WASHINGTON, JUNE 27, 2014 AT 2:15 PM EDT - The U.S. Forest Service announced today nearly $2.3 million in grants to help communities in eight states secure community forests.
“These forests are established through placed based support with benefits reaching far beyond the local community,” said Chief Tom Tidwell. “This program conserves key parts of the nation’s forest for future generations, while providing thousands of Americans enhanced access to the great outdoors.”
The Community Forest Program (CFP) protects forests that are important for people and the places they call home. Community forests provide many benefits such as places to recreate and enjoy nature; they protect habitat, water quality and other environmental benefits, and they can provide economic benefits through timber resources. The 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 grants will be matched with an additional $4.9 million in funding from other partners on the projects, and represent a strategic investment in local communities, a key component of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.
Rensselaer Plateau Community Forest- New York
A 350-acre community forest will be created in the town of Poestenkill, New York. The community forest will provide public access to recreational amenities to the greater Rensselaer Plateau area, provide educational opportunities to nearby underserved communities and offer training and continuing education programs through forest demonstrations. Additionally, the community forest will assist with protecting a watershed ranked as one of the most important for drinking water and most threatened by development among the watersheds in the Northeastern U.S.
Humboldt Community Forest-California
Humboldt County will acquire a 400-acre redwood community forest in Northern California. This project will be the second phase of a larger conservation effort to protect valuable timberlands and coastal wetlands. In addition to protecting and enhancing the ecological integrity of the forest, wildlife, watershed, fisheries, and plant resources, Humboldt County plans to create several “Bay to Headwaters” trail linkages to enhance the recreational opportunities for the local community and tourists.
Jefferson Memorial Forest- Kentucky
The Jefferson Memorial Forest is located in Louisville, Ky. and was established as a woodland tribute to veterans of World War II with intent of providing nature-based recreational opportunities for Louisville citizens as well as a sanctuary for wildlife. The urban community forest will add 64-acres, increase recreational opportunities, and support a learning lab.
North Falmouth Community Forest-Maine
The Town of Falmouth, Maine will add an additional 96-acres of forest land to the existing 274-acre North Falmouth Community Forest. The town plans to tie this property to a larger recreational trail network and provide education opportunities for students and the local community. Additionally, the town plans to thin less vigorous trees. The biomass from the will be used in wood-fired boilers that provide heat for area schools. The harvest income will be used to further the town’s open space conservation efforts.
North Pikes Creek Wetlands Community Forest-Wisconsin
The Bayfield Regional Conservancy will create a 280-acre community forest along the North Pikes Creek in Russell, Wis. The community will protect a biologically rich forest and wetland environment that provides critical year-round habitat for numerous rare plants and animals. The property also contains the headwaters of North Pikes Creek and Pikes Creek, both having been classified as Class I trout streams and Outstanding Resource Waters. The North Pikes will increase eco-tourism opportunities and providing an easily accessible wetland/forest outdoor education lab for students and community groups.
Dorset Town Forest- Vermont
The town of Dorset is purchasing a 201-acre forest to expand an existing town forest near Owls Head, a mountain peak in the Taconic Mountain range, which is within the Green Mountain National Forest proclamation area. The community forest is home to a trail network that has been in existence for over a century.
Alvord Lake Community Forest- Montana
The Vital Ground Foundation will create a community forest that will protect 142-acres of forested land located approximately two miles from the City of Troy in Lincoln County, Mont. The property contains about 1/3 mile of shoreline frontage on Alvord Lake; the remaining shoreline is owned by the Kootenai National Forest. This project will build upon existing educational and recreational opportunities and will guarantee public access while providing demonstration projects for forest management.
Plimpton Community Forest-Massachusetts
The town of Sturbridge will link the 310-acre Plimpton Community Forest to an existing town forest and other conservation land in the area to create a 2,700-acre contiguous block of conserved forest. The contiguous landscape will significantly increase support of enhancing and conserving wildlife habitat and increase existing recreation opportunities. Additionally, the project will also contribute to the local and state economy by increasing eco-tourism opportunities in the region while connecting to larger conservation initiatives in the state.
All CFP 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 conservations efforts that create, expand and enhance community green spaces.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency also has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.