Open Space Institute announces $10 million loan fund for Southern Appalachian Mountains

NEW YORK, NY - August 10, 2005 - This morning the Open Space Institute announced the creation of a revolving loan fund to facilitate the protection of threatened landscapes in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, including parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. 

The fund will provide short-term, low-interest loans to land trusts and other conservation organizations working to permanently protect working farms and forests, as well as other ecologically sensitive landscapes in the Southern Appalachians. The fund, administered by the Open Space Conservancy, an affiliate of OSI, and capitalized initially with $10 million of OSI's endowment, announced its first loan yesterday, lending $3 million to the Carolina Mountains Land Conservancy to help protect a 1,600-acre tract known as “World's Edge.” The property, located in western North Carolina, will become part of the newly authorized Hickory Nut Gorge State Park. 

“There is a need for quick and strategic action to protect the extraordinary landscapes of the Southern Appalachians,” said Kim Elliman, CEO of the Open Space Institute, a New York City based land conservation organization. “This region contains flora and fauna found nowhere else on earth. Its rivers provide drinking water for tens of millions of people, and hundreds of thousands of people turn to the region for recreation. We need to think creatively about how to finance its protection.” 

The loan fund is an outgrowth of a comprehensive study of threats and conservation opportunities in the Southern Appalachians. The study was commissioned by OSI and funded by the Lyndhurst, Z. Smith Reynolds, and McClure Foundations and the Merck Family Fund. The fund, which will be coordinated locally by Marc Hunt, will concentrate on three areas: the Southern Blue Ridge; the Ridge and Valley; and the Cumberland Plateau.

The fund is the fourth focus area of the Open Space Institute's Conservation Finance Program, which provides low-cost capital for priority land transactions. OSI also provides conservation loans in New Jersey, western Massachusetts and the Northern Forest.

“Through low-cost conservation loans, OSI can step in when funding delays threaten the likelihood of closing an important deal,” said Peter Howell, OSI's vice president and director of Conservation Finance. “This new program will help facilitate the work of the region's land trusts to protect important landscapes that are threatened either by development or inappropriate timber harvesting.” Inquiries about the loan fund should be directed to Marc Hunt at (828) 278-0134.

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