The Forest Legacy Program: 25 Years of Keeping Working Forests Working

Scott Stewart
Forest Legacy Program Manager, U.S. Forest Service
April 17th, 2015 at 7:30PM

A photo of a rancher and his son surveying a swath of Dakota grasslands standing by two horses. Two million four hundred seventy thousand acres — equivalent in size to two Delawares — are protected through the Forest Legacy Program, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Enacted through the 1990 Farm Bill’s Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, this voluntary program has proved popular and crucial to aiding states in meeting their forest conservation goals.

The first Forest Legacy project was located in Vermont, the 1660-acre Cow Mountain Pond property. Today, 53 states and territories participate. The map below shows program accomplishments through 2014.

Projects are selected for funding through a two-stage competitive process that identifies projects that are supported locally and are significant nationally. Projects are evaluated on a number of factors including importance to forest products and resource based jobs, protecting air and water quality, providing recreational opportunities, and protecting important fish and wildlife habitat including those for threatened or endangered species.  Funds are provided to State-lead agencies for project implementation through grants.    

Forest Legacy is highly leveraged through a 25 percent cost share requirement – $669 million has secured land valued at more than $15 billion. This translates to the spent federal dollars being leveraged by more than $842 million.

A screenshot of a Forest Legacy projects across the nation.Since 2004 the Forest Legacy Program has been funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The Land and Water Conservation Fund, authorized in 1964, is designed to support acquisition of important conservation and recreation areas for public access and enjoyment and is funded through revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing royalties, not taxpayer dollars. 

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is in high demand. For example, the Forest Legacy Program receives many times more requests from states for funding than there are funds available. The fund and the Forest Legacy Program are both passing landmark birthdays but both are just getting started. These are the programs that are identifying and protecting the places that are important to all of us for a host of reasons: economic, recreation, securing drinking water, and ensuring resilience to climate change.

Please take the time to learn what your federal programs are doing for you and what you value.