WASHINGTON, D.C.—On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a remarkable investment to conserve some of the nation’s most economically and ecologically significant forestlands to the tune of $188 million. Provided through President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, these funds will support 34 conservation projects over more than 245,000 acres of the nation’s working forests critical to rural economies in 22 states and one island territory as part of the agency’s Forest Legacy Program (FLP).
“Working forests” provide countless invaluable benefits to local communities, from clean air to drinking water and ample wildlife habitat. Since 1990, the FLP has helped keep working forests working, and in turn, providing a myriad of public benefits on over 2.6 million acres across 53 states and territories.
The FLP, administered by the USDA Forest Service in coordination with state forestry agencies, protects environmentally significant forest areas that are otherwise threatened by conversion to non-forest use. By helping to prevent the loss and fragmentation of working forests, the program encourages sustainable forest management and supports sustainable markets for forest products.
Landowners can participate in the FLP by selling their property outright or by retaining ownership and selling only a portion of the property’s development rights. In either of these cases, the land’s ownership reverts to a state forestry agency or another unit of government. Landowners can also enter into conservation easements, which allows the land to remain in private ownership while ensuring that its environmental values are retained.
“Keeping forests as forests is fundamental when it comes to ensuring the many forest-generated public benefits our nation has come to rely on. Most of America’s forests are privately owned, and these are the forests at greatest risk of permanent loss. The Forest Legacy Program has a long and successful track record of conserving at-risk forests through thoughtfully conceived project funding. Successful projects meet state and community needs while delivering a powerful national conservation outcome,” said Jay Farrell, NASF Executive Director.
For a complete list of fiscal year 2023 projects, or to learn how states can apply for fiscal year 2024 funding, visit www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/private-land/forest-legacy/program/fy23-funded-projects. States can also contact their Forest Service regional office for more information.
For more on how the Forest Service works with states to conserve forestlands through this program, visit the Forest Legacy Program webpage.