USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the U.S. Forest Service recently announced the investment of $7 million in 11 new projects and $33 million in existing projects through the national Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership. Going into the third and final year of the agreement, the West Virginia Restoration Venture (WVRV) will receive $2.7 million. Under this Venture the West Virginia NRCS will receive $ 1.8 million and the Monongahela National Forest will receive $900,000 to continue to improve the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems where public and private lands meet.
Raymond Phares is no stranger to the importance of stream restoration efforts and jumped at the chance to participate in the WVRV through the NRCS. As an excavation business owner in Pendleton County, Phares sees the importance of taking care of natural resources through his own work as well as on his property.
“I really believe the farmers in this area are good stewards of the land and know that stream restoration projects help people both up and downstream,” Phares said. “It makes sense as part of preventing erosion and farm damage as much as it does to keep our waters clean and of high quality. People understand it and I’m happy to spread the word to others about the West Virginia Restoration Venture.”
Stream restoration is a complex conservation practice with many variations from site to site even within the same watershed. The elements are unpredictable and can change at any time so it’s important to gather as many partner agencies together to find the best solution.
“There haven’t been fish in this area since the ’85 flood when the fish habitat was destroyed. It would be great not only to bring them back, but also have a good, clean and functional water resource. I’ve done a lot of work over the years in the surrounding area so many of those farmers who may have been uncertain, knew me and my work,” said Phares. “Putting my name and work behind it, helped them have a neighbor who used the program with success and also in some instances performed the work. They were more eager to put in an application with that simple fact in place and I was happy to help them out by providing information.”
“The health of our forests and our rural communities very often go hand in hand,” said Louis Aspey, NRCS State Sonservationist. “As two USDA organizations, NRCS and the Forest Service are able to bridge the gap between private and public lands surrounding the Monongahela National Forest. We have a great opportunity to continue leveraging our assets with the help of additional local partners to achieve our common goals and plus, NRCS can continue to have success with private landowners.”
“The West Virginia Restoration Venture is very pleased to receive Joint Chiefs’ funding for a third year. This continued investment in the project enhances our ability to restore and sustain healthy ecosystems in the heart of the central Appalachians,” Clyde Thompson, Monongahela National Forest Supervisor said. “The work that is enabled by this funding provides direct economic and social benefits to local communities, while also deepening the Forest Service’s working relationship with the many private and government partners involved in the project. We look forward to another year of landscape-scale restoration work.”
As with all Joint Chief’s Landscape Scale Restoration projects, cooperative work with partners is key to accomplishing the work on the ground. Joining the NRCS and the Monongahela National Forest are Trout Unlimited (TU), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Canaan Valley Institute (CVI), West Virginia Division of Forestry, and the U.S. Forest Service-State and Private Forestry. All are committed to restoring the health of West Virginia forests, streams, and grasslands. The partnership aims to accelerate ecosystem improvement through continued project implementation and strengthened interagency planning.
Since 2009, USDA has invested more than $29 billion to help producers make conservation improvements, working with as many as 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect over 400 million acres nationwide, boosting soil and air quality, cleaning and conserving water and enhancing wildlife habitat.