|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
March 11, 2012
|CONTACT: Misty Edgecomb, The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts|
Heidi Ricci, Mass Audubon
New Englandís Economy Linked to its Vast but Threatened Forests
Groups urge Congress to increase federal conservation funding for region’s forests
BOSTON — 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, and outlined 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 major science-based report, Wildlands and Woodlands: A Vision for the New England Landscape. Federal conservation funding is a vital strategy to retain the many economic and environmental benefits of forests, according to the groups.
"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,” said Laura A. Johnson, President of Mass Audubon.
New England is the most densely forested region in the nation, and its communities heavily depend on the forested landscape to fuel the economy, including monies from tourism and outdoor recreation, and heating fuel and timber from sustainably managed forests.†
“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, director of science and conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “The value of forests in Massachusetts is immense and so is the significance of Congressional support for them.”
New England’s forests also include the headwaters for all of the Northeast’s major rivers, protect 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, which, if released, would contribute to global climate change.
The coalition 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.
- Fund working forest conservation by continuing to fund the Forest Legacy Program at the levels in the President’s recently released Budget. Since the program’s establishment in 1990, it has protected 996,000 acres from development in New England, sustaining the region’s forests that contribute tens of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to states’ economies. Forest Legacy funds have helped protect the forested Quabbin Reservoir watershed, which provides the drinking water for 2.2 million residents of Greater Boston, as well as the Connecticut River watershed, one of the region’s largest most important waterways.
- Conserve large New England landscapes to protect water quality, farmlands, recreational spaces and habitat corridors in a time of climate change by including the priority landscapes in the implementation of America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) with any competitive funds matching state, local, and private funding for FY13. In Massachusetts, the Blackstone River Valley Greenway and an effort to designate part of the Connecticut River as a National Blueway have been highlighted as AGO priorities.
- Connect forests and communities by continuing programs such as the Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program; Urban and Community Forestry; Recreational Trails Program; Rivers, Trails; and Conservation Assistance Program.
- Protect special places through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, which have previously protected New England treasures including the Green and White Mountain National Forests and the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge.
- Provide incentives for forest landowners and forest businesses by funding the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Rural Development Programs, which provide crucial assistance towards preserving the partnership between New England private landowners, forest businesses, and the federal government.
- Develop sustainable community-scale thermal biomass energy by funding the Community Wood Energy Program.
- Protect fisheries and wildlife and mitigate climate change by funding wildlife protection programs including the North American Wetland Conservation Act; State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program; the North Atlantic Conservation Cooperative; the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund; the Habitat Conservation Plan; the Recovery Land Acquisition Grants; the National Fish Habitat Action Plan; and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.
Despite substantial differences in population, development, and geography across the six New England states, these representative organizations from across the region have come together in an unprecedented way to call on Congress to keep intact the nationally significant and economically vital green infrastructure of New England’s forests.
This regional unity is part of a growing 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 advocated a “Keep Forests as Forests” strategy, and have 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 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 organizations urging action are listed on A Policy Agenda for Conserving New England’s Forests.
Mass Audubon works to protect the nature of Massachusetts for people and wildlife. Together with more than 100,000 members, we care for 35,000 acres of conservation land, provide school, camp, and other educational programs for 225,000 children and adults annually, and advocate for sound environmental policies at local, state, and federal levels. Founded in 1896 by two inspirational women who were committed to the protection of birds, Mass Audubon has grown to become a powerful force for conservation in New England. Today we are respected for our sound science, successful advocacy, and innovative approaches to connecting people and nature. Each year, our statewide network of wildlife sanctuaries welcomes nearly half a million visitors of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds and serves as the base for our work. To support these important efforts, call 800-AUDUBON (800-283-8266) or visit www.massaudubon.org.