Texas Qualifies for Forest Legacy Program

AUSTIN, Texas, 8/23/03 – A new source of funding will give state and local governments, land trusts and nonprofits a new method for protecting forestland in Texas. In a letter to the USDA Forest Service, Governor Rick Perry designated the Texas Forest Service (TFS) as the lead agent for The Forest Legacy Program (FLP), a national conservation program that provides federal assistance to protect forestland threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.

Since 2001, officials from the Trust for Public Land (TPL), The Conservation Fund and the Texas Forest Service have worked together to qualify the state of Texas for the Forest Legacy Program.

“We’re very excited to have Governor Perry’s support,” said Paige Cooper, Government Affairs Director for the Trust for Public Land. “Landowners need options for protecting their property. The Forest Legacy Program will be a catalyst for conserving more forestland in Texas.”

In 1990, prompted by increased pressure on private forest owners to convert their forestland to other uses, Congress created the Forest Legacy Program to identify and protect environmentally sensitive forestland in the Northern Forest region of the United States. FLP has contributed more than $101 million towards projects valued at $216 million, and has protected more than 396,000 acres. Notable recreational and ecological gems, such as the Mountains to Sound Greenway in Washington State and the Town Creek Initiative in North Carolina were protected with Forest Legacy funds.

The purpose of the Forest Legacy Program is to maintain forestland intact to provide traditional forest benefits including timber harvesting, wildlife habitat, watershed protection and open space conservation. FLP allows landowners to protect conservation values while also maintaining economic uses including timber production. Conservation easements can be used to protect “working forests,” where forestland is managed for the production of forest products.

“This program could not have come at a better time,” said Andy Jones, director of The Conservation Fund’s Texas office. “Implementation of the Forest Legacy Program will play a key role in combating the rate of land fragmentation in Texas by providing landowners with an additional tool to help them stay on their land, benefiting both the local economy and the environment.”

“Both the landowner and the community will benefit by the continued economic returns and the conservation benefits that are associated with such dynamic forest management planning,” said Jim Hull, State Forester and Director of the Texas Forest Service.

FLP relies heavily on conservation easements-voluntary agreements between private landowners and non-profits or government agencies. Conservation easements allow landowners to maintain ownership of their property, while limiting one or more of the property rights such as the right to develop the property, manage resources, subdivide or develop or to allow public access.

To qualify for the program, the Texas Forest Service will develop an Assessment of Need (AON) to determine eligibility requirements, set state goals and identify areas of focus for FLP in Texas. The Secretary of Agriculture and TFS must approve the Assesment, before the state is eligible to receive FLP funds.

The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres of land in 45 states. In Texas, TPL has protected more than 22,000 acres for communities, including areas in and around Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information please visit us on the web at www.tpl.org

Established in 1915, the Texas Forest Service is responsible for developing, protecting and perpetuating the state’s trees and forest resources. The agency provides a variety of programs such as forest management landowner assistance, tree improvement, urban forestry, reforestation, forest insect and disease control, forest resource protection, and rural VFD assistance. Rural fire protection is available to the 2,800 small communities where volunteer firefighters protect the lives and property of rural Texans. Additionally, the Texas Forest Service is designated as the incident management agency for state emergencies and can be called to action on any disaster where its leadership and resources are needed. More information is available from the web at http://texasforestservice.tamu.edu

The Conservation Fund, a national nonprofit organization, acts to protect the nation’s legacy of land and water resources in partnership with other organizations, public agencies, foundations, corporations, and individuals. Seeking innovative conservation solutions for the 21st century, the Fund works to integrate economic and environmental goals. Since its founding in 1985, the Fund has helped its partners safeguard wildlife habitat, working landscapes, community “greenspace” and historic sites totaling more than 100,000 acres in Texas and 3.5 million acres throughout the nation.