Community forests gaining momentum

NEW YORK, NY - April 12, 2012 - While the Open Space Institute’s Community Forest Fund prepares for a third grant round this summer, a complementary federal conservation initiative, the Community Forest Program, is seeking applicants for its inaugural round of grants as well. 

Combined, the two programs stand to funnel more than $5 million into the protection of community forests, a longtime staple in American conservation that has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. 

“Community Forests are based on the traditional New England ‘town forest’ but offer new relevance, said Marcy Lyman, a member of both the Community Forest Collaborative and OSI’s Community Forest Fund Advisory Committee. “Community Forests provide a fundamentally different ownership and conservation model by increasing local equity in the region's core asset—its forests. 

Although this funding is small compared to the overall need, the federal program’s first round of projects could jump start a much larger program that will be national in scope. 

“The Community Forest Program has passed the magical 'tipping point' of political momentum with its latest $2 million dollar appropriation in a tough fiscal climate,” said Jad Daley, the director of The Trust for Public Land’s Climate Conservation Program. “There is a critical mass of bi-partisan support in the House, Senate, and administration that will sustain future appropriations. Now the key is to deliver great project proposals to the program that will grow this momentum with compelling accomplishments.”

Last year, OSI’s fund, with its focus on New England, assisted residents in West Fairlee, Vermont and Albany, New Hampshire in the expansion and acquisition of their community forests. 

In West Fairlee, Brushwood Community Forest grew to more than 1,000 acres, more than doubling its size. Brushwood now offers local residents expanded opportunities for sustainable forest management and recreation while supporting landscape-scale wildlife habitat and drinking water resources. 

Citizens in Albany used a grant from OSI’s Community Forest Fund to help acquire 302 acres that will play an important role in a vibrant local economy. With substantial stands of northern hardwoods, red oak, hemlock and white pine, the town of Albany now has a sustainable asset that will provide a renewable source of revenue.

The forest also sits on one of the largest aquifers in the state and will likely be tapped as a future source of drinking water for town residents.

Although initiated in 2008, the federal Community Forest Program is only now soliciting it first grants, For FY2013, President Obama has proposed allocating $4 million to the fund, which, if approved, will give the program another boost to complement OSI’s fund. 

“The importance of OSI’s Community Forest Fund will only increase with the implementation of the new public Federal Community Forest Program,” Lyman said. “We hope that both can work synergistically and in partnership with communities to develop the full potential of locally owned and managed forests.”

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