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US government to spend $30M on forest restoration

HELENA, Mont. (AP) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it will spend $30 million this year to reduce the threat of wildfires, protect water quality and improve habitat for at-risk species.

The 13 projects unveiled Thursday will cover watersheds in 12 states. The first projects include the restoration of a watershed that provides most of the drinking water for Montana's capital of Helena and the reduction of forest fuels in parts of California's San Bernardino and Riverside counties devastated by wildfires in 2003.

Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonnie said the multi-year project will be run by the department's Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.

He says the aim is to restore the watersheds by thinning trees, removing brush and improving habitat on public and private lands.

Other projects include reforesting, reducing hazardous fuels and controlling invasive species at the Mississippi River headwaters in Minnesota.