More than 80 organizations across the region today urged lawmakers to help meet New England’s economic challenges by investing in the region’s forests, outlining seven critical federal funding opportunities to conserve this vital resource and the green infrastructure it provides.
The organizations submitted to Congressional leaders A Policy Agenda for Conserving New England’s Forests at a time when forest cover is declining in all six New England states, according to the science-based report, Wildlands and Woodlands: a Vision for the New England Landscape. According to the 85 groups, federal conservation funding is a vital strategy to retain the many economic and environmental benefits of the region’s forests.
New England is the most densely forested region in the nation, and its communities depend heavily on the forested landscape to fuel the economy, including monies from tourism and outdoor recreation, and heating fuel and timber from sustainably managed forests.
New England’s forests protect the headwaters for all of the Northeast’s major rivers; filter drinking water for millions of people; and shelter fish, wildlife, and rich biodiversity. The region’s 33 million acres of forest clean the air and store vast quantities of carbon, slowing climate change.
“The daily benefits to human life, or ‘ecosystem services,’ that our forests provide are truly priceless – invaluable at both a regional and national scale,” according to Dr. David Foster, Director of Harvard University’s Harvard Forest in Petersham, MA. “There is no cheaper way to mitigate climate change or produce clean water than widespread forest conservation.”
The 85 organizations urged Congressional leaders to adopt seven key actions to protect New England’s forests as Congress moves forward to review and finalize the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013.
Despite substantial differences in population, development, and geography across the six New England states, 85 representative organizations from across the region have come together to call on Congress to keep intact the nationally significant and economically vital green infrastructure of New England’s forests.
The unprecedented regional unity of these 85 organizations reflects increasing recognition of New England’s fundamental reliance on its forested landscape, and a rising crescendo of voices in support of reversing the escalating forest loss. The New England Governors Conference recently issued a major report that advocates a “Keep Forests as Forests” strategy, and has called for a new federal-state partnership in New England to better address conservation of the region’s invaluable forests and forest-based economy.
The organizations urging action are listed in A Policy Agenda for Conserving New England’s Forests. Additional voices from around the region in support of this Agenda are appended to this release:
Regional Voices in Support of the FY13 Forest Conservation Policy Agenda:
“Organizations representing New Englanders in recreation, forestry, agriculture, conservation and wildlife have endorsed these policies because of the profound value the forests have for our economy, our health and well-being and our future, as well as the futures of the other species that rely on the forests,” said Andrew Finton, a director of science and conservation for The Nature Conservancy. “The value of forests in the region is immense and so is the significance of Congressional support for them.”
“Farmers own nearly 2 million acres of New England woodland,” according to Cris Coffin, New England Director for American Farmland Trust. “Federal farm conservation programs not only help farmers protect and manage their farmland, but their woodlands, too, helping them diversify their farm operations and generate additional income.”
“A commitment to the conservation of New England’s forests is a key to the future health of the New England economy, the integrity of our air and water, and the availability of natural landscapes that provide recreational opportunities for the region’s residents and visitors.” - Susan Arnold, Vice-President for Conservation for the Appalachian Mountain Club, the nation’s oldest conservation and recreation organization.
"The U.S. Forest Service estimates that by 2050, 60-70% of Rhode Island and Connecticut could be urbanized. We are working hard in Connecticut to stem the relentless development pressure on our imperiled natural resources, but we cannot do it alone; federal collaboration is central to our success." - Amy Paterson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council.
“New England’s forestlands are mostly privately owned and up for grabs due to escalating development pressure. Federal monies must play a key role in conserving our invaluable forested landscape while we still have this spectacular chance.” - Emily Bateson, Conservation Director of Highstead; Coordinator of the New England Wildlands and Woodlands Initiative.
"Forests define the nature of Massachusetts and the region, maintaining clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreation, and a strong economy. We must halt forest loss and fragmentation to protect the quality of life that makes our communities so attractive and vibrant.” - Laura A. Johnson, President of Mass Audubon.
"New England's forests are the backbone of our culture, economy, and well-being. Federal matching funds through programs like Forest Legacy and the Community Forest Program will match strong efforts from New England's states and communities to conserve these nationally significant public assets." - Rodger Krussman, Vermont and New Hampshire State Director for The Trust for Public Land.
“Forest fragmentation is afoot in Vermont because of our proximity to three major metropolitan areas, and the transfer of land associated with an aging population of forestland owners. We have an urgent need for new forest conservation funding, especially to support landscape-scale and community-connected forest protection.” - Gil Livingston, President of Vermont Land Trust.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.