The USDA Forest Service and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry have entered into a Good Neighbor Authority master agreement to help conserve, protect and manage natural resources in the Cherokee National Forest.
At an annual interagency meeting, Tennessee State Forester David Arnold and Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris signed the agreement.
The intent of the GNA is to allow TDF to perform work on national forest lands on behalf of the Forest Service. Among other things, the agreement provides the ability to work across jurisdictional boundaries and implement management practices in a mixed federal/state ownership setting.
It also fosters a collaborative approach in addressing land management challenges and provides the ability to leverage state resources to accomplish work on National Forest System lands. The GNA was made possible by The Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill), which authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Interior to enter into agreements with states to carry out authorized restoration services.
Tennessee State Forester David Arnold said, “Sometimes federal and state agencies have different constraints, requirements and guiding documents. But when it comes to on-the-ground management of our forests, federal and state agencies can work together in the land’s best interest.”
The agreement that was entered into is called a five year Master Agreement, meaning there will not be any specific projects or work identified at this time. This document however lays the framework for supplemental project agreements that can be signed later when funding and projects are identified. Examples of projects that might be done through GNA supplemental agreements include watershed restoration and protection, forest health thinning, prescribed fire, forest planning, wildlife management and timber harvesting preparation. In exchange, TDF can receive reimbursement for the work and receive added benefits of on-the-job skills training and experience for employees.
“Taking care of America’s lands and natural resources is a big job. No single organization can do it alone. The Good Neighbor master agreement really frames up what the agencies agree to do and puts us in a great position to capitalize and make the most of the natural resources that we manage together for the benefit of users,” said Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris.
Cherokee National Forest, covering over 650,000 acres, is located in ten East Tennessee counties along the North Carolina border. It is the largest single tract of public land in the state.