The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday that it intends to spend $30 million on a variety of forest recovery projects over the course of 2014.
The Associated Press reports that the funds, which were allocated by Congress as part of the newly passed farm bill, will be spread across 12 different states and focus largely on reducing the risk of wildfires and beetle infections by clearing trees and placing fire breaks in high-risk areas of the drought-ravaged western United States.
Forest thinning projects remain controversial and have been met with skepticism from some conservation organizations who see such efforts as benefiting the timber industry alone without appreciably improving the surrounding ecosystem. A USDA spokesman told the AP that the new projects are "part of a broader push to beef up restoration by working with local governments, landowners, environmental groups, and others with a stake in the health of the forest."
Other approved projects will include improvements to well water in New Hampshire, invasive species control in Minnesota, and watershed restoration in Mississippi.