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State Forester Announces Program to Conserve Private Forests

 ALBUQUERQUE -- A new program to help private landowners conserve important forest property was announced today by New Mexico State Forester, Toby Martinez.

"The Forest Legacy Program will be offered to landowners, local governments, and private land trusts to protect environmentally and economically important forest lands from being fragmented by subdivision and developed for non-forest uses," said Martinez.

 Conservation easements will be used to purchase development rights at fair market value from willing sellers who want to conserve their forest property. The State of New Mexico then holds the development rights in perpetuity. Rights of occupancy, use and transfer of the land remain with the landowner, and the land remains on the tax rolls.

 "New Mexico's forests and woodlands are extremely important to our rural economies and cultures. These lands are also critical as watersheds, open spaces, and wildlife habitats for the benefit of all New Mexicans. They need to remain intact and productive," said Martinez.

 The Forest Legacy Program was established in the 1990 Farm Bill and is administered by the USDA - Forest Service through its Cooperative Forestry Division. Legacy received a fiscal year 2000 federal appropriation of $30 million that was divided among 22 participating states. New Mexico is seeking to qualify for the FY 2001 appropriation and could receive up $500,000 for conservation easements, if Congress passes the President's proposed budget. According to Martinez, "We are in a planning phase right now, but hope to be able to process applications from landowners in the near future."

    Draft plans for the New Mexico Legacy Program are available for viewing at the New Mexico Forestry Division Offices in Santa Fe, Bernalillo, Capitan, Chama, Cimmaron, Las Vegas and Socorro, or on the Internet at http://www.nmforestry.com. Comments are invited until September 8th.

For more information contact Bob Sivinski at 505/827-7865.