Senator Leahy, U.S. Forest Chief Announce Forest Legacy Funding

Conservation Program Protects Valuable Working Forests Nationwide

RICHMOND (Monday, May 18) – U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell joined Senator Patrick Leahy Monday  to announce $50 million in grants to protect 24 working forests in 21 states, including Vermont, through the Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program.   

Chief Kimbell also announced the details of the President’s Fiscal Year 2010 proposal to fund 47 Forest Legacy projects at $91 million.

Kimbell, a graduate of the University of Vermont who graduated from high school in St. Albans, hailed Vermont’s senior senator as the inspiration behind the federal program that brings together states, private partners and landowners to protect environmentally and economically important forests.

“The Forest Legacy Program started in 1990, thanks to Senator Leahy, who is truly the Father of Forest Legacy,” Kimbell said.

Through Leahy’s efforts, Vermont was the first state in the nation to undertake a Forest Legacy project – the conservation of 1,660 acres at Cow Mountain Pond in Granby in 1993.  

“The four-state area of Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and New York leads all other regions, with more than 1 million acres conserved to date,” Kimbell said.

The Forest Legacy Program, first authored by Senator Leahy in the 1990 Farm Bill, has provided more than $406 million to conserve nearly 1.85 million acres in 42 states over the past two decades.  Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and is a former chairman of the panel.

“To all the landowners and our private partners here in Vermont and across the nation, I applaud your vision and commitment in maintaining the integrity of our country’s valuable forest lands,” Senator Leahy said.  “Intact forest lands supply timber products, wildlife habitat, soil and watershed protection,  recreational opportunities and the quality of life that helps make our state such a great place to live, work and raise families.”

Leahy said he continues to champion the Forest Legacy Program as a powerful tool to permanently conserve treasured working forest lands.  Leahy also applauded the President’s FY 2010 budget request of $91 million in funding for Forest Legacy.

“The Forest Legacy Program is a unique conservation effort which recognizes that environmental stewardship rests in citizens’ hands,” Senator Leahy said. “Vermonters place a high value on protecting our open spaces and maintaining our traditions of a working forest.”

Working with the Trust for Public Land, Vermont will receive $1.8 million this year toward purchasing a conservation easement on the 5,727-acre Eden Forest.  The Eden Forest links one of the last remaining large unprotected forested parcels in the northern Green Mountains to a larger conservation area reaching into Quebec.  Protected through Legacy funds, the Eden Forest will continue serving as a biological corridor for animals such as bear and moose.  It will continue producing timber, sequestering carbon, safeguarding water supplies, and providing jobs as a working forest.

The Forest Legacy Program has contributed more than $14.6 million to conserve 67,603 acres 47 tracts in 16 projects in Vermont since 1993.

The Forest Legacy Program is a partnership between states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service to identify and help conserve environmentally important forests from conversion to non-forest uses, while maintaining private ownership.  Using conservation easements, the federal government may fund up to 75 percent of program costs, with at least 25 percent coming from private, state or local sources.  For more information, visit http://www.vtfpr.org/.

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