NESPELEM The Colville Confederated Tribes are getting nearly $3.9 million from the federal government for reforestation efforts in the wake of the 2015 fire season.
U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs are providing $3.89 million. The tribe and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., recently received a commitment from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to work with the tribe on reforestation.
The Colville Business Council sent a letter of gratitude to the department and BIA.
“Our Forestry Management and Natural Resources Division works tirelessly to keep our forests healthy” said Chairman Michael E. Marchand. “Our communities were deeply affected by these wildfires. This funding will go directly toward our resources, land and traditional stabilization of a healthy forest and that includes many different kinds of trees, huckleberries and jobs for the men and women who are stewards to this land.”
The North Star and Tunk Block fires, plus other, smaller blazes, raced across the reservation in August 2015.
“The tribes have been diligently working to replant the forest,” said council member Jack Ferguson. “We began seeking reforestation money from the department before the 2015 fires were contained.
“We were disappointed that the department’s leadership didn’t prioritize our requests in 2015 and 2016, but we now have reason to believe that department’s leadership understands the severity of the problem,” he said.
Replanting and restoration of the reservation forest will be a multi-year undertaking, Marchand said. Additional funding will be needed in the coming fiscal years.