Pine trees in the Black Hills National Forest. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)
The White House announced Friday that the U.S. Forest Service and the National Wild Turkey Federation have signed a 20-year agreement to address Western wildfires and promote healthy forests and grasslands across the U.S.
Grassland makes up approximately 50% of all private and public lands in South Dakota, and the state is home to multiple national grasslands and the Black Hills National Forest.
The deal includes an initial $50 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in 2021.
Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said in a news release that the National Wild Turkey Federation is the largest and longest-serving nongovernmental partner involved in Forest Service stewardship agreements.
“Larger wildfires, more frequent natural disasters, and other disturbances that continue to threaten the health of the nation’s forests and grasslands, and the wildlife habitat they provide, means the work we do together is even more vital,” Moore said.
The federation’s work under the new agreement will include vegetation management and prescribed fire, with a goal of improving forest and grassland health while supporting fish and wildlife habitat. The federation will also support efforts to promote the commercial use of forest products, including transporting wood fiber from over-supplied areas to areas where it can be used.
The agreement is the largest in the federation’s 50-year history, said Kurt Dyroff, co-chief executive officer.
“Wild turkeys, as well as other wildlife, rely on healthy habitats and healthy forests for their long-term sustainability,” he said in the release. “Likewise, hunters rely on the same for a quality and successful hunting experience.”
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