Leahy, Forest Service announce $400,000 grant for Barre Town forest
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and the US Forest Service Wednesday announced grants for community forests that include $400,000 to help conserve Vermont’s majestic Barre Town Forest in Washington County.
Nationwide, grants totaling $3.5 million are being made under Leahy’s Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program. Leahy wrote and included the charter for the Community Forest Program in the last Farm Bill in 2008, and he is leading efforts to renew the program in the 2012 Farm Bill that is now before Congress. The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill includes Leahy’s legislation to continue the program. Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
The program supports jobs and healthy forests in communities across the nation, offering grants to local governments, tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations that are working to establish community forests. Its focus is on economic and environmental benefits, education, forest stewardship and recreation opportunities. The Community Forest Program follows in the footsteps of the Forest Legacy Program, first authored by Leahy in the 1990 Farm Bill, which has conserved more than 2 million acres of forest in 43 states.
Leahy, along with Senator Bernie Sanders (I) and Representative Peter Welch (D), worked closely with The Trust for Public Land to support the funding that the Barre Town Forest will now use to acquire approximately 384 acres for the new community forest in Washington County. This tract will be added to the 26 acres currently owned by the town, and the combined 410 acres will ensure water quality, wildlife protection, timber production, recreation and education opportunities for the surrounding community. The Barre Town Forest property also lies at the heart of a 70-mile trail network which contains a wide variety of cultural, historical, forest and wildlife resources. Leahy said the funds from the Community Forest Program will be used to provide continued public access to a precious natural resource, helping to connect local citizens to the land and expanding recreational opportunities.
Leahy said, “This land is part of every Vermonter’s legacy. The new Barre Town Forest will boost the local economy and preserve hundreds of acres of forest for Vermonters today, and for generations to come. The Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program invests in the future health and continued protection of America’s forestland. I have worked for years on this program and am delighted once again to see its tangible benefits to Vermont in conserving threatened forestland.”
He continued, “I have a personal connection to the Barre Town Community Forest, which was at one point a quarry. My grandfathers were stone cutters in Barre and made a living drawing from the natural resources there. It means a lot to know that the Barre Community Forest will soon expand and continue to be a special place for all Vermonters to visit and enjoy means a lot.”
Commenting on the victory, Rodger Krussman, Vermont state director for The Trust for Public Land, said, "Thanks to Senator Leahy's leadership in creating the new Community Forest Program, this is truly a 'Made in Vermont' tool for conservation that fits our state's needs. Now Senator Leahy's efforts, along with those of Senator Sanders and Representative Welch, to secure funding for this program have made this grant to the Barre Town Forest possible. The new Barre Town Forest will secure an environmental and economic asset for the community to own and manage. This project is a great example of the power in community-led conservation, and the important role that federal matching grants can play in supporting local innovation."
Leahy noted that the benefits to the community, including the economic benefits resulting from sustainable forest management, would be far-reaching and substantial. An analysis conducted by the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont concluded that creating the Barre Town Forest would result in significant economic growth in the town and in central Vermont. The Gund study concluded that for every $1 the town invests in ownership of the proposed community forest, the local economy would realize returns of $22 by 2015. During this same period, the project is expected to create 20 new jobs and generate a steady flow of timber revenue for Barre Town. Leahy said, “At a time when both the economy and the environment are under siege, this is a victory with something for everyone.”