WASHINGTON — The U.S. Forest Service announced today that it is granting $52.2 million for 17 conservation and working lands projects across the U.S. in 2012.
The Forest Legacy Program has protected 2.2 million acres through public-private partnership using federal and leveraged funds of more than $562 million. The program works with private landowners, states and conservation groups to promote sustainable, working forests. Forest Legacy is an important component of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative’s goal of conserving rural working farms, ranches, and forests by accelerating locally-driven landscape conservation priorities.
"The Forest Legacy Program helps keep working forests working across the country," said Chief Tom Tidwell. “These projects will support rural economies and American jobs while protecting some of our most beautiful landscapes for our children and grandchildren.”
Intact forest lands supply timber products, wildlife habitat, soil and watershed protection, aesthetics, and recreational opportunities. However, as these areas are fragmented and disappear, so do the benefits they provide. Roughly 57 percent of the nation's forests are privately owned yet the country has lost 15 million acres of private working forests in the last 10 years with an additional 22 million acres projected to be at risk from development, wildfire and other threats in the next decade.
The Forest Legacy Program uses a competitive process to strategically select ecologically and socially important projects facing the greatest threat of conversion to other land uses. Projects that protect clean air and water, provide recreation, protect wildlife habitat, supports large-scale land conservation partnerships, and provide forest-related rural jobs receive strong consideration.
The projects are:
Kentucky: The Big River Corridor project will protect 4,285 acres of important forests at the confluence of the Ohio and Tradewater Rivers. Protection of this property will provide water quality protection; endangered, threatened, and rare species recovery and protection; significant public recreational access on nationally recognized hunting land; positive impact to state and local economies; preservation of existing cultural and geological treasures; and permanent protection from likely agricultural conversion or development.
California: The Eel River project is part of a larger conservation effort that consists of eight ranches in northern California. This phase will protect more than 15,000 acres and will encourage sustainable forestry, ranching, and hunting and provide critical Tule-elk habitat in perpetuity. These FLP conserved lands are adjacent to Mendocino National Forest and BLM lands.
Maine: The High Peaks - Crocker Mountain project will protect 11,798 acres of productive forestland in the High Peaks of western Maine adjacent to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, the Navy’s Redington Survival School Base, Penobscot Indian Nation lands and three state conservation parcels. Protection of this property will result in a connected landscape of conservation lands 77,000 acres in size. This project, as well as the High-Peaks Orbeton Stream project and the Androscoggin Headwaters project, is located within an America’s Great Outdoors demonstration landscape designed to highlight landscape-scale conservation partnerships.
Maine: The High Peaks - Orbeton Stream project will help protect 5,800 acres of critical habitat for the endangered Atlantic Salmon. In addition, the property will help protect and buffer the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and protection of this property will result in a connected landscape of conservation lands 77,000 acres in size in a region considered a critical international habitat corridor.
Montana: The Stimson Forestland project will permanently protect, through a conservation easement, 28,000 acres of highly productive timberland near Troy, MT. The project area contains some of the best wildlife habitat in Montana, supporting eight federally listed or candidate threatened or endangered species and numerous other rare, sensitive and game species and is an America’s Great Outdoors priority landscape-scale conservation partnership. The proposed conservation easement would preclude development, ensure continued timber management, sustain local wood-product jobs, protect incredible wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity and provide permanent public access to extraordinary recreation lands.
Utah: The Green Canyon project is 5,690 acres located in Northern Utah adjacent to the Uintah-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The Green Canyon project is critical winter range for mule deer and elk as well and provides year-round habitat for the Columbia sharp-tailed grouse, a state sensitive species. Perched above the towns of Hyrum and Paradise, protection of this property will help protect the drinking water for both communities. Protection of this property will allow the family landowner to continue to use the property for timber harvests, ranching and recreation.
Arkansas: The Maumelle Water Excellence project, only 14 miles from the state capital, protects forests along four miles of the Big Maumelle River, which supplies drinking water for the Little Rock metropolitan area. The protected property will connect with already protected lands and provide public hiking, fishing and hunting opportunities.
New Hampshire: The Androscoggin Headwater project will protect more than 12,000 acres of important forestland in the headwaters of the Androscoggin River. This project complements conservation actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and the America’s Great Outdoors landscape-scale conservation partnership initiative. This project is located in the Mahoosuc region, a 600,000-acre area along the Maine/New Hampshire border prized for its productive forests, wildlife habitat and remote recreation.
Tennessee: The Fiery Gizzard project will protect more than 3,200 acres within the South Cumberland region of Tennessee. The conservation easement will ensure that the extensive tablelands on the property are protected from development, sustainable forest management continues, hunting activities are maintained and important wildlife habitat is conserved.
Idaho: The Boundary Connections project will protect approximately 1,700 acres of private timberlands that provide a critical connection for wildlife between the vast Selkirk, Purcell and Cabinet Mountains of Idaho. These lands include important habitat for five threatened and endangered species, over two dozen species designated as greatest conservation need and six rare plants. This project is unique given its strategic location, high timber productivity, invaluable wildlife habitat and connectivity, recreation values and imminent threat of development.
Hawaii: The Kukaiau Koa Forest project will protect, through conservation easement, a working ranch that is actively restoring degraded forests to a sustainable forestry operation with native koa and ohia trees. The area is home to many species of native birds, several of which are federally listed species.
New Jersey: The Working Forests-Healthy Forests project will connect with more than 68,000 acres of already protected lands. In addition, the property will maintain the NY-NJ Trail Conference’s Highlands Trail and protect the federally listed Indiana Bat.
Florida: The Thomas Creek Timberlands project is the site of the southernmost American Revolutionary War battle – the Battle of Thomas Creek, which will now be permanently protected. The property is part of a strategic conservation effort between the City of Jacksonville and Florida.
Additionally, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming and South Dakota will each receive $500,000 in forest legacy funds to support state forestland-protection efforts.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.
Source: U.S. Forest Service
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