Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell today announced the award of $44.2 million in grants to permanently protect 16 working forests in 15 states. “Since 1990, the Forest Legacy Program has prevented the loss of more than 2.3 million acres of private forest lands for future generations of Americans,” said Tidwell. “In an era of continued sprawl, this program protects land and keeps working forests working.” Private forest landowners are facing increasing real estate prices, property taxes and development pressure, resulting in conversion of forests to other land uses. This program protects working forests, thereby supporting rural jobs and economies. The Forest Legacy Program, a model of cooperation between states, partners and private landowners, is the only federal grant program focused on the permanent protection of important private forestland. The program promotes voluntary land conservation by operating on the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller.” These grants support many goals set out in President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, including the need to support locally-led conservation efforts and enhance recreational access and opportunities. Additionally, scientists continue to accumulate evidence that the warming of the climate is changing the odds of extreme events like floods, droughts, heat waves and downpours. Conserving the more than 2.3 million acres of private forest legacy program lands is one of a number of important steps the Forest Service has taken to help make America’s forests more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Landscape-scale initiatives like the Forest Legacy Program are at the core of the Forest Service mission to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of all of the nation’s forests, providing tremendous benefits for rural and urban communities. 2013 Forest Legacy Program project grants: South Boulder Creek Watershed, Colo. $5 million The property is surrounded by some of Colorado's most popular national forest destinations including James Peak Wilderness and Eldora Ski Area. This project will protect the largest private property in the South Boulder Creek Watershed, directly benefiting Denver Water, which relies on South Boulder Creek to help deliver safe drinking water to 1.3 million people. The South Boulder Creek Watershed property will protect 4,728 acres of forestland through conservation easement. Quabbin Reservoir to Washusett Mountain, Mass. $5.1 million This project implements a landscape-scale vision to conserve a 20-mile forested corridor from the shore of the Quabbin Reservoir to the peak of Mount Wachusett. Building on four previous Forest Legacy Program efforts, Quabbin to Waschusett will secure 4,123 acres of exemplarily managed forests, providing key linkages among 130,000 acres of existing conservation land. McArthur Lake Addition, Idaho $4.1 million Stimson Lumber Company will sell a conservation easement on 6,847 acres of highly productive timberland that it owns on the Idaho panhandle within and adjacent to the internationally recognized McArthur Lake Wildlife Corridor. Providing the only viable connection between vast areas of public land in the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains on either side, the easement is widely viewed as being one of the most important wildlife linkage zones in the region. The project area contains some of the most valuable wildlife habitat in Idaho, supporting six federally listed or candidate threatened and endangered species and numerous other rare, sensitive and game species. Northern Green Mountains Linkage, Vt. $2.7 million Through a conservation easement the Northern Green Mountain Linkage will protect 3,984 acres of managed forestland, rare species and communities, 16 miles of streams and high quality wildlife habitat. Linking up 68,300 acres of contiguous conserved land, these tracts help connect the Green Mountains north to the Sutton Range in Quebec, and east to the Worcester Range. East Grand/Orient, Maine $1.8 million The East Grand/Orient project will protect 7,526 acres of forestland that lie directly on the international border of eastern Maine and New Brunswick, Canada. The project connects to 116,000 acres of prior Forest Legacy Program investments, and protects seven miles of shoreline on East Grand Lake, Longley Lake, North Lake and Monument Brook, headwaters of the St. Croix International Waterway. Gilchrist Forest, Ore. $3 million The 25,835-acre Gilchrist State Forest parcel is a keystone property surrounded by three national forests, a state forest, and Bureau of Land Management properties. The tract will be added to the newly created Gilchrist State Forest and will be managed for sustainable forestry and public recreation, generating significant revenue for Klamath County. East Fork of French Broad Headwaters, N.C. $3 million The East Fork of the French Broad Headwaters project will protect 8,000 acres of working forestland in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina through fee simple acquisition. This tract connects to more than 100,000 acres of existing conservation lands in North Carolina and South Carolina, including the Jocassee Gorges Management Area, S.C., a 2001 Forest Legacy Program acquisition. The project will expand the opportunities for public recreation by protecting the last privately-owned section of the Foothills Trail; opening more than five miles of trout streams to the public, and securing access to Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest point. The project will also preserve more than 60 miles of streams and protect endangered plant species and other plant and animal species of concern. Ka’awaloa Hawaiian Forest, Hawaii $3.2 million The Ka‘awaloa Hawaiian Forest conservation easement is located on the slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano. The project will protect an internationally significant 1,000-acre remnant of rare native rainforest that has remained principally intact since the mid-1800’s. The property connects to the adjacent 9,000-acre Kealakekua Heritage Ranch Forest Legacy Project and the state’s Onouli Forest. Mount Lebanon, N.Y. $1.9 million The Mount Lebanon project represents a unique opportunity to permanently protect, with conservation easements, 1,310 acres of natural and historical resources and provide opportunities for public recreation, environmental education and archeological research. The project area contains land within and adjoining the Taconic Ridge, the Shaker Swamp and the Mount Lebanon Shaker Society National Historic Landmark. In addition, the project abuts 10,000 acres of Massachusetts state forest lands and 400 acres of Massachusetts state park lands. Blood Run National Historic Landmark Area, S.D. $1.2 million The Blood Run project is a fee simple acquisition of 300 acres of land located within two miles of Sioux Falls, S.D., one of the most rapidly growing population centers in the Upper Great Plains. Situated in an agricultural landscape at the heart of the Blood Run National Historic Landmark Area, this project represents an opportunity to preserve a nationally important cultural icon and a unique large tract of forest with oak trees left untouched since the 1880's. Acquisition of this property will protect the rich pre-settlement history of the Oneota culture as well as forest, wetland and grassland habitats. Blue Mountain Heritage, Ore. $1.5 million The Blue Mountain Heritage Project is a family-owned working forest in Northeast Oregon consisting of 1,469 acres of mixed-pine timberlands, wetlands, sage-steppe communities and rare beaver pond complexes. It is adjacent to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Elkhorn Wildlife Management Area, which is contiguous to the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. Eagle Rock, Penn. $1.5 million The 1,100-acre Eagle Rock project is located in Franklin County, within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. This project will be annexed to the adjacent 85,000-acre Michaux State Forest, which contains a stretch of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The property is the last remaining block of private forestland of its size within the region and features high-value habitat for state listed plants and animals and many game species. Central Sands Pines, Wis. $3 million The Central Sands Pines conservation easement will protect more than 7,500 acres of working forest in central Wisconsin to be held by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Ensuring continued forest production on large forest blocks is important to the local, state and regional economy, contributing to Wisconsin being first among states in forestry jobs. This property contains critical habitat for the endangered Kirtland's warbler and Karner Blue butterfly. Munger Mountain Corridor, Wyo. $3 million As a significant part of the largest undeveloped private holding in the Jackson Hole valley, the Munger Mountain Corridor project area is highly threatened by development. The Munger Mountain Corridor project will complete a corridor of protected land connecting the Bridger-Teton National Forest to important elk wintering grounds owned by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. Hundreds of elk traverse this corridor annually, contributing to the health of one of the largest elk herds in North America. The project will also protect valuable riparian habitat and more than one mile of frontage along the Snake River, which was recently added by Congress to the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. Pascagoula River Conservation Lands, Miss. $3.2 million The free-flowing Pascagoula is the largest unimpeded river in the contiguous United States. This project will protect three remaining tracts of bottomland hardwoods, riparian forests and adjacent upland forests in the Pascagoula River Basin and will connect and expand large contiguous blocks of national forest, preserves managed by The Nature Conservancy, state wildlife management areas and coastal preserves totaling more than 70,000 acres. The Nature Conservancy, government and non-profit partners have been working since 1974 to conserve an 85-mile forested corridor of public and private conservation lands along this scenic tributary from its headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico. Gitcha-ninj Nebish Forest, Mich. $1 million The Gitcha-ninj Nebish Forest project will acquire a conservation easement on 750 acres of rolling northern hardwood forests in the northwest Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The project will include public recreation access, preserve one of the largest privately-owned parcels in the region and will protect three-fourths of a mile of Thumb Lake frontage. The tract is dominated by high-quality northern hardwood forests and is surrounded on three sides by thousands of acres of state forest lands managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The property functions as significant habitat for resident and migrant wildlife and connects larger blocks of protected lands and habitats. This tract is also a site of historical significance, as it served as the summer camp for the Ottawa tribe and was the hub of the area timber industry during the logging era. For more information on the Forest Legacy Program, please visit http://www.fs.fed.us/cooperativeforestry/programs/loa/flp.shtml The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.