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Proposals needed for forest improvements

The public is invited to submit applications for projects designed to benefit national forest lands and programs of the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. More than $800,000 will be available for project prioritization.

Project proposals must be submitted to the national forest's managers by March 31 if they are to compete for funding provided through the "Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000."

"Project applications can be submitted by anyone with a well thought out idea about how to improve the land or resources within the national forest," said Rob Iwamoto, forest supervisor. "We encourage project applications from other agencies, local governments, organizations and individuals." Projects with strong partner contributions are typically very competitive.

By law, projects must benefit National Forest System lands, directly or indirectly. The projects are to enhance forest ecosystems, restore and improve land health and water quality, or improve the maintenance of existing facilities within the national forest.

Fifty percent of the funds must be spent on restoration of roads and watersheds to reduce erosion and enhance fish passage.

Citizens appointed to resource advisory committees - one representing Whatcom and Skagit counties, another representing Snohomish County, and a third representing King and Pierce counties - review project proposals and recommend to the forest supervisor which should be funded. In the four years since the special funding became available, about $3.8 million has been allocated to projects on or near Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest lands in the five counties.

All project proposals will be prioritized by the three advisory committees. The Whatcom-Skagit committee will have about $645,000 to work with, the Snohomish Committee about $119,000 and the King-Pierce committee about $80,000. Funded projects vary widely. They have included road culvert replacement; fish passage improvements; youth-oriented outdoor recreation and conservation education work; mountain weather data collection; road, trail and watershed restoration; and increased cooperative law enforcement patrols.

Enacted by Congress in 2000, the law provides payments to local counties as compensation for the impact of reduced tax revenue due to large federal land parcels within their boundaries. The law guarantees a secure level of funding for schools and roads while providing monies that can be devoted to natural resource-related improvement projects that benefit lands within the national forest boundaries.

Fiscal year 2006 will be the last year the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000 will be in effect with the special provision of funds to these improvement projects, unless Congress decides to extend some variation of this funding. The funding is for projects that can be completed in 2007.

Project submission forms are available on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie's Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs, or from the three national forest managers who head the three citizen advisory committees.

For project proposals in King County, contact Jim Franzel at (425) 888-1421 or e-mail jfranzel@fs.fed.us.

Additional information about the three resource advisory committees is available on the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Web site at www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs.

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