Legislators Urge $150M for Forest Legacy
MONTPELIER, Vermont, 4/23/2003 – Ninety (90) members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed a letter urging their colleagues to appropriate $150 million to the Forest Legacy program in Fiscal Year 2004. This program provides critical land conservation funding to the Northern Forest, the largest area of intact forest remaining in the eastern United States.
“The Northern Forest Alliance applauds Representatives Bass (R-NH) and Allen (R-ME) and the other 88 Congressional representatives who are championing this program,” says Robert Perschel, chairman of the Northern Forest Alliance, a coalition of 44 conservation, forestry and recreation organizations. “Forest Legacy funding is one of our most important tools for protecting the forest during this time of overwhelming change.” In the last six years, more than 20 percent of the Northern Forest has changed hands.
“In the Northern Forest alone, our top priority projects encompass 800,000 acres and require $38 million in Legacy funding this year,” says Perschel. These projects do not include any of the 212,000 acres in New England and New York that Hancock Timber announced in March it plans to sell.
Representatives from 28 states—including the entire delegations of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont—signed the bipartisan letter supporting increased funding for the Legacy Program. Thirteen of New York State’s representatives signed the letter.
The Northern Forest Alliance has submitted testimony urging Congress to appropriate $150 million to Forest Legacy in Fiscal Year 2004, and is requesting that $38 million be earmarked for projects in the Northern Forest. These projects include the chance to protect a wild river corridor on the Machias River in Downeast Maine; a potential 5,300-acre community forest along the Androscoggin River in New Hampshire; an expansive 8,515-acre project in three towns in Chittenden County, Vermont; and a 105,000-acre easement on a “green certified” forest in New York known as the Sable Highlands.
“We’re dealing with tremendous change in land ownership across the Northern Forest,” says Perschel. “These are projects that local communities have put forth because they’re important to the economy, or because they’re the kinds of places you want your children and grandchildren to be able to visit. Forest Legacy is crucial for helping these communities conserve their landscape and way of life.”
Because most of the Northern Forest is privately owned, the most effective federal program currently available to help the residents achieve their conservation priorities is the Forest Legacy Program. The program enables landowners to retain ownership of their land and continue to earn income from it; conserves open space, scenic lands, wildlife habitat, and clean water; and can create opportunities for outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, and hiking. In addition, with its minimum requirement of 25 percent non-federal matching funds, the program leverages state and private dollars to complement federal money.
Authorized by Congress in 1990, the Forest Legacy Program helps preserve working forestlands and critical resources. The United States loses more than half a million acres of privately-owned timberland to development each year. “When forests are converted to development and other non-renewable uses it changes the landscape, but it also changes our forest-based communities, their economic base, and the amount of recreational open space and wildlife habitat that’s available,” says Perschel.
A Forest Legacy investment of $38 million in the upcoming budget would leverage more than $154 million in conservation spending and protect more than 800,000 acres in the Northern Forest. The Northern Forest Alliance is a coalition of 45 conservation, recreation and forestry organizations united in their commitment to protect the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
The Alliance’s mission is to work together to protect and enhance the ecological and economic sustainability of the natural and human communities in the Northern Forest.
For more information, visit the Alliance on the internet at HREF=”http://www.northernforestalliance.org”>www.northernforestalliance.org .
Note to Editors: Following are a complete list of FY04 Northern Forest conservation projects, as well as links to PDFs of “Funding the Future of the Northern Forest,” the US Reps.’ letter of support, and the Northern Forest Alliance’s testimony to Congress. A complete list of Congressional supporters is attached.
* See a copy of “Funding the Future of the Northern Forest” at www.northernforestalliance.org, or call Michael Giammusso at 802-223-5256, ext. 12 to receive a copy in the mail.
* Read the letter of support signed by 90 US Representatives at www.northernforestalliance.org/newsrelease.htm. * Read the Northern Forest Alliance’s testimony at www.northernforestalliance.org/newsrelease.htm.
Complete list of FY04 Northern Forest Projects:
Maine: Machias River, Tumbledown Mountain/Mount Blue, Bald Mountain, Katahdin Forest and the “Northern Tier Lands” stretching from the Boundary Mountains to Nahmakanta.
New York: Sable Highlands, the Moose River Corridor and the Headwaters of the Hudson River.
New Hampshire: 13-Mile Woods.
Vermont: Chittenden County Uplands, Mondanock to Victory Basin parcels, Mallory Brook.