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Forest Legacy Program

Authorizes the USDA Forest Service to Purchase Permanent Conservation Easements on Private Forest Lands or Make Grants to Do So

Congress created the FLP to help landowners, state and local governments, and private land trusts identify and protect environmentally important forest lands threatened by present and future conversion to non-forest uses. FLP's success depends on the private landowner who wants to conserve the special values of his or her forested land for future generations. FLP buys
from the landowner at fair market value certain land use rights, such as the right to develop land, with the dual aims of promoting effective forest land management and protecting the land from conversion to non-forest uses. Priority is given to forest lands that possess important scenic, cultural, and recreation resources, fish and wildlife habitats, water resources and other ecological values.

Each state drafts a forest conservation plan identifying "environmentally important" forest lands that include:

Forest buffers that stabilize soil and provide a natural filter for potential pollutants that might get into streams and rivers.

Recreational resources such as places to swim, hike and camp.

Fish and wildlife habitat such as clear, cold brooks for trout and dense forest cover to help deer survive cold, snowy winters.

Sites of cultural value like unique geology, historic settlements and artifacts.

Areas with beautiful scenery to enjoy from trails or roads.

Areas where timber and wood fiber grow rapidly.

Areas having other ecological value such as clean air and water.

Project Examples

In Massachusetts, FLP provided $1.5 million to purchase a 73-acre easement on a critical tract in a 1,200-acre project to protect Estabrook Woods, an area Henry David Thoreau identified as deserving conservation.

Vermont received more than $2 million in FLP funds to purchase a 31,450-acre easement in the "Northeast Kingdom" region of the state. The governor supports the effort as a vehicle to protect the natural character of Vermont.

In Washington state, the Forest Service, Weyerhauser Corporation, the Trust for Public Land, and other groups have used FLP support to protect and preserve a "green corridor" along I-90 from Seattle through the Cascade Mountains.

Application and Financial Information

State participation in the FLP is voluntary. To find out if FLP is operating in your state, contact your state agency that deals with forestry and natural resource issues. If that office indicates that the program is not available in your state, ask the state forester to pursue the possibility of
applying for FLP support to initiate the program. States may opt for the program to be administered through the federal office or through a state agency as a state grant program.

The FLP provides federal funding for up to 75 percent of the cost of conservation easements and fee interests on forest lands that are threatened with conversion. The program requires that 25 percent of the cost of a Forest Legacy project come from non-federal sources, which may include state and local governments and nonprofit organizations. The non-federal contribution may come from matching funds or in-kind contributions and may include direct and indirect costs associated with planning, acquisition, capital improvement, management, or administrative activities. Donations of land or conservation easements to land trusts may count toward the match (if they meet specific criteria, discuss this at the time of application with your local contacts for FLP).


When FLP was created in 1990, it was limited to Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington State. Today the program is potentially open to any state with threatened forest that has an "Assessment of Need" approved by the Forest Service. The assessment is prepared by the state forestry or natural resource agency-whichever is designated by the governor to serve as the state lead agency for FLP. Currently 17 states qualify for FLP funds by having approved plans: CA, CT, DE, HI, IL, IN, MA, MD, ME, NH, NJ, NY, RI, UT, VT, WA, PR. An additional five states have plans awaiting final approval: MN, MT, NC, SC, TN. Plans are in progress in PA & WI. Other
interested states include: GA, IA, NE, NM, OH, VA.

For a tract of land to be eligible for an FLP easement it must: 1) be within a FLP area as defined by the state's "Assessment of Need"; and 2) contain less than 10% open area. Non-forested farms and villages may be included in an FLP area if they are an integral part of the landscape and are logically within the boundaries of a Forest Legacy area, but cannot be included in the
easement. Land in Indian reservations and tribal lands are also eligible.

Uses and Restrictions

The FLP provides federal funds for:

purchase of conservation easements;

fee acquisition;

grants to states for the above activities;

surveys, title work, and other activities to facilitate donations of and or easements for FLP purposes; and

state FLP planning and administration.

Willing owners who are accepted into the program can sell all or part of their ownership rights, such as the right to develop the land, to the federal government. The government will pay for these rights at full fair market value. The owner keeps any remaining property rights and usually
continues to live on and work/manage the property. Property taxes are paid by the owner on any retained rights as determined by local assessors.

Enrolled landowners are required to follow a management plan designed for their forest. Forest management activities, including timber harvesting, are allowed if consistent with the conservation easement and management plan. By law, hunting, fishing, hiking, and similar recreational uses are considered consistent with the purposes of the program.

Owners of property restricted by a conservation easement may sell to other buyers at any time. The terms and conditions of the conservation easement "run with the land" and are binding on the new owner. A conservation easement is a partial interest in land conveyed by deed from a landowner to an easement holder with the intent of restricting present and future owners of the property in order to achieve conservation objectives.

Land trusts, which helped conceive and enact the FLP, are encouraged to cooperate with FLP activities in states where the program is in operation. Land trusts can cooperate in the process by: helping to prepare the assessment of need, bringing landowners and other project planners into FLP agreements, helping to structure and negotiate projects, assisting in acquisition of land, helping to provide the cost-share match, monitoring easements, and participating in state grant programs.

Forest land comprising part of a large ranch has been protected by a Forest Legacy project in Utah. Other opportunities to work with farmers and ranchers should increase as farming and ranching states join the FLP. Although FLP projects are restricted to protecting forests, they can be combined with other programs and funds to conserve working landscapes. In 1994 farmers owned aobut 16% of the nation's private forests.


For more information about FLP, contact the state agency that manages forestry issues in your state.

National Program Office
Ted Beauvais
USFS Cooperative Forestry-Forest Legacy Program
201 14th Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20250
(202) 205-1190
(202) 205-1271 (fax)
E-mail: tbeauvais/wo@fs.fed.us

Forest Legacy Program

Forest Legacy Program Implementation Guidelines

Preserving Open Space and Farmland
Program Name: Forest Legacy Program

http://www.lta.org/flweb.html and http://www.lta.org/flshort.html
Guide to the Forest Legacy Program/Land Trust Alliance and Why it exists