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September 22 2022, Washington DC: Forest Trends and the USDA Forest Service have announced a new partnership to support the coordination of government, industry, utilities, and other entities to restore the nation’s forests. Our new partnership aims to innovate models for cross-sector collaboration on large-scale forest restoration, and to create enabling conditions for such collaboration.

“Our forests and communities are under enormous threat. We need to identify solutions that match the scale and magnitude of the problem,” says Harris Sherman, former Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the US Department of Agriculture, and co-Chair of the Forest Trends Board of Directors. “This partnership will support the agency in building capacity and investment strategies to coordinate work across federal, state, Tribal, and private lands.”

Forest Trends will work with the Forest Service to expand its network of private sector, state, Tribal, and local partners and build strong long-term relationships with key collaborators. Our strategy will rely on targeted outreach and convening diverse coalitions to build a shared understanding of assets at risk, identify areas of mutual interest, and build out innovative partnership investment strategies.

The partnership will begin with a focus on two priority landscapes managed by the Forest Service where opportunities and risk are considered most significant. These will be selected in the coming weeks.

“This new national-level partnership with Forest Trends builds upon existing work by the Forest Service to create investment opportunities that align environmental, social, and financial outcomes,” said Chris French, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System. “Together we’ll focus on further bolstering agency literacy and exploration of new relationships to ensure long-term, sustainable support of critical infrastructure and restoration efforts beyond Bipartisan Infrastructure Law investments.”

Recent years have highlighted the enormous risks that wildfires pose to companies’ and utilities’ operations, reputation, and bottom lines in the United States. For instance, investor-owned utility PG&E agreed earlier this year to $55 million in settlements to avoid criminal prosecution, after its power grid sparked the 2021 Dixie Fire and the 2019 Kincade Fire.

These risks have led to a search for solutions: removing decades of built-up fuels from forests that contribute to bigger, more destructive fires. In 2010, the public utility Denver Water forged a first-of-its-kind partnership with the Forest Service after spending more than $40 million removing mud and silt from an important reservoir – a critical source of water for Denver and the Front Range – that had washed in after a wildfire. Each entity split the costs of proactively managing forests in Denver Water’s watershed to prevent similar wildfire-driven damages in the future.

“We need more examples like this all over the West,” said Sally Collins, former Associate Chief of the Forest Service and a member of Forest Trends’ Board of Directors.

“Forest Trends and the USFS have had more than two decades of working successfully together to explore innovations in forestry and conservation finance worldwide. We’ve been partners in exploring a suite of cutting-edge ideas, through seminars for leadership and joint research and demonstration — from forest certification, to payments for ecosystem services, to community forestry,” said Collins.

“We create long-term change by building coalitions and creating the systemic enabling conditions for investment in forest health,” said Michael Jenkins, Founding President and CEO of Forest Trends. “We have in the Forest Service a really forward-looking partner. We’re excited to announce this partnership and to develop new strategies together to accelerate much-needed restoration work in US forests.”