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USDA, Tennessee Sign Shared Stewardship Agreement to Improve Forest Conditions on Public and Private Lands

Thursday, January 14, 2021 | 03:13pm
USDA and State of Tennessee sign agreement for forestry stewardship

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s forests will benefit from strengthened partnerships between federal and state agencies following today’s virtual signing of a Shared Stewardship agreement. 

Under Secretary of Agriculture James Hubbard represented USDA and Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Hatcher, Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers, and Wildlife Resources Agency Director Bobby Wilson all signed on behalf of Governor Bill Lee. 

The agreement between USDA's Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service and the state agencies establishes a framework to improve collaboration, accomplish mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to the increasing ecological challenges and natural resource concerns. 

“This Shared Stewardship agreement builds on a long history of collaboration between USDA and the state of Tennessee,” USDA Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Jim Hubbard said. “We are reaffirming our joint commitment to set management priorities that achieve outcomes across jurisdictions.”

This new agreement centers on USDA’s commitment to work with states and other partners to use the best available science to identify high-priority forests that require active management, and to ensure the long-term sustainability of public and private lands. 

“Our state natural resource agencies have a long history of cooperation to ensure the wise use and protection of our natural resources,” Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said. “This Shared Stewardship agreement with our federal partners extends our commitment to keeping our forests productive, healthy, and resilient.”

Involved agencies are individually tasked to address a wide range of challenges that negatively impact our state’s natural resources. These challenges include human population increase leading to more development, catastrophic storms, droughts, flooding, wildfires, insect and disease outbreaks, invasive species, increased recreational pressures, and a lack of adequate markets to help drive investments in sustainable forest management.

“Shared stewardship promotes accountability with our partners to manage natural resources that are entrusted to us,” Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M. said. “These partnerships help us leverage resources to protect, conserve, and enhance Tennessee’s forests making them more productive, healthy, and resilient on the landscape.”

The Shared Stewardship Agreement will foster collaborative planning, priority setting, and actions to address these challenges. Proposed actions include restoring fire-adapted communities and reducing the risk of wildland fire; identifying, managing, and reducing threats to forest and ecosystem health; fostering economic development strategies that keep working forests productive; conserving working forestland; and providing quality outdoor recreational experiences.

“Shared Stewardship exemplifies Tennessee’s continued dedication to wildlife conservation,” Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency Executive Director Bobby Wilson said. “Shared Stewardship creates a framework for state and federal agencies to work across boundaries and implement appropriate practices for healthy wildlife, sustainable forests, and clean water.”

“Collaboration and strategic partnerships are an integral part of TDEC’s mission, providing a number of benefits to Tennessee’s lands, waters, and native species,” Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers said. “We look forward to even more collaboration under this Shared Stewardship Agreement between the state and the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service, which will allow for additional conservation activities that benefit present and future Tennesseans.”

Tennessee becomes the 9th state in the South and 25th in the nation to sign such an agreement to strengthen partnerships within the state to increase the scope and scale of critical forest treatments that support communities and improve forest conditions. 

The agreement can be found online at www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/shared-stewardship.