Our Turn: Protecting our forests

Published: 10/21/2021 6:00:06 AM

Forest conversion and fragmentation continue at a rapid pace. Loss of forested areas poses a growing threat to the integrity of the nation’s natural resources. Experts predict that at current rates, New England will lose 1.2 million acres of forest by 2060, along with 19% of its climate change fighting carbon storage capacity.

In New Hampshire, over 100,000 residents and 36,000 children live further than a 10-minute drive to a conserved natural area, underscoring the tenuous foundation of our state’s outdoor way of life. We need a generational investment in natural climate solutions and outdoor access for all, chief among them forest conservation, to provide a sustainable future, both ecologically and economically, for New Hampshire.

We recently joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen to celebrate the newly protected Mink Brook Community Forest in Hanover and to highlight the critical forest conservation investments she is fighting for now in Washington, D.C.

Congress is currently considering a substantial investment in forest conservation that would support our state’s forest-based economy, create jobs and address climate change. We were glad to see the pending Build Back Better reconciliation bill include a $1.25 billion investment in the Forest Legacy Program, which helps states and private forest owners maintain working forests, as well as $100 million for the Community Forest Program,which was the key to protecting Mink Brook.

Both the Forest Legacy Program and the Community Forest Program have been vital tools to help keep New Hampshire’s forests as forests. The Forest Legacy Program has conserved nearly 274,000 acres across the state, leveraging $50.4 million in federal funds for a total investment of $75.6 million to protect places like 13 Mile Woods, Beebe River Uplands, Moose Mountain, Cardigan Highlands, and the Mahoosuc Gateway. Likewise, the Community Forest Program has helped to establish town forests like the Gorham Town Forest, the Page Pond Community Forest in Meredith, and the Milan Community Forest.

Given the rapid pace and scale of forest conversion, now is the time to invest in forest protection before it is too late. New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation have been consistent champions of forest conservation, and Sen. Shaheen has stepped up as a bold leader to push for natural climate solutions to be included in the reconciliation bill. We hope that Congressional Leadership will follow her lead, and rally around these pragmatic, locally driven solutions to a growing global crisis in the final reconciliation package.

(Heidi Trimarco is President of the Board of Directors for Hanover Conservancy. Susan Arnold is Vice President for Conservation for Appalachian Mountain Club. Shelby Semmes is Northern New England area director for Trust for Public Land. Matt Leahy, Public Policy Director, Society for the Protection of NH Forests.)

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