A few years ago, American Forests started working on a program that we believed would benefit wildfire-threatened forests and their communities across the country. Along with a number of partners, we fought to make sure this program got the support and funding it deserved. Just a few years into it, we’re already seeing encouraging results, as the threat of mega-fires has been reduced on 612,000 acres.

Ouachita National Forest
Ouachita National Forest, which borders Oklahoma and Arkansas, is the site of a CFLR project. Credit: Abhishek Chinchalkar (jaxx2kde)/Flickr

The U.S. Forest Service’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program (CFLR) was created to encourage collaborative, science-based ecosystem restoration of priority forest landscapes. American Forests was a founding member of the CFLR Coalition, which exists for two reasons: first, to ensure that the program is fully funded by Congress and, second, to ensure CFLR’s program goals are successful achieved. With today’s release of the 2012 CFLR report, it’s clear that both of these goals are now being met.

The Kootenai River
The Kootenai River. The Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative is a CFLR project focused on the lower Kootenai River watershed of north Idaho. Credit: Northwest Power and Conservation Council/Flickr

2012 marked the first year that CFLR has been fully funded since its inception in 2010. This means that this important program can support 20 CFLR-designated sites across the country. Plus, three additional collaborative project sites have been deemed as High Priority Restoration Projects.

Beyond the number of acres that have been better protected against mega-fires by the CFLR, the 23 project sites are also having an impact on the local economies. More than 4,500 part and full-time jobs were created or maintained through the program’s work in FY 2012, and the projects have generated nearly $320 million in labor income. There are also the environmental impacts: 537,000 acres of improved wildlife habitat and nearly 400 miles of restored fish habitat. All of these figures put the CFLR projects well on their way to meeting their 10-year goals and provide another prime example of what we can accomplish by working together.

A hallmark of CFLR’s success is the bi-partisan support from Congress that helped get the program created in 2009 and its first funding in 2010. It’s not just Congress that is working together on this program, though. The CFLR Coalition consists of more than 140 members representing 22 states. These members range from nonprofits to private businesses, from community members to county governments, from water suppliers to associations. This diverse collective represents our shared interest in making sure our forestlands are healthy, thriving and safe, which is something we at American Forests fight to create every day.