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New fund protects working farmland and ecological preserve in New England forest

New York, NY - 12/13/2001 - The Open Space Institute (OSI) today announced four grants to non-profit land trusts totaling $1.44 million to support the purchase and permanent protection of 62,854 acres of private forestlands in the Northern Forest.

These grants are the first to be made from the Northern Forest Protection Fund (Fund), a $12 million matching capital fund created by the Open Space Conservancy (OSC), the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute. The grants were made on the recommendation of an eight person advisory board comprised of representatives from around the region. The Fund was made possible with a $10 million grant last year from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and a $2 million grant from the Surdna Foundation, to protect through acquisition or easement, forestland in northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

The Northern Forest comprises a vast unbroken landscape of 26 million acres stretching across northern New York and New England. The first of its kind, the Fund was established in response to threats posed by forestland sales in the Northern Forest, totaling almost 5 million acres in the last three years. This rapid turnover in ownership presents a unique opportunity to protect the values of the sweeping forest landscapes for sustainable forestry, wildlife, water quality and public access.

“At stake is the historic use of the region's woods and waterways. These four purchases conserve the forest land base that feeds the mills in the region, protect habitat for so much wildlife and allow the public continued use,” said Joe Martens, President of the OSI.

The Fund's first round of grants reflects an emerging trend among conservationists to connect conserved lands in order to protect forests and the economic and ecological values they support. Conserved lands are generally protected from future development through conservation easements. Easements protect the forestland from development, but allow the land to be retained in private hands for purposes of forestry, wildlife and water quality protection.

Among the first grants awarded was $400,000 to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to support the purchase of three tracts of land totaling 26,500 acres in the heart of the Adirondacks that join 195,000 acres of contiguous protected lands.

When the International Paper Company lands in the Adirondacks came on the market, The Nature Conservancy was ready. “Conservation science led the Conservancy to focus on a 1-million acre area in the western Adirondacks where there are more unbroken forests, lakes and wetlands than paved roads, buildings and lights. Here, nature still holds sway,” said Michael Carr, Executive Director of The Nature Conservancy's Adirondack Chapter.

A grant was also awarded to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), in the amount of $400,000 for the purchase of three tracts of land totaling 13,910 acres in northern New Hampshire. These parcels will link the two units of the White Mountains National Forest to create 950,000 acres of contiguous conserved lands. “The Pond of Safety project in New Hampshire is an outstanding example of how partnerships can benefit a community and the forests that surround it,” Martens explained. With help from the Fund, TPL's purchase will result in 10,198 acres to be managed as a working forest by the Town of Randolph. The balance will be added to the White Mountain National Forest.

Pond of Safety is a model for future projects because it resulted from a partnership among the town, state and federal governments and private philanthropy. The project will assure public recreational opportunities, wildlife protection and productive working forests. “This is an innovative new community development model we hope to encourage throughout the north country,” said U.S. Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).

In addition, two more grants were awarded. The Green Mountain Club, Inc. is receiving a $240,000 grant for the purchase of 3,764 acres of forestland in the Black Falls Tract in the northern Green Mountains of Vermont.

The Nature Conservancy's New Hampshire Chapter will receive a $400,000 grant toward the purchase of the Bunnell Tract, 18,680 acres in northern New Hampshire including 13 peaks above 3,000 feet. It is contiguous to the 39,604-acre Nash Stream State Forest.

To encourage additional public and private sector support to Northern Forest conservation projects, each grant recipient is required to match the Fund's award on a blended basis of at least 1:4 or greater.

Over $400 million of conservation easements and fee purchase opportunities have been identified in the Northern Forest. “We're committed to investing in projects that assure healthy forests that will be able to produce wood products long into the future while protecting basic ecological functions such as watershed and wildlife protection,” commented Dr. John Gordon, a member of the Fund's Advisory Board who is a resident of Holderness, New Hampshire and former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

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