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National Forests get stimulus funds

More than $274 million in federal economic stimulus monies will flow to U.S. Forest Service lands in 32 states, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Tuesday.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds involve 191 projects for forest facilities and trails and related ecosystems and watersheds.

Minnesota will receive $9.3 million for three projects.

The funding includes $2.65 million for capital improvement and maintenance of historic Civilian Conservation Corps facilities on the Chippewa and Superior National Forests.

Partners in the projects are the Minnesota Conservation Corps. Leech Lake and Boise Forte Bands of Ojibwe and the Cass Lake-Bena School District.

"This project will help preserve some of the Forest Service's finest examples of Civilian Conservation Corps constructed architecture and adapt these noteworthy historic structures for re-use and enjoyment by visitors today and in the future," states a project description.

"The centerpiece of this project is the stabilization and restoration of Camp Rabideau, a former CCC camp and designated National Historic Landmark," it said. "Camp Rabideau is one of the most intact CCC camps in the nation, and is still used by former CCC'ers for annual reunions."

The project description said the camp is envisioned for future use by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, among others. "It will be a destination site for visitors to northern Minnesota, thus contributing to the local economy."

Historic buildings built in the 1930s by the CCC in the Superior National Forest will be repaired or maintained, and foundation, roofing, stone and/or log replacement or repair will be done, it said.

Also in the funding package, 11 states will share $3.4 million for rehabilitation of potable water systems and sewage treatment systems at seven recreation areas, surveys to update operational and maintenance plans at 14 national forests, and installation of solar well pump houses at three recreational sites on two forests.

Cass Lake is one project area.

"The Recovery Act projects we're announcing ... are central to creating jobs and building a better, stronger economy in the future," Vilsack said in a statement. "These projects exemplify President Obama's commitment to sustainability, reducing our environmental footprint and increasing energy efficiency, which will benefit the 178 million people who visit the National Forests each year, generate additional tourism activity and stimulate local economies."

Projects include installing a photovoltaic solar cell system at Forest Service sites such as the San Dimas Technology and Development Center in southern California. The improvement will produce enough electricity to meet all of the center's needs, thus making it a "zero-net-energy" facility.

The Forest Service Trails System provides miles of recreational opportunities and access to the backcountry for a wide diversity of users including hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, hunters, fishing enthusiasts, and all-terrain vehicle riders, Vilsack said.

Trails bring together people of all ages and abilities, encourage healthy lifestyles, and promote general well-being. Many of the projects will be accomplished through partner and youth organizations which add the benefit of collaboration and community building.

Four states, including Minnesota, will share $3.9 million to repair heavily used popular recreational trails. Targeted in Minnesota is the Superior National Forest.