Landowners with timber burned in West Mims Fire may be eligible for assistance


FARGO, Ga. – Landowners with timber burned in the West Mims Fire that spilled out of the Okefenokee Swamp may be eligible for cost share assistance through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Forest Restoration Program.

The program may cover up to 75 percent of the cost of approved restoration following natural disasters provided that the land had existing tree cover and is owned by a nonindustrial individual or group.

Qualifying practices include land clearing, site prep, and replanting.

The only requirement for the program is that the trees are planted. The reimbursement funds will come after the replanting has occurred.

Financial assistance is awarded by locally-elected FSA county committees, with a limit of $500,000 per person, per disaster. To begin the application process, Georgia landowners on the west side of the fire should visit the FSA Office in Valdosta, Georgia landowners on the east side should visit the Blackshear FSA Office, and landowners in Florida should visit the Lake City FSA Office.

The West Mims Fire has scorched more than 235 square miles -- nearly six times the size of Disney World -- since it was started by a lightning strike April 6.

As of Friday night, the West Mims Fire covered 152,478 acres and was 65 percent contained. Fire officials still expect the fire to burn until November.