Forests Can Help New England Thrive in the New Economy
In a report released today, 60 organizations urged lawmakers to help meet New England's economic challenges by investing in the region's forests, and outlined six critical federal policy opportunities to conserve New England's forests for economic and environmental benefit.
The report, A Policy Agenda for Conserving New England's Forests, is released at a time when forest cover is declining in all six New England states. Conversion of the region's forests threatens drinking water and flood control, the forest-based economy, and capacity for natural climate regulation. New England's forests are the headwaters for all of the Northeast's major rivers, controlling floods and protecting drinking water for millions of people. The region's 33 million acres of forest support a $13 billion forest products economy, including almost 52,000 jobs in Maine, and store vast quantities of carbon to offset more than a quarter of New England's carbon dioxide emissions.
"Forests here in Maine and across New England are a platform for our economy and our way of life," said Wolfe Tone, Maine State Director for The Trust for Public Land. "Especially in these challenging economic times, Mainers need the jobs that our forest products and recreation tourism industries can provide."
"Forests here in Vermont and across New England are like an insurance policy on our natural resources and our economy," said Rodger Krussman, Vermont State Director for The Trust for Public Land. "This year's flooding and extreme weather remind us how much we rely on our forests to manage water flows and provide other services to our communities. Vermonters also need the jobs that our working forests provide."
The 60 organizations are calling on Congress to make the following investments through the Fiscal Year 2012 appropriations process:
- Funding private working forestland—the backbone of New England's forest products economy. Working forest conservation projects through the federal Forest Legacy Program for Fiscal Year 2012 include two projects in Maine's High Peaks region—Crocker Mountain and Orbeton Stream. Maine has already protected a remarkable 675,000 acres with help from the Forest Legacy Program. Other New England opportunities through Forest Legacy include the Androscoggin Headwaters (New Hampshire), Northern Green Mountains (Vermont), Southern Monadnock Plateau (Massachusetts), and Thorpe Mountain (Connecticut).
- Conserving large New England landscapes such as the Northern Forest and the Connecticut River watershed through integrated funding for forest conservation, economic development, and private landowner incentives.
- Connecting forests and communities for public benefit and recreation through the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, which provides matching grants for town forests and other local acquisitions, and funding to develop and maintain recreational trails.
- Protecting special places by adding to public lands. Since New England has far less public land that other parts of America-less than 5% in federal ownership-directing federal Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars to purchase land for federal units such as the Acadia National Park and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine. Other New England opportunities include the Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge and Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire.
- Providing financial incentives to forest landowners through the Healthy Forest Reserve Program and Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, helping them meet essential forest stewardship goals like timber stand improvement, watershed protection, and habitat restoration. The programs would provide cost-share funds for conservation practices, and payments for qualifying long-term easements.
- Directing policy attention to thermal wood biomass programs through the Community Wood Energy Program, which provides grants to communities to purchase biomass systems for public buildings like schools. Maine is seeing increasing conversion of schools and other facilities to biomass, saving money for local budgets and creating economic returns for private forest owners.
"Maine's success in bringing federal matching dollars for conservation is a direct result of hard work by Maine's congressional delegation," said Tone. "In some states forests are low on the priority list for elected officials, but Maine's delegation has made our forests and other natural resources a priority, and the results have been spectacular."
“Thankfully, Vermont’s congressional delegation has been very strong in meeting the needs of Vermont’s forests and forest landowners,” said Krussman. “In fact, some of the federal forest programs endorsed by this policy platform were created by Senators Leahy and Sanders and Congressman Welch.”
The organizations urging action are listed on A Policy Agenda for Conserving New England's Forests, downloadable at tpl.org.
The Trust for Public Land was founded in 1972 and preserves land for people to enjoy as parks, open lands, and natural spaces. It is the nation's leader in building parks in cities across the country and in creating local public funds for conservation. It has protected more than 3 million acres in 47 states. TPL relies on the support of individuals, corporations and foundations.