Utah Governor Gary Herbert and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed an agreement Wednesday focused on shared stewardship for Utah’s 9 million acres of forests.
The governor and secretary both said the shared stewardship agreement will help state and federal agencies better manage forests to prevent destructive wildfires and maintain watershed health in the mountainous state.
“We work really well together - we have got productive, positive relationships with the federal agencies. but it can be better in some circumstances," said Brian Cottom, Utah's director of forestry. "There are, particularly some state initiatives that having more active engagement by the forest service will be beneficial and we have a commitment from them that they will do that.”
The Utah legislature appropriated $2 million to forest management last year, and Cottom said that money, as well as the new agreement, will keep costs down when it comes to wildfire, which cost the state $42 million to manage last year.
“The intention around shared stewardship is really to blur those lines so that the treatment we are doing on the forest is the right treatment, regardless of jurisdiction," said Tim Garcia, the director of private and state forests for the forest service in the region.
A similar shared stewardship agreement was signed in Idaho, and others are being drafted in Montana and Washington, all with the goal to better converge ideas of forest management despite the hard boundaries between state and federal managers.