Washington, DC - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the U.S. Forest Service will award more than $14 million in funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to seven Forest Legacy Program projects aimed at protecting over 28,000 acres of working forests.
"These investments strengthen each community's economic and ecological base," said Vilsack. "Conserving critical landscapes, like the working forests protected through the Forest Legacy Program, provides opportunities to reconnect Americans to the outdoors and maintain benefits forests provide like clean air, clean water, and wildlife habitat, while expanding recreation benefits and the economic opportunities they represent."
The Forest Legacy Program has conserved over 2.3 million acres of forest lands, mitigating climate change, improving water quality and protecting and improving wildlife habitat.
LWCF, created by Congress in 1964, provides resources to Federal, State and local governments for the conservation of important lands, waters and historical sites. Using no taxpayer dollars, LWCF uses earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help preserve our history, protect our lands and strengthen our economy. The LWCF State Grants Program, of which the Forest Legacy Program is a key component, provides matching grants to States to encourage the protection of privately owned forest lands. The Forest Legacy Program is entirely voluntary.
One of the most effective tools for conservation, outdoor recreation and economic growth in local communities, the program is set to expire next year without action from Congress. President Obama has proposed to fully and permanently fund the innovative program.
The projects selected for LWCF funding were included in the Fiscal Year 2014 President's Budget.
The selected projects are:
Groton Forest Legacy Initiative, $1,895,000
The project will protect 3,249 acres of managed forestland, rare species, 15 miles of streams and 45,000 square feet of undeveloped lake and pond frontage adjacent to the second largest protected land holding in Vermont.
Windham Region Working Forest, $2,185,000
This project will protect over 6,000 acres of managed woodlands, critical habitat, connectivity to 395,800 acres of the Green Mountain National Forest, and water resources.
Sawtooth Mountain Ranch, $3,000,000
This 2,448-acre project will maintain scenic vistas and productive timberland, protect habitat for the federally threatened Canada lynx, and conserve 11 miles of tributaries of the Uncompahgre River, which provides drinking water to over 76,000 people.
Clear Creek Conservation, $595,000
The 760-acre project provides habitat to protect the federally threatened grizzly bear, provides wood products and recreational opportunities that are vital to the local economy, and connects to the larger Blackfoot Community Project initiative.
Bobcat Ridge, $2,370,000
This 7,000-acre working forest is part of a collaborative effort to conserve lands in and around the new federal Neches River National Wildlife Refuge initiative along the entire river corridor that links 618,000 acres of protected federal, state and private lands.
Carter Mountain Working Forest Conservation Easement, $1,875,000
The project will protect 4,800 acres of prime developable forest land. The property includes diverse and highly productive forests, over 10 miles of scenic bluff views, two federally endangered species, 10 vernal pool wetlands, and over 10 miles of headwater streams.
Liberty Hill Phase I, $2,165,000
The 3,452-acre project provides a unique opportunity to create a conservation corridor along the Catawba River and the northern end of Lake Wateree. The project will protect habitat for fish and wildlife species and the last large block of unprotected lakefront property in Lancaster and Kershaw counties.
The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. 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. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.