Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Coca-Cola North America President Sandy Douglas today announced that their partnership to restore and protect damaged watersheds on national forests achieved a milestone of one billion liters of water restored, and that the partnership will commit to double that outcome through 2018. The 13 restoration areas are located on national forest land, which provides drinking water to more than 60 million Americans, and they ensure future generations will have access to fresh water.
“This milestone that Coca-Cola, USDA and our partners have reached is just the latest example of how partnerships between the public and private sectors can reach more people, harness more innovation, and do more good than either government or businesses can achieve alone,” said Vilsack. “America’s 193 million acres of public forests and grasslands supply the drinking water for 60 million Americans, support approximately 200,000 full and part time jobs and contribute over $13 billion to local communities each year. This partnership is based on shared goals of ensuring healthy watersheds and public engagement that serves those local communities, and will continue to deliver on that commitment for years to come.”
“A thriving watershed is critical to every community we serve and to our business,” said Douglas. “Coca-Cola is on a journey and plans to continue to replenish 100 percent of the water we use in our beverages and their production and return it to nature and communities. We could not accomplish the milestone we celebrate today without the expertise, guidance and resources of the USDA, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation and many other organizations and community partners. In the coming years, we will continue to work together to build scale and expand these projects and partnerships.”
This public-private partnership includes community organizations and taps their collective expertise to address increasing stress on water resources during challenging budget times. Dozens of local communities and hundreds of volunteers and youth worked together on water resource management education and stewardship activities.
The Carson National Forest in northern New Mexico is an example of the public-private partnerships approach. Local partners worked together to help restore an alpine meadow and enhanced a natural wetland habitat. By slowing the flow of Placer Creek, a tributary of the Rio Grande, the local team helped to restore a biodiverse meadow habitat and replenish the groundwater that contributes to the City of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s water supply. The meadow restoration project is expected to replenish approximately 49 million liters of water per year.
To date, Coca-Cola has contributed more than $2 million to the National Forest Foundation (NFF), a Congressionally chartered foundation, to support USDA Forest Service water restoration projects. NFF has also contributed funding, expertise and overall project management, including the meadow restoration on the Carson National Forest.
“One of the primary purposes of the 1897 Act that established our National Forests, was to ensure the long-term supply of water for our country” Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said. “More than 100 years later, the stewardship of these public lands for forest and watershed health continues to be essential in ensuring an adequate water supply and providing high-quality water for needs across the United States.”
Project listing by National Forest (some forests have multiple projects on site)
- Angeles National Forest, California: The Angeles National Forest provides critical resources for the approximately 13 million people who live within an hour’s drive of the forest. In 2009, the Station Fire damaged 252 square miles of forest, which allowed numerous invasive weed species to colonize upland in riparian ecosystems affected by the fire. In response to the fire’s devastation and associated ecological changes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service staff partnered with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and local communities to develop a 5-year restoration plan for Big Tujunga Canyon, ultimately expanding this work to the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.
- Carson National Forest, New Mexico: Historic and current recreational mining were threatening wetlands, a rare and critical resource in arid New Mexico. In addition, eroding gullies were adding sediment to area waterways. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service partnered with the National Forest Foundation, Coca-Cola, others to design a restoration strategy to prevent further loss of wetland, while also improving water quality in Placer Creek and Comanche Creek. The partnership also focused on enhancing important habitat for native flora and fauna.
- Eldorado National Forest, California: The Mokelumne River supplies drinking water to 1.3 million people in the East San Francisco Bay and is vulnerable to upstream environmental damage. Ecological restoration projects like the one completed by the Indian Valley partnership improve the function of forest and wetland ecosystems, providing for the species that rely on them. More resilient ecosystems benefit downstream communities—like those in the East San Francisco Bay—by helping provide a consistent and clean supply of water.
- Huron-Manistee National Forests, Michigan: Since 2008, the Huron-Manistee National Forests and the Oceana County Road Commission have been working to replace deficient road stream crossings in the White River watershed, including along Osborne and Brayton Creeks. Undersized road-stream crossings prevent aquatic organism passage and contribute to frequent flood events that were causing severe erosion and deteriorating the upstream valley. Replacing culverts with bridges helped resolve both environmental impacts.
- Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Illinois: The Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie was established in 1996 on the U.S. Army’s former Joliet Arsenal. Portions of the prairie—including the South Prairie Creek Outwash Plain—were heavily degraded by previous management actions. Partners focused their efforts on this particular portion of the landscape, replanting native grasses, treating invasive weeds, and removing agricultural drain tile. This prairie restoration improves the capacity to retain water, contributes to the formation of wetlands, and connects this area to Prairie Creek.
- Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington: The Methow River basin provides spawning areas for Spring Chinook salmon, as well as spawning steelhead, cutthroat trout, and bull trout. By reestablishing active beaver colonies to area streams, the partnership helped reestablish key watershed processes that support these fish species. Beaver colonies reintegrate dams into the area surface water, establishing wetlands, expanding habitat, and increasing the regularity of flows. In addition, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service and its partners gain a better understanding of the ecological effects of climate change, this project demonstrates an adaptive practice that offsets snowpack loss by storing water in beaver wetlands.
- Pike-San Isabel National Forests, Colorado: Burning nearly 140,000 acres, the 2002 Hayman Fire has had significant impacts on the municipal drinking water source area for the city of Denver, CO. The Pike-San Isabel National Forest worked with the National Forest Foundation, Coca-Cola, and other partners to address post-fire restoration needs through NFF’s Treasured Landscapes campaign, a multimillion dollar public-private partnership.
For more information and a full list and description of these individual restoration projects, visit the Forest Service partnership webpage at http://www.fs.fed.us/working-with-us/partnerships