The Trust for Public Land Releases New Special Report on The Benefits of Community Forest

June 29, 2021
SAN FRANCISCO

The Trust for Public Land today announced the release of a special report, “Community Forests: A Path to Prosperity and Connection,” in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and with generous support from the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities. The special report, and accompanying handouts, takes a case-study approach to understanding and exploring the numerous economic benefits provided by community forests created through the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP).

Community forests are protected forest lands that contribute to healthy, flourishing communities by offering residents and community members a direct say in how the land is stewarded over time. The program also helps communities create unique assets that are now being nurtured across the country as they are increasingly recognized as land-based economic development tools that deliver positive outcomes to the residents, visitors, and businesses located in their service areas.

Community forests can enhance quality of life, enrich cultural and spiritual heritage, strengthen economies, and provide tangible economic value. This value occurs because these resources are designed to provide access to amenities for recreation, education, and tourism, offer forest-based products (e.g., timber, maple syrup, and firewood), produce forest-based services (e.g., carbon sequestration, habitat, fire risk mitigation, and water quality), and foster economic development opportunities by bolstering the recreation economy and enhancing property value.

“The community forest movement is powerful because it provides spaces for people to connect to nature and each other where they live, and direct economic benefits to the people in the communities they serve,” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “The rich diversity of the communities that are stewarding and creating community forests across the country is inspiring, and we’re proud to ensure that community voices drive this work. I’m grateful to the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities for their partnership in highlighting the range of benefits community forests bring to communities through this important new report.”

Jaelith Hall-Rivera, Acting Deputy Chief, USDA Forest Service, said “The Forest Service is proud to partner with communities to conserve community forests. These locally determined projects create a legacy that benefits all Americans and help secure a climate resilient future.”

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former chair and still a leading member of the Agriculture Committee, who worked to authorize the CFP program in the 2008 Farm Bill and has supported its funding as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said “The case studies by Trust for Public Land provide exactly the evidence that I look for as we work to build support on the Appropriations Committee for the great benefits to local communities that flow from this targeted and modest

program. Local open space and parks became even more important during the COVID pandemic, with some even becoming school classrooms. TPL’s great work in Vermont and in other states has helped make this a reality.”

As part of the special report, The Trust for Public Land selected seventeen projects from a larger group of 62 completed projects across the country to highlight as case studies that demonstrate geographic diversity and a range of economic benefits provided to local communities, as well as community forests of varying longevity, size, and ownership types. The completed projects have created over 24,000 acres of community forests to-date using $19.9 million in CFP funding and illustrate a growing movement towards increased local stewardship, participation, and investment in community forests.

The first community forests were often centered around traditional forest products, but the definition of community forestry has become more expansive over time, with communities approaching the creation of community forests more broadly. They are creating places that provide an underpinning to the regional tourism economy to support local businesses and serve as cultural touchstones or classrooms for maintaining traditional ecological knowledge and that preserve spiritual connections to the land. In many cases, these community forests ensure clean drinking water, provide habitat for numerous important species, and sequester and store carbon that is essential to mitigating climate change.

Visit https://www.tpl.org/community-forest-economic-case-studies to access the additional handouts and learn more about the individual case studies.

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About the Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.