Release: Community forests to receive grant funding

Forest Stories, Press / PR

Hannah Clark
Washington Association of Land Trusts
(206) 294-1696

Jay McLaughlin
Mt. Adams Resource Stewards
(509) 364-4110

Mike Running
Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts
(503) 719-4732

Two Pacific Northwest community forests among highest ranked Community Forest Program grant awardees.

Portland, Ore. — Today, three northwest non-profit coalitions applauded the U.S. Forest Service’s announcement of grant awards for two new community forests in Washington and Oregon, a major milestone in the community forest movement.

The USFS Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program provides financial resources to local governments, tribes, and qualified non-profit organizations to acquire and establish community forests. The Program defines community forests as forestland that provides public access and is managed to provide community benefits as identified in a community forest plan.

The Miller Tree Farm near Bend, Oregon and Chimacum Forest in east Jefferson County, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, received grant awards from the federal fiscal year 2016 Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program (CFP). The two forests ranked third and fourth respectively out of 21 total applications submitted nationally this year. Only eight projects were funded in total nationwide.

“We’re thrilled to see two Northwest projects compete as well as they did. We believe this reflects a growing interest across the region in an alternative form of forest ownership and management that better aligns with the values and capacities of communities most connected to these forests,” said Jay McLaughlin, Executive Director of Mt. Adams Resource Stewards and Chair of the Northwest Community Forest Coalition.

The Miller Tree Farm is 309 acres of gently rolling ponderosa pine forest located just outside of Bend, Oregon. With the support of the land’s longtime owners, the Trust for Public Land and Bend Park and Recreation District (BPRD) applied for a CFP grant to save the forest from becoming a subdivision. This grant will ensure the forest continues to protect water quality, wildlife habitat, and public access in the midst of rapid population and development growth in Bend. BPRD will manage the new community forest forest as an extension of the locally cherished Shevlin Regional Park. The Miller family has managed the land for the past 60 years.

“Over the years, our family has been careful stewards of of this property, and we believe a new community forest that is owned and managed by the Bend Park and Recreation District will carry on our stewardship and be a positive outcome for the Bend community,” said Charley Miller in his letter of support for the project. Connecting to over 300 miles of hiking, biking, equestrian, and running trails in the Deschutes National Forest, the Miller Tree Farm will provide the community with unique recreational and educational opportunities.

“The Miller Tree Farm project is a great example of how land trusts and public agencies can partner on significant projects in our communities,” said Kelley Beamer, Executive Director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts. “With federal programs like the Community Forest Program, landowners have the tools and incentives they need to conserve special places.”

The Chimacum Forest project protects 65 acres in the town of Chimacum in east Jefferson County, an area recognized regionally for its thriving agricultural community and economy. The community forest is composed of mature, mixed species, second-growth forest adjacent to a main county road, and includes headwater drainages for the west fork of the salmon-bearing Chimacum Creek. Chimacum Forest will provide wildlife habitat, clean water, scenic vistas, and a timber supply to local mills. The property will also be managed to produce specialty woods for specific markets, educational opportunities, and a network of trails for public recreation.

The Forest links two of the most significant pending land protection efforts in Jefferson County: projects to permanently protect the rich farmland soils of the 253-acre Short Family Farm in the creek valley, and a scenic, landmark 853-acre working forest, called Chimacum Ridge, which rises between the west and east forks of Chimacum Creek.

“Forests are significant for East Jefferson County’s character and community, and for the Pacific Northwest as a whole,” said Richard Tucker, Executive Director of Jefferson Land Trust and a board member for the Washington Association of Land Trusts. “As a community forest, this land will provide local economic, recreational, ecosystem, and educational benefits permanently. We are grateful the Forest Service Community Forest Program has become our partner in this incredible opportunity to grow and support the burgeoning community forest interests in the Pacific NW.”

Since 2012, the CFP has awarded grants to support establishment of 35 community forests in 18 states and Puerto Rico. Encompassing a total of more than 15,500 acres, these forests will provide perpetual ecological, economic, educational, and recreational benefits to their communities. Under the program, USFS grants totaling $10,750,000 have been matched by nearly $35 million of nonfederal investments.

Within the Pacific Northwest, eight community forest acquisitions have received support under the USFS Community Forest Program, placing ownership of 3,614 acres of valuable forestland under local control. Federal investment in these projects have totaled $2,576,000 with a nonfederal match of nearly $6,500,000.

Interest in community forests is rapidly expanding in the Pacific Northwest, as communities look to solutions to preserve the jobs, quality of life, habitat, and recreation that forests provide. In response, the Northwest Community Forest Coalition, working with Sustainable Northwest and the World Forestry Center, recently held its third annual Community Forest Forum, which featured a presentation about the Community Forest Program. The forum has consistently attracted nearly 100 representatives from communities and other stakeholders interested in learning about and promoting the community forest model.

Community forest projects previously supported under the program include the Thurston Hills Community Forest in Oregon and the North Kitsap Heritage Park, Indian Creek Community Forest, Mt. Adams Community Forest, Stemilt-Squilchuck Community Forest, and the Nisqually Community Forest in Washington.