$1.35 Million Available to Conserve Forested Land

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced the first round of competitive grants for the Forest Conservation Easements for Land Trusts (FCELT) Grant Program. In partnership with the Land Trust Alliance, a total of $1.35 million in grant funding is available for DEC to award to eligible, accredited land trusts to purchase conservation easements on forested land for the purpose of protecting these lands from future development. The goal of the grant program is to increase the pace of forest land conservation to keep forests as forests and combat climate change.

“Forest land’s capacity to absorb and store carbon makes conserving New York’s forests an essential tool in addressing the climate crisis,” Commissioner Seggos said. “Today’s announcement builds on the success of DEC’s Conservation Partnership Program by working with the Land Trust Alliance and our land trust partners statewide to invest in protecting New York’s forests from development pressures and providing forests’ essential benefits to New Yorkers, like clean air, clean water, wildlife habitat, forest products, and carbon storage.”

Jennifer Miller Herzog, the Land Trust Alliance’s Chief Program Officer, said, “At a time when we must increase the pace of conservation to help prevent the worst effects of climate change, this new program will leverage the strength of New York’s land trust community to protect the forests we all depend on. New York is well known for preserving its forests, especially in places like the Adirondacks and Catskills. The Forest Conservation Easements for Land Trusts Program will empower New York’s land trusts to help with smaller parcels that are critical for climate resilience, including those that are family owned. We are proud to partner with DEC to launch this innovative approach to protect one of our most important natural resources for the many climate, economic and health benefits forests provide. On behalf of the Land Trust Alliance, I applaud Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Sen. Todd Kaminsky, Assemblyman Steve Englebright and DEC Commissioner Seggos for their work toward ensuring the continued availability of clean water, outdoor recreation, and economic opportunity in the face of climate change.”

Applicants may apply for up to $350,000 to fund the acquisition of conservation easements on forest land in New York State. To apply, a 25 percent match of grant funding requested is required and land trusts must be accredited by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission (leaves DEC’s website).

Funding for the grant program is provided by the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). In the 2022-23 Executive Budget, Governor Hochul proposed increasing the EPF to $400 million, the highest level of funding in the program’s history. The EPF provides funding for critical environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, enhanced recreational access, water quality improvement, and an aggressive environmental justice agenda.

FCELT grants will further goals/strategies identified in the New York State Open Space Plan, the New York State Wildlife Action Plan, the New York State Forest Action Plan, and/or other local, regional or statewide land protection plans.

As noted in the 2020 Forest Action Plan, privately owned forestlands cover 13.62 million acres and represent 74 percent of New York’s forests. More than 10 million acres are considered family-owned or non-corporate forests. Nearly 700,000 private forest landowners provide the public with the benefits of clean air and water, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and a forest-based economy. The plan identifies some of the biggest threats to keeping privately-owned forests healthy and intact: development pressure, inconsistent or lack of professional forest management practices, succession planning, and invasive pests which are often exacerbated by climate change and have the potential to devastate or completely wipe out entire tree species.

FCELT has a two-step application process, which includes a letter of interest followed by a full application. Letters of interest are now being accepted and are due by May 16, 2022. Full applications are by invitation only. Applicants invited to submit a final application will be notified by June 13, 2022, after which final applications will be due by July 28, 2022. Complete details about this grant opportunity including eligibility requirements and other program elements can be found on the FCELT webpage (leaves DEC’s website).

The Land Trust Alliance

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. The Alliance represents more than 950-member land trusts and their 6.4 million supporters nationwide. The Alliance is based in Washington, D.C., and operates several regional offices. More information about the Alliance (leaves DEC’s website) is available on the Land Trust Alliance website.