The Forest Service is now accepting applications for the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program, which encourages the creation of community forests and fosters rural economies. The application deadline is May 15 for submitting applications to the State Forester or equivalent official of the Indian tribe and June 14 for State Forester or equivalent official of the Indian tribe submitting the applications to the Forest Service.
The program provides financial assistance grants to local governments, American Indian tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations to establish community forests with a focus on economic and environmental benefits, education, forest stewardship and recreation opportunities.
“The Community Forest Program will bring money and jobs to our rural communities,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “These community forests will also provide a model of effective forest stewardship for private landowners. They protect habitat, conserve and protect water supplies, and provide educational opportunities – all while improving the local economy.”
All awardees must ensure public access to the protected lands. In addition, the community must be involved in the process of establishing a forest, developing a forest plan and determining long-term management needs. Each grant requires a non-federal match of 50 percent.
Implementing the Community Forest Program was identified as a priority action item in the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, and supports the recommendation to promote the creation, expansion, and enhancement of urban parks and community green spaces.
The community forests created under the Community Forest Program will also support working forests through sustainable management, wood products, wood-for-energy production, and recreation and tourism.
“The Community Forest Program encourages the economic and environmental health of our communities, while fostering the next generation of American conservationists,” said Tidwell. “This program will give thousands of Americans access to the great outdoors.”