TPL Applauds Proposed Forest Legacy Increase

WASHINGTON, 1/31/03 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, today announced its enthusiasm for a White House proposal to increase funding for the federal Forest Legacy Program, which provides financial assistance to states to help keep forest lands from being developed.

“Forest lands across America will benefit from the President’s commitment to increased funding for the Forest Legacy Program” said Alan Front, TPL Senior Vice President. “The Forest Legacy program is little more than a decade old, but in that brief time, it has become an important, popular tool to protect local economies and open space. This budget proposal wisely recognizes the value of the program.”

Front spoke at the Tennessee River Gorge near Chattanooga, where U.S. Department of Agriculture and Forest Service officials announced the completion of a Forest Legacy project in the Gorge and released information about the Forest Legacy program for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2003. That budget will be sent to Congress next week. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., also joined in the announcement.

“We look forward to working with the Bush Administration and the Congress in the coming months to sustain this proposed funding and ensure successful on-the-ground forest conservation,” Front said.

The Forest Legacy program provides federal funds to states to protect threatened woodlands through public purchase or through conservation easements, which are voluntary agreements in which landowners can be paid to give up future development rights on their property.

The program was authorized by Congress in 1990 to keep intact the natural and recreational resources of the nation’s dwindling forest lands.

“The greatest single threat to private forest lands – and their wildlife, water quality, and recreational value – is conversion to development or other non-forest uses,” explained Front. “The Forest Legacy program has been an effective land-saving response to that threat.”

Since the program began in 1991, 33 states and territories have enrolled in it, and several more are developing plans to join this year.

Friday’s event was at Cummings Cove, a 2,400-acre tract of forest on Raccoon Mountain, just outside the Chattanooga city limits. The State of Tennessee, working with local partners such as TPL, is acquiring the land under the Forest Legacy program, with funds provided by Congress last year.

“Cummings Cove is a perfect example of what the Forest Legacy Program is intended to do,” said Front. “If this area is not protected, development would irreparably damage the views, wildlife, and other irreplaceable assets of the Tennessee River Gorge. We cannot let that happen.”

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. With funding from the Forest Legacy Program, the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, TPL has helped to protect more than 1.4 million acres across the country.