Study Shows that Community Forests Can Drive Economic and Community Development

The small town of Errol, N.H., created a Community Forest in 2005, and a new study shows that the town-owned and managed forest, called 13 Mile Woods Community Forest, contributes significantly to local economic and community development.

The Community Forest has permanently conserved 7,100 aces of working forestland, prime wildlife habitat and scenic views; it has generated $3.7 million in timber sales in its first seven years, contributing significantly to the local economy; and has produced $1.7 million in net revenues, enabling the town to pay off half the initial purchase loan and interest.

"13 Mile Woods Community Forest demonstrates that a town can reap numerous benefits-revenue, job creation, recreational and educational opportunities, and permanent natural resource protection-from managing its own forestland," said Rodger Krussman, New Hampshire and Vermont state director for The Trust for Public Land.

Scenic beauty, world-class fishing and recreational opportunities draw tourists to Errol, N.H. and town residents initiated the project to protect these and other resources. Services supporting visitors and tourism rank second in economic importance in the region, behind forestry and forest products.

"If not for healthy forests and clean water, why else would visitors come," said Bill Freedman, a former Errol selectman and a leader of the Community Forest Project.

"The results in Errol show that forest conservation can have a direct positive effect on the local economy and support quality jobs based on a healthy working forest," said Julie Renaud Evans, director of forestry for the Northern Forest Center. "We want communities in rural areas to understand that Community Forests can be a very effective economic and community development tool."

The economic study, conducted by researchers at the Donella Meadows Institute for the Community Forestry Collaborative, finds that 13 Mile Woods Community Forest provides direct support for the full-time equivalent of 2 local jobs annually in forestry and logging;, and indirect support for up to 10 jobs annually in other sectors of the forest products economy.

The study concludes that revenues from sustainable timber management paid off 50% of the initial purchase loan, as well as interest, within seven years and will yield approximately $100,000 per year in the future, which could meet 10% of Errol's typical annual municipal budget.

The 13 Mile Woods Community Forest provides an important recreational asset for the region, and benefits of town ownership include: protection of the scenic approach to the town center; proper management of the forest resource, which ensures high quality water in the streams feeding the Androscoggin River, an important resource for fishermen and boaters; an key sections of the town's expansive and integrated snowmobile trail system within the Community Forest.

The Community Forest's recreational assets contribute to the important tourism and recreation economy of the Errol area. Applying economic multipliers to the recreational use data for the Errol area, the study finds that recreation supports 11 jobs in snowmobiling, five in ATV use, seven in hunting and 4 jobs in fishing.

The Trust for Public Land and the Northern Forest Center have worked together in the Community Forest Collaborative to help expand community ownership and management of forestland in northern New England by building on the tradition of town-owned forests. To document the benefits of community-owned forests, the Collaborative commissioned a study of the economic impact of 13 Mile Woods based on data from its first seven years (2005 – 2012) of ownership.

Economic Impacts of the 13 Mile Woods Community Forest was written by Elizabeth Reaves and Marta Ceroni of the Donella Meadows Institute (for Green Compass LLC). Funding for the study was provided by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. The full report is available here.