Udall, Bennet Announce $1.5 Million in Recovery Funding to Protect Forest Health in San Juan National Forest

Mark Udall and Michael Bennet, U.S. Senators for Colorado, announced today that a noxious weed control project to protect the health of San Juan National Forest will get a $1.5 million boost from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

"The San Juan National Forest is a treasured part of our state's natural heritage," Udall said. "This funding will help create Colorado jobs while clearing the forest of invasive weeds and helping protect it - and nearby communities - from wildfire."

"Protecting our forests is an important and ongoing challenge for Colorado," Bennet said. "These dollars will help keep our forests safe from the threat of wildfires and vibrant for future generations while creating new jobs in the process."

The $1.5 million grant is part of $67 million announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture this week to restore forest health conditions on Federal, State, and private forest and rangelands in 20 states recovering from fires, forest insects and disease outbreaks. These conditions weaken affected lands and threaten the benefits these lands provide, including clean water, clean air, habitat for wildlife, resistance to wildfire, and recreational opportunities for the public.

Local project partners involved in the project are the Montezuma County Weed Control Program, Archuleta County Weed Control, La Plata County Weed Management, and Dove Creek Mandatory Weed District-Dolores County.

Noxious weed infestations can result in destruction of wildlife habitat, reduced recreational opportunities, displacement of threatened and endangered species, and reduced plant and animal diversity. This project will locate, inventory, and treat 5,000 acres of public and private lands infested with noxious weeds within 82,000 acres of hazardous fuel reduction units across the San Juan National Forest.

One of the consequences of removing plants, brush and other potential fuels is that bare mineral soil is exposed, creating an opportunity for invasive species infestations. For the best results, noxious weed management must go hand-in-hand with limiting fuels. The project will realize this goal by expanding existing county cooperative weed management efforts and contracting out work in Dolores, Montezuma, La Plata, and Archuleta counties.

Work will include mapping weed infestations and applying chemical and/or biological treatments. Control of these invasive plant populations will enhance agency fuels treatments and improve wildlife habitat, plant diversity, and visual aesthetics. This project will also provide stewardship training and employment opportunities.