WASHINGTON, OCTOBER 14, 2011 AT 12:15 PM EDT - The USDA Forest Service today published the implementation rules for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, which encourages the creation of community forests and fosters rural economies.
The publication of the rules in the Federal Register enables the Forest Service to proceed with the program. There is currently $1.5 million in funding available, with a request for $5 million more in the President’s 2012 budget. Grant administrators anticipate announcing a request for applications in approximately 60 days.
The intent of the Community Forest Program is to provide financial assistance grants to local governments, American Indian tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations to establish community forests. The program focuses on economic and environmental benefits, education, forest stewardship and recreation including hiking, hunting and fishing.
“The Community Forest Program will bring money and jobs to our rural communities,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These community forests will also provide a model of effective forest stewardship for private landowners. They protect habitat, conserve and protect water supplies, and provide educational opportunities – all while contributing to the local economy.”
All grant awardees must ensure public access to the protected lands. The community must be involved in the process of establishing a forest, developing a forest plan and determining long-term management needs. Each grant requires a non-federal match of 50 percent.
Implementing the Community Forest Program was identified as a priority action item in President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, and supports the recommendation to promote the creation, expansion, and enhancement of urban parks and community green spaces.
The community forests created under the program will also support working forests through sustainable management, timber and non-timber production, wood-for-energy production, and recreation and tourism.
“The Community Forest Program encourages the economic and environmental health of our communities, while fostering the next generation of American conservationists,” said Tidwell. “This program will give thousands of Americans access to the great outdoors, access that they may not have otherwise.”
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