This Week in Wood: Conserving Working Forests Supports Rural Families

conserving forests

As we recently reported, the more the public demands wood and other forest products, the more our forests grow – and, as it turns out, that growth supports rural families, too. When terrain for logging disappears due to suburbanization of historically wooded properties, jobs disappear along with it. As The Huffington Post reports, the number of logging jobs has declined dramatically over the last 20 years along with the milling companies that once provided them, leaving vast tracts of forest in the hands of investor groups and private-equity funds.

How those landowners then sell or lease the properties – and two whom – depends on what will net them the greatest profits. That often means tearing down forests to build oversized vacation homes instead of preserving them. A group called The Conservation Fund hopes to change that, and recently purchased 23,053 acres of forest on the borders of New York, Vermont and Massachusetts to help ensure they remain the backbone of the rural economies nearby.

The Conservation Fund has preserved nearly 500,000 acres of privately owned forested land over the last 20 years, through a process known as conservation easement. The fund agrees to buy the land from investors, then adds restrictions to the deeds excluding development. The new terms allow activities like recreation and sustainable logging, where foresters select specific trees to fell and lumbermen like Gale carefully cut them and drag them out. The Conservation Fund then sells the land to new owners, who agree to maintain the easement’s terms of use, and uses proceeds of the sales to create easements in other parts of the country.

…But cities naturally expand over time and zoning policies can, in theory, be changed to accommodate housing that is more affordable. In rural, wooded areas, the gentrification process can be economically devastating. That’s why privately owned forests like the ones the Conservation Fund buys welcome sustainable forestry, which helps clear out dead wood and make the forests less dense. Forestry-related industries currently provide 2.7 million American jobs and contribute $112 billion to the U.S. economy each year, according to the Land Trust Alliance, a conservation group.

Read the rest of this story by Alexander C. Kaufman at The Huffington Post.

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