Governor Asa Hutchinson and United States Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Shared Stewardship recently during a ceremony at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.
The MOU establishes a framework for the participating agencies to work more closely together to accomplish mutual goals, further common interests, and effectively respond to ecological challenges and natural resource concerns in Arkansas. A key component of the shared-stewardship strategy is to prioritize investment decisions on forest practices to protect communities and create resilient forests and landscapes.
“Today more than half of Arkansas’s public and private land is covered in forest, creating a rich ecosystem that supports our communities, watersheds, and economy,” said Governor Hutchinson. “I am confident that this agreement with the USDA’s Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service is an important step to further support, protect, and preserve Arkansas’s most valuable resources.”
The state agencies participating in the shared-stewardship strategy are the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The federal participating agencies are the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The MOU signed today marks the first such agreement in the southern United States and is the first one in the nation to include the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“This is an important next step in our land-management efforts with the State of Arkansas,” said Secretary Perdue. “Shared Stewardship is about setting cross-boundary priorities together to achieve landscape-scale outcomes. USDA looks forward to working closely with the state to improve health and conditions on both public and private lands.”
The USDA Forest Service announced the new strategy of shared stewardship in August 2018 after the release of “Toward Shared Stewardship across Landscapes,” a report that outlines the agency’s plans to work more closely with states to identify landscape-scale priorities for targeted practices in areas with the highest forest health opportunities.
It also marked Secretary Perdue’s third visit to Arkansas since 2017. In addition to a discussion with agriculture stakeholders and the MOU signing at the Arkansas Department of Agriculture, he also visited with poultry industry leaders and conducted a precision agriculture tour.