FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—July 31, 2023
Kelley Beamer, Executive Director, Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts
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Jim Gersbach, ODF Public Affairs Specialist
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SALEM, Ore. – Two working forests in Oregon received a major investment from the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Forest Legacy program, which protects environmentally and ecologically important private forest lands across the country. The Minam Conservation and Connectivity Project in northeast Oregon and the Tualatin Mountain Forest Project in northwest Oregon are among 34 projects nationwide that will receive funds from the program to protect working forests for wildlife, people, and climate resilience.
These investments were made possible by the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provided a historic $700 million over 10 years to permanently conserve state and privately-owned forestlands through the Forest Legacy program. The program is administered in Oregon by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry (ODF).
Josh Barnard, Chief of ODF’s Forest Resources Division, said, “The Forest Legacy program’s investments ensure that working forests that are vital to the fabric of local economies remain working forests. They also maintain the ecological benefits of working forests, including natural watershed functions, maintaining habitat for at-risk species and mitigating climate change.”
Kelley Beamer, Executive Director of the Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts, agrees with Barnard. “The Forest Legacy Program is a critical tool to keep working forests working while protecting important habitat for fish, wildlife, and people,” she said. “This is the largest investment in Oregon’s working lands in the Forest Legacy program’s history and land trusts are poised to leverage these funds to protect even more of these ecologically and economically important lands.”
The Minam Conservation Connectivity Project phase II will acquire 10,964 acres of working forestland and a corridor along the Minam River in Union and Wallowa counties. Spearheaded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, this project will conserve scenic viewsheds on over 2.4 million acres of adjacent public lands. This property has been managed as a working forest since the early 1900s and will continue to generate timber and support jobs in the local area.
“This commitment of Forest Legacy funding is a vital step toward completion of a landmark conservation project that will conserve and protect habitat for elk, mule deer, fish, birds and other wildlife, while also providing access by hunters, anglers and others,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “We would like to recognize our partners at Manulife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Forest Service as well as support from elected officials, both locally and in Congress, for making this conservation victory possible.”
The Tualatin Mountain Forest project will secure a 3,111-acre forest near Scappoose as a working research forest to be owned and managed by Oregon State University. The project will serve as a national model for an actively managed forest, mitigate climate change, and create public access and recreation opportunities..
“The Tualatin Mountain Forest project has great potential to develop a research and demonstration forest with expanded community benefits,” says Kristin Kovalik, Oregon program director for the Trust for Public Land, who is acquiring the land. “Projects like this require diverse partners and we are grateful for the Oregon Department of Forestry and US Forest Service ongoing commitment to the Forest Legacy Program, and Senators Merkley and Wyden for supporting the Inflation Reduction act and the Great American Outdoors Act which help fund projects like the Tualatin Mountain Forest.”
About the Coalition for Oregon Land Trusts
The Coalition of Oregon Land Trusts (COLT) serves and strengthens the land trust community in Oregon. At COLT, we build connections and advance policies that help protect our natural world—our water, wildlife and open space—for all people, forever. This work helps our coalition members—31 conservation organizations around the state—do what they do best: protect wildlife and wild places, defend working farms and forests, provide recreation and parks, drive climate solutions and science, champion clean water for all and engage communities to protect our natural world.
The Oregon Department of Forestry protects some 16 million acres of Oregon’s forest lands from wildfire, and regulates timber harvests to protect soil, water quality and threatened and endangered species. The head of the agency – the Oregon State Forester – approves a Forest Stewardship Plan developed by ODF staff for each project approved for funding under the Forest Legacy Program. Through Oregon Department of Forestry, the Forest Legacy Program seeks projects that strengthen local communities across Oregon, through state, local and private partnerships in conservation.