Community Forest Fund (Completed)

Image Credit: Jerry Monkman

In 2010, OSI launched this innovative fund to encourage and accelerate the locally-based community forest movement to preserve local culture, provide outdoor recreation opportunities, support economic stability, and protect valuable natural resources. OSI’s Community Forest Fund was the first – and thus far remains the only – private grant source focused solely on nurturing and supporting these community-driven forest conservation projects.

During a decade of active grantmaking, OSI’s Community Forest Fund supported the creation and expansion of 25 community forests, conserving over 40,000 acres across Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

During its existence, the Community Forest Fund expanded on OSI’s two decades of commitment to conserving the vast forests of Northern New England, building on the $12.5 million Northern Forest Protection Fund that supported the conservation of 1.5 million acres. The foresight and commitment of Jane’s Trust and Doris Duke Charitable, along with essential support from other donors, enabled the success of OSI’s Community Forest Fund. 

Why the Community Forest Fund?

Beginning in the late 1980s, global market forces led timber companies to sell millions of acres of forestland. This transformation upended local economies and threatened to fragment the vast wild forest stretching across northern New England. Towns saw lands that had long been open — for hunting, fishing, camping and boating — divided and sold to distant landowners.

  • Young cyclists enjoy the Catamount Community Forest in Catamount, Vermont.
  • Maine's Bethel Community Forest was created with the help of an OSI grant.
  • Community volunteers help rebuild trails within the Ascutney Mountain Community Forest, site of a former ski resort.
  • Children enjoy Page Pond Community Forest in Meredith, New Hampshire.

By giving towns control over their own natural resources – and by building civic participation as town leaders, nonprofits, and citizens work together to purchase, conserve, and steward woodland – community forests are a powerful force for strengthening rural communities and ensuring long-term forest conservation in the region.

A groundswell of concern led to a renewed interest in community forests. In this land-use model of the 19th and 20th centuries, towns themselves own and manage forestland, and directly benefit from its natural resources. Sustainably managed, community forests can provide jobs, wood and other forest products, water protection, outdoor recreation, and revenues to support education and other town services. OSI and other land conservation organizations joined in to support this budding movement with research, training, and funding.

Impact of the Community Forest Fund

OSI's Community Forest Fund projects preserved precious resources for local citizens and visitors: public access to open spaces, clean drinking water, and economic benefits from sustainable forest management and outdoor recreation-based tourism.

Grants from the Community Forest Fund often provided the essential spark that kindled homegrown efforts to purchase and permanently protect forestland. In small towns with tight budgets and limited volunteer capacity, our help often catalyzed cooperation and action. OSI grants gave projects credibility, helping land trusts and towns raise funds from public and private sources—leveraging $6 for every $1 invested.

Over a decade of active grantmaking, a list of projects supported by OSI include:

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