Staff and wire reports
Communities wanting to conserve forestlands now have a state grant program to help, the Recreation and Conservation Office announced on Friday.
Beginning Sept. 1, communities can apply for grants of up to $3 million in the newly created Community Forests Program.
The grants must be used to buy at least 5 acres of forestland, and the land must be maintained as forestland forever.
The land must be actively managed to include timber harvest and other income generating activities. Grants also may be used to restore the land or provide recreation opportunities, such as trails, when combined with land purchases.
“Forests in Washington serve many purposes. We use them for timber for our homes and as places to hike, mountain bike and do a whole slew of other outdoor recreation activities,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which is administering the grant program. “In addition, forests provide important wildlife habitat and other benefits such as clean air and clean water. Conserving forestlands ensures they remain part of our heritage for generations and that Washington stays the Evergreen State.”
From 1978-2001, 700,000 acres of forestland in Washington were converted to suburban development, rights-of-ways, and agriculture.
“The loss of these forestlands diminishes a reliable source of forest products and jobs. It also threatens to impair important habitat for fish and other wildlife,” Cottingham said.
More than 1,700 forest products-related businesses call Washington home, supporting 101,000 workers and gross business income of about $28 billion a year.
“The new Community Forests Program provides another tool in the toolbox for communities like mine, where timber is an important part of our economy, culture and history, but commercial forestry is challenging due to population growth and consolidation in the industry,” said Kate Dean, Jefferson County commissioner.
“Community forest grants will allow for all the benefits of forestry – standing trees, environmental benefits like improved water quality, open space for recreation and revenue – while giving local decision-making on stewardship and harvest. Jefferson County looks forward to the opportunity to create a community forest for all of the myriad benefits they bring to our timber county.”
“What’s unique about this program is that it’s not another parkland acquisition or pure conservation program,” said Jason Callahan, director of Government Relations for the Washington Forest Protection Association. “It’s a program to help maintain the state’s base of managed working forestlands. Actively managing forests also will help forest health, the rural economy, log supplies for mills and other aspects of the community. These values are only obtained when working forests are kept working.”
“I am really excited about Washington’s new community forest grant opportunities,” said Ray Entz, director of Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources for the Kalispel Tribe of Indians. “These opportunities create special places to engage and enrich the communities that they serve. From the fiscal, educational, recreational and environmental perspectives, these community forests are nothing but untapped potential.”
The Recreation and Conservation Office will accept applications from Sept. 1-Oct. 1. More information about the Community Forests Program is available online.
“Community forests provide the opportunity for citizens to have a direct stake in how Washington’s vital and iconic working forestlands are used and managed,” said Nick Norton, director of the Washington Association of Land Trusts. “I have seen community forest projects in Washington already allowing local communities to create jobs and revenue through creative, cross-boundary forest management, serving as educational centers to cultivate the next generation of natural resource professionals and civic leaders, and providing outdoor hubs that connect tens of thousands of recreationalists to the benefits of working forests. This work will have a tremendous benefit to rural communities across the state now and for future generations.”
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