The USDA Forest Service recently reached a milestone of protecting more than 2 million acres of private forests threatened by development. The Forest Service’s Northeastern Area helped the agency reach the milestone when the state of Ohio purchased a 15,000-acre property as the new Vinton Furnace State Experimental Forest approximately 90 miles south of Columbus.
“The Forest Legacy program has protected millions of acres of privately owned forests that could have easily been turned into strip malls and housing developments,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. “This program operates on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ principle for private landowners to promote environmental, social and economic benefits for all.”
The milestone was achieved through public-private partnership using federal and leveraged funds of approximately $1.1 billion through the Forest Legacy program. The Legacy program has leveraged the federal investment of more than 50 percent of project costs. To date, more than $630 million has been contributed to these efforts through non-federal matching funds.
Work with hundreds of landowners during the past 20 years has created many forest legacy success stories, some which include the Moose Mountain Reservation in New Hampshire, whose wood, water, wildlife, scenic and recreational values will be sustained and managed over the long term thanks to the Forest Legacy Program, the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and many others and Wao Kele O’Puna is a 26,000 acre tract that is the last largest remaining expanse of low-land lava rainforest on the big Island of Hawaii. This property was for many years the focus of struggle for native Hawaiians who sought to protect Wao Kele O’Puna from geothermal development so that they might retain access to the site to collect plants for native rituals and to visit burial sites. Wao Kele O’Puna was protected in 2007 and is now managed by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.
To find out more about the Forest Legacy program click here.