WASHINGTON, MAY 26, 2015 AT 1:30 PM EDT - The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday more than $1.9 million in Community Forest Program grants to support local communities and preserve community forests across the United States.
The Community Forest Program provides financial assistance grants to local governments, tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations working to establish community forests with a focus on economic and environmental benefits, education, forest stewardship, and recreation opportunities.
The federal grants are matched with an additional $8.2 million in funding from other partners and represent a strategic investment in local communities.
“These forests are created and supported by the local community, but the benefits reach far beyond the community forest boundaries,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “This program aids in protecting, enhancing, and conserving the nation’s forests for future generations, while creating jobs in local communities and providing thousands of Americans better access to the great outdoors.”
All projects must ensure public access to the protected lands, and the communities must be involved in the process of developing a forest plan and determining long-term goals for the forests. Implementing the Community Forest Program is a USDA priority, as it supports conservation efforts that create, expand, and enhance community green spaces.
Today’s announcement also supports Secretary Vilsack’s Building Blocks for Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry—a comprehensive effort to help farmers, ranchers, and forest land owners respond to climate change, create economic opportunity, reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and generate clean, renewable energy. Through the effort USDA intends to protect nearly one million additional acres of working landscapes through the Community Forest Program and Forest Legacy Program over the next 10 years. More information on this comprehensive set of voluntary programs and initiatives can be found at www.usda.gov.
Milan Community Forest, N.H.
The town of Milan, New Hampshire is seeking to create a 1,342-acre community forest to provide the local community with outdoor recreation and education opportunities. The community forest will also provide protection for cultural and scenic resources as well as habitat protection for threatened species such as the Canada lynx and the American marten. The Town of Milan will actively manage the timber resources on the property to earn revenue to maintain the property, as well as create jobs to support the local logging and forestry industry.
Lime Lake Community Forest, Mich.
The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy is seeking to protect 18 acres of rolling forests and wetlands in Antwerp and Almena Townships in Michigan. The community forest will provide a public natural area with easy access to the broader Kalamazoo-Mattawan-Paw Paw community for education and passive recreational use. The community forest will also be managed to improve and maintain habitat for rare and endangered species, such as Mitchell’s Satyrs.
Buffam Brook Community Forest, Mass.
The Buffam Brook Community Forest is located in the town of Pelham, Massachusetts. The 185-acre community forest will provide the local community with a place to demonstrate scientifically-informed sustainable forestry practices, wildlife habitat resiliency and connectivity to other protected lands, sustainable forestry and forest conservation education opportunities, and opportunities for public recreation and enjoyment of forest. The Town of Pelham seeks to use the sustainable forestry model of selective harvest to provide wood to support the local wood products industry.
Yellow Dog River Community Forest, Mich.
The Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve will create a 935-acre community forest in Upper Peninsula Michigan. The community forest is located in the Great Lakes Basin, which is a critical freshwater resource that contributes significantly to the nation’s water supply. The community forest will provide the local and regional area with water and land-based recreation opportunities and forest-based educational opportunities, and protect wildlife habitat in a county that has 70 species listed as state threatened, endangered, and of special concern. The community forests endeavors to provide economic benefits to the members of the local community that rely on the forest for their livelihood, such as recreation retailers, hunting and fishing guide services, artist, woodworkers, and wildlife photographers.
Nisqually Community Forest, Wash.
The 655-acre Nisqually Community Forest will be located in the Mashel River/Busy Wild Creek sub-basin of the Nisqually River Watershed. This community forest will provide permanent protection for a popular trail that attracts approximately 3,000 visitors annually and is an important economic driver for the local towns of Ashford and Eatonville. The community forest is connected to a wildlife corridor created by the Mount Rainer Gateway Reserve, which connects Elbe Hills State Forest with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest and the Mount Rainier National Park.
Río Hondo Community Forest, Puerto Rico
The Río Hondo Community Forest will permanently protect over 67 acres of forested land for outdoor recreation, education, natural habitat conservation, and scenic enjoyment of the Río Hondo and Mayagüez communities. The community forest will provide forest-based environmental education to the community, establish agroforestry and sustainable forestry practices, promote small scale wood production, and implement a self-sustaining community project promoting tourism to create new business opportunities for guided tours and other recreational economic opportunities. This project is the first of its kind in Puerto Rico.