest projects, is in its third year.

In 2020 and 2021, $7.4 million from RMRI funding was split between the Dolores Ranger District and the Columbine Ranger District for projects.

Padilla said the bulk of the RMRI funding went to the Dolores Ranger District because the district had many completed plans that were ready to implement.

The funding allowed for increased vegetation management, including prescribed burns, and timber thinning and mechanical brush treatments, which help reduce the chance for catastrophic wildfires. The improved forest conditions also lead to healthier trees, decreasing the chance for damaging bark beetle outbreaks.

CFLRP and RMRI are distinct initiatives, but they complement each other to improve conditions for people, animals and vegetation lands in Southwest Colorado, according to a news release.