TPL Praises Proposed Forest Legacy Funding Increase

Richmond, VT, 5/18/2009: The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, today praised a White House proposal to increase funding for the U.S Forest Service Forest Legacy Program (FLP), which provides financial assistance to states to protect working forests and prevent forest lands from being developed.

The Forest Legacy Program provides federal funds to states to protect threatened forest lands 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 President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2010 proposes to fund the program at $91 million, an increase of $33.6 million from last year’s spending level. Since the Forest Legacy Program began in 1991, 50 states and territories have enrolled in it. The program has invested more than $406 million to protect over 1.85 million acres in 42 states.

“Forestlands in Vermont and across America will benefit from the President’s commitment to an increased investment in the Forest Legacy Program,” said Rodger Krussman, Vermont State Director for TPL. “The Forest Legacy Program is an important tool to protect local economies, watersheds, and critical forest resources and with it more than 67,000 acres in Vermont and 1.85 million acres nationwide have been protected. This budget proposal wisely recognizes the value of a program that provides lasting benefits to all Americans through the protection of water, parks, forests, wildlife habitat, and recreation areas throughout the country.”

Today Krussman joined Forest Service Chief Gail Kimbell at the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Monitor Barn in Richmond, Vermont where she announced projects that received FY 2009 Forest Legacy Program funds. She also announced the President’s proposal to fund the program for the 2010 fiscal year, which begins October 1, 2009. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie, and Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Jonathan Wood joined in the announcement.

“As a partner in many efforts across the country to help communities protect their most critical forested resources, The Trust for Public Land looks forward to working with the Obama Administration, Senator Leahy, and Congress to sustain this proposed funding and ensure successful on-the-ground forest conservation,” said Krussman.

Senator Leahy created the program in the 1990 Farm Bill. “Senator Leahy is the driving force behind this program,” added Krussman. “He has been a champion of forestland protection not only for the state of Vermont but for the rest of the country. We are glad to be able to celebrate this announcement with him today.”

With the FY 2009 Forest Legacy funding announced today, TPL, working in partnership with federal, state, and local governments, private landowners, non-profit organizations, and local residents, will protect a working ranch in Utah, mountain and valley forestlands in western Montana, and a large forested tract right here in Vermont.

“Vermont will greatly benefit from the increased investment in the Forest Legacy Program. The greatest single threat to private forest lands-and their wildlife, water quality, and economic and recreational value-is conversion to development or other non-forest uses. The program has been an effective land-saving response to that threat,” explained Krussman.

TPL is a partner in the protection effort for Eden Forest, 5,727-acres along the spine of the Green Mountains in Eden and Johnson, Vermont. The project is Vermont’s top FLP project for Fiscal Year 2010. Last year, the project received $1.8 million in FLP funds thanks to the strong support of Vermont’s congressional delegation. This year, $2.2 million is needed to complete the project.

Eden Forest is under immediate pressure from development. According to 2000 census data, the town of Eden has the second highest percentage of population growth in Lamoille County, and its projected population growth through 2015 is expected to continue at a higher rate than almost any other town in the county. This type of sprawl is largely to blame for the fragmentation of Vermont’s forests and farms.

The large, contiguous Eden Forest timber lands contain two unique natural communities known as red spruce hardwood swamp and semi-rich northern hardwood forest. The property has been managed for timber for over 50 years and, given the excellent condition of the forest and forest roads, is well positioned to continue providing forest products far into the future. The Eden Forest property also encloses nearly the entire watersheds of two Gihon River headwater streams-Stony Brook and Wild Brook-and is adjacent to the iconic Long Trail. Protection of Eden Forest will permanently guarantee public access for hiking, hunting, and other recreational activities.

“Eden Forest is a perfect example of what the Forest Legacy Program is intended to do,” said Krussman. “If this area is not protected, development would damage the irreplaceable assets of this forest resource and public access could be lost. We cannot let that happen.”

The President’s budget proposal was sent to Congress last week. Specific funding proposals such as Eden Forest will be voted on by Congress later this year.

The Trust for Public Land is a national non-profit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. With funding from the Forest Legacy Program, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, TPL has helped to protect more than 2.5 million acres across the country.