State Launches New Grant Program to Conserve Community Forests

Posted July 30, 2020 at 5:30 am by

OLYMPIA–Communities want­i­ng to con­serve forest­lands now have a state grant pro­gram to help, the Recre­ation and Con­ser­va­tion Office announced today.

Begin­ning Sep­tem­ber 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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Categories: Around Here, Government, Nature

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