Commentary: Maine needs robust Forest Legacy Program funding

October 28, 2021

From Portland Press Herald, October 28, 2021 (Read Online)

The Forest Legacy Program has conserved over 2.8 million acres of working forest lands across the U.S.

Maine's woodlands can make important contributions to climate resilience efforts while supporting our vital forest and recreation economies.

The time is now for a generational investment in forest conservation and outdoor access for all to provide a sustainable future-both ecologically and economically for Maine and its outdoor way of life. Additionally, we need bold natural climate solutions, such as enhanced forest management, forest restoration, and carbon storage.

As Commissioner of Maine's Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF), I was pleased to learn of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee's passage of a budget reconciliation package containing $40 billion dollars in forest-related provisions. That bill includes a critical $1.25 billion investment in the Forest Legacy Program, which helps states and private forest owners maintain working forest lands as a key tool to protect natural infrastructure and support climate resilience.

The Forest Legacy Program is a voluntary program responsible for conserving over 2.8 million acres of working forest lands across the U.S., primarily through conservation easement purchases, with more than 50 percent of project costs leveraged from non-federal sources. The program invests in natural infrastructure by conserving forests that sequester carbon dioxide, provide important wildlife habitats, protect our rivers, lakes, and ponds, and secure drinking water supplies. These forested lands offer these benefits while producing timber and providing public recreation access, contributing significantly to Maine's economy via multiple sectors. It's a win-win, a program that works.

To date, the program has conserved more than 741,000 acres here in Maine, leveraging $76.1 million in federal funds for a total investment of $146.6 million. Working together with local communities and conservation groups, we have protected places like Katahdin Ironworks, Tumbledown Mountain, West Grand Lake Community Forest, Orbeton Stream, Crocker Mountain, and the Pierce Pond watershed.

Maine has two exciting Forest Legacy projects being considered for funding: the 13,000-acre Quill Hill to Perham project near Rangeley and the 10,000-acre Chadbourne Tree Farm project near Bethel.

Maine's Congressional delegation supports these projects and has been consistent champions of forest conservation, and we at DACF encourage Senator's King and Collins, and Representatives Pingree and Golden, to also support the forestry provisions in the reconciliation bill and make clear to Congressional leadership that these natural climate solutions should remain in the final reconciliation package.

Amanda Beal
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Supporting documents

PDF Version of Commentary (PDF)