Deliver Benefits to the Public

Sustainable Forestry & African American Land Retention program receives national recognition

Forest Service researcher John Schelhas and landowner Eleanor Cooper Brown discuss her family’s land and forests. Forest Service photo by Sarah Hitchner.

WASHINGTON, DC – On July 16, 2018, the Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson presented the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities with the 2018 Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. The Endowment received the award for their efforts in creating and managing the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program.

The award, administered by HUD in partnership with the Council of Foundations, recognizes innovative partnerships that focus on housing and community development for low- and moderate-income families. The SFLR program is a partnership of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDA Forest Service. The program promotes intergenerational land retention and family asset creation for African American landowners across the southeast. 

The SFLR program was launched in 2013 as an effort to aid African American landowners in turning their forested properties into ecological, economic and social assets for future generations. Relatively few African American landowners have formal forest management plans and benefit from professional advice or government assistance programs, in some cases due to a lack of clear property title.

The program capitalizes on innovative partnerships between local, state and federal organizations to assist landowners in this process. SFLR provides a variety of support to these landowners, including access to legal assistance, estate planning and opportunities for sustainable forestry. To date, the program supports eight project sites across seven states in Region 8 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas) and more than 800 landowners. The participants own a combined 68,423 acres, ensuring land assets remain held by historical landowners. The program provided 755 forest management plans to landowners leading to tax reductions and 133 timber.

Working forests benefit us all. Many public benefits flow from private lands. They are essential in providing clean air and water, habitat for fish and wildlife, forest products and recreational opportunities.