News

Open Space Institute develops new conservation loan program, welcomes new staff

New York, NY - October 22, 2003 - The Open Space Institute recently announced the addition of Christopher “Kim” Elliman and Peter Howell to help broaden the organization's programmatic and geographic scope. 

Through a new loan program supporting strategic land transactions in selected regions of the eastern United States, the organization will significantly broaden its program and geography. 

The program will build upon OSI's Northern Forest Protection Fund, which has helped protect a million acres of land through grants and loans to land trusts in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. OSI also provides low-interest bridge loans to land trusts in New Jersey. 

“We intend to complement our direct acquisition work in New York by helping to finance critical projects in the East,” said Kim Elliman, who rejoined the organization as its chief executive officer. Elliman served as OSI's president between 1992 and 1999, during which time he negotiated the landmark Sterling Forest deal that protected 15,800 acres in Sterling Forest, near New York City. “This activity represents a logical extension of our mission and a strategic step forward for OSI,” added Elliman. 

Peter Howell, former program director for the environment at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, will oversee the program as OSI's new vice president and director for conservation lending. 

“We are pleased to welcome Kim back and have Peter join OSI,” said Joe Martens, president of OSI. “Kim brings an intimate understanding of OSI and a superb background in land conservation. He and Peter will help OSI achieve more far-reaching conservation goals over a broader geography,” said Martens. 

The program was developed in response to growing threats and emerging opportunities to preserve the forests of the East that stretch from northern Alabama to Maine. The forests, which are privately owned for the most part, are threatened both by development and poor harvesting practices. 

While continuing to focus on land protection in New York, OSI will now assist with high-priority land transactions in key forested regions of the Eastern United States. In addition to the Northern Forest and New Jersey, OSI is assessing the viability of expanding into the forests of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, where both development and poor timber harvest practices threaten the region's ecologically rich landscapes. 

OSI will use up to $20 million of its endowment to create the fund and increase its size over time with other loans and grants. As in New Jersey and the Northern Forest, OSI will rigorously evaluate potential transactions against key criteria and employ guidance from an expert advisory committee. 

In addition to providing grants and loans, OSI will conduct financial analysis and due diligence of transactions, research and share with local land trusts and others information about key trends in forest management and conservation funding and participate in efforts to increase public awareness of and financial support for protection of eastern forests, according to Howell. 

“As an honest broker, OSI can facilitate the work of others,” said Howell, who was responsible for designing and implementing Duke's grantmaking program, which distributed more than $95 million for conservation of private lands across the United States. “We can add capital and knowledge and thereby help improve the practice of conservation.”

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