USDA Forest Service Awards $4M to Support Community Forest Projects; Vicki Christiansen Quoted

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service has announced it will award $4 million to fund 10 community forest projects across eight states to support the creation, expansion and enhancement of community spaces, the agency reported on Monday.

“The program offers a unique opportunity for communities to increase public access, recreational opportunities, and other multiple uses,” said Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen. “These investments will also help protect vital water supplies and wildlife habitat, serve as demonstration sites for private forest landowners and provide economic benefits from timber and non-timber products.”

USDA’s Forest Service will deliver the funding in the form of grants to local governments, tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations through its Community Forest Program. The funds will support working forests through sustainable management and timber and non-timber production.

In addition to the funds awarded through the grant program, awardees will collectively leverage an additional $8 million in matching funds. Since the Community Forest Program issued its first grants in 2012, the program has supported 66 community-driven projects across 23 states and territories and permanently conserved over 17,000 acres. 

The program has developed strong partnerships between the Forest Service, tribes, local governments and nonprofits. Of the funded projects, Hall Mountain Community Forest has received an award to expand access for land and water-based recreation.

Lakeville Community Forest was also awarded funds to support jobs in forest products, outdoor recreation, and guiding industries and maintains the values of the regions’ forest, wildlife and water resources. Quigg Island Community Forest was also among the awardees. 

The company provides local product to the mill, supporting jobs in the region, as well as allowing the town to enhance its outdoor recreation-based economy. Birch Ridge Community Forest works with forestland that protects water resources and expands trails for snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, trail-running and mountain biking.

Additionally, Mink Brook Community Forest was awarded under the Forest Service funds.  The company establishes connectivity for recreation trails, including the Appalachian Trail, and wildlife passage around downtown Hanover. Oak Hill Community Forest creates opportunities for agriculture and forestry, public recreation and outdoor education.

The Butte Falls Community Forest, Huntington Community Forest, Bear Ridge Community Forest and Rocky Branch Community Forest have also received support from the USDA Forest Service. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Forest Service announced additional funding, the agency reported in April 2020. The department stated that it will award $1.5 million in total to seven rural communities through a new Community Wood Energy and Wood Innovation grant program.

“The Forest Service is taking advantage of this new program to invest in rural communities motivated to convert leftovers from their local sawmills or forestry operations into renewable wood energy,” said Christiansen.

In addition to the funds awarded through the new grant program, awardees will leverage an additional $3.4 million in matching funds. Together the seven communities are projected to save more than $250 thousand a year by using locally supplied, renewable wood energy. 

The program will also fund wood energy facilities, typically manufacturing or processing plants, including sawmills, that make products like building components, such as mass timber and other innovative offerings made from low-value or low-quality wood.

“The communities will save on energy costs and enhance energy resilience while sustainably managing their forests. These infrastructure investments immediately create permanent jobs for rural Americans determined to keep their communities vibrant and self-sufficient,” added Christiansen. 

About USDA

We provide leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management.

We have a vision to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation's natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.

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