In early 2007, OSI and the Chattanooga-based Lyndhurst Foundation launched a collaboration to conserve land in the Southern Appalachians. Our collective goal is to protect wildlife by providing loans and grants for the purchase of lands containing high-priority wildlife habitat as identified in State Wildlife Action Plans in western North Carolina and northwestern Georgia.
Identifying critical lands through SWAPS has been a major advance in stemming the tide of habitat loss but unless conservation groups have the funding to act upon the information, these wildlife plans may remain just that—plans.
The new $4.25 million initiative expands and broadens the goals of the Southern Appalachian Land Protection Fund that began in 2005. With the new effort, OSI seeks to accelerate implementation of state plans by directing and leveraging public and philanthropic investment.
“Acquisition is expensive and must be targeted to achieve impact,” said Peter Howell, OSI’s Executive Vice President. “SWAPs offer a blueprint by which public and private funders can focus their individual efforts and by partnering, they can do more together than each could do alone.”
“OSI’s experience with landscape-level conservation in the Northeast is invaluable for our work in the Southern Appalachians,” said Bruz Clark, Vice President of the Lyndhurst Foundation. “We are confident that the partnership Lyndhurst has established with OSI will serve to advance our respective interests in protecting premier natural areas and biodiversity in a region where land fragmentation, habitat loss, and haphazard development are occurring at an escalating pace.”
The Fund, which has been capitalized with $2 million each from Lyndhurst and OSI and $250,000 from the Benwood Foundation, will provide funds to land trusts in two geographies:
In western North Carolina, $2 million is available for low-interest loans to purchase land or easements on land containing high priority habitat under the State’s Wildlife Action Plan. Such loans, which carry an interest rate of as low as 2% are available for projects in the mountainous western counties of the state (Polk, Rutherford, Burke Caldwell, Wilkes, Alleghany, Ashe, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell, Yancey, Buncombe, McDowell, Madison, Henderson, Transylvania, Jackson, Haywood, Swain, Macon, Clay, Cherokee and Graham) To apply for a loan, please see our loan application.
In northwest Georgia, $2.25 million is available for grants to support the purchase of high-priority SWAP lands in the following counties in northwest Georgia: Walker, Dade, Catoosa, Chattooga, Floyd, Whitfield, and Gordon.
Before applying for a grant or loan, we encourage you to contact Marc Hunt, OSI’s Southern Appalachians Field Coordinator and Credit Manager [email protected], telephone: 828-278-0134.
In addition to the new funding initiative, OSI will continue to offer conservation loans under its existing Southern Appalachian Land Protection Fund, primarily in the mountain portions of Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina, even if not SWAP-related. OSI operates this program with support from the Lyndhurst Foundation, The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, and the Merck Family Fund. OSI has been funding conservation in the Southern Appalachian region since 2005.
OSI’s work with the Lyndhurst Foundation in the Southern Appalachians builds on earlier partnerships with other philanthropic institutions. In 2001, with support from the Surdna and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations, OSI launched the $12.5 million Northern Forest Protection Fund, which has helped to protect 1.7 million acres of forestland in northern New England.
OSI also manages another $8 million in loan funds provided by the Geraldine R. Dodge and William Penn Foundations and others, for use as low-interest loans for conservation land purchases in New Jersey, New York and western Massachusetts.