Eastern Band of the Cherokee’s Hall Mountain tract awarded federal conservation grant

Press release

From the U.S. Forest Service

he U.S. Forest Service announced today $3.5 million in grants as part of a new program to support jobs and healthy forests in communities across the U.S.

The Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Program provides financial assistance grants to local governments, tribes and qualified nonprofit organizations working to establish community forests with a focus on economic and environmental benefits, education, forest stewardship and recreation opportunities.

The federal grants will be matched with an additional $8.5 million in funding from other partners on the projects, and represent a strategic investment in local communities, a key component of the President’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

“These truly are community forests: envisioned by the local community, supported by the local community and it is the local community who will reap the economic and environmental benefits,” said Agriculture Under Secretary Harris Sherman. “This program will give thousands of Americans better access to the great outdoors, while fostering the next generation of American conservationists.”

All projects must ensure public access to the protected lands, and the communities must be involved in the process of developing a forest plan and determining long-term goals for the forests. Implementing the Community Forest Program is a priority in the President’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative, and supports the creation, expansion and enhancement of community green spaces.

Funded Projects:

Hall Mountain, N.C.
The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians will conserve this highly significant 108-acre Hall Mountain tract, approximately six miles north of Franklin, N.C. The tribe plans to incorporate a scenic hiking trail system that will exhibit uses of natural resources traditionally used by the Cherokee. These exhibits will serve as educational learning centers for regional public schools and organizations like Boy and Girl Scouts.

Easton – Sugar Hill Community Forest, N.H.
Cooperating with the towns of Easton and Sugar Hill, the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust will protect this 840-acre mixed-elevation forest adjacent to White Mountain National Forest, to connect regional trails to the national forest, protecting recreation access for the community and the recreation economy. Plans for the forest include workshops and a silvicultural curriculum for local students. This project also furthers the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative for the Northern Forests and Waters of New England.

Pilgrim Community Forest, Mich.
The Keweenaw Land Trust will establish a 320-acre community forest in Portage Township, Mich., to conserve the Pilgrim River watershed and provide permanent public access for recreational use. The general public uses the forest for hiking, bird watching, mountain biking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing, as well as for hunting and fishing.

Foy’s Community Forest, Mont.
Flathead County, in partnership with Foy’s to Blacktail Trails, will protect a 170-acre section of forest in northwestern Montana near Kalispell. This project is within the Crown of the Continent America’s Great Outdoors landscape focus area and supports the Initiative’s goals of preserving undeveloped land while producing economic benefits from timber products and recreation, protecting wildlife and encouraging community education programs. Birch Creek, located inside the proposed community forest, supports a population of Northern Leopard Frogs, a species in great need of conservation.

Mount Ascension Natural Park, Mont.
The City of Helena, Montana, in conjunction with Prickly Pear Land Trust, will secure the last 62 acres of a 540-acre project to complete the Mount Ascension Natural Park project. The project, which has been underway for a decade, provides bikeways, trails and open space, as well as marketable timber harvested to hamper mountain pine beetle infestation. The park also provides habitat for mule deer, elk and small mammals.

Lincoln Community Forest, Wisc.
The Bayfield Regional Conservancy will protect 218 acres of gently rolling terrain with interspersed steep-sided ravines along the Marengo River near Lincoln, Wisc. With a mosaic of forest types and age classes, the property includes numerous seeps, several wetlands and ephemeral ponds. The forest will offer hunting, hiking, fishing, trapping and cross-country skiing opportunities for the public, and habitat for many rare and endangered species.

North Kitsap Heritage Park, Wash.
Kitsap County will add an additional 470 acres of community forest to the 700-acre Heritage Park near Kingston, Wash. Heritage Park is part of the 7000-acre Kitsap Forest and Bay Project, which encompasses large tracks of private forest threatened by urban housing development. This project focuses on the protection of the existing mature lowland forest, critical wildlife habitat, two priority salmon-bearing streams, and the Suquamish Tribe’s Grover’s Creek Hatchery.

Barre Town Forest, Vt.
The Town of Barre is working with The Trust for Public Land and the non-profit Millstone Trails Association to acquire approximately 384 acres to become this new community forest in Washington County, Vt. 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, education opportunities and access to 20 miles of trails. This project lies within the Northern Forests and Waters of New England Focus Area of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative.

Nine Times Community Forest, S.C.
Naturaland Trust will secure one of the largest, most biologically significant tracts in the upstate of South Carolina, in Pickens County. As one of the three largest unprotected forest blocks left in the Blue Ridge Escarpment region of South Carolina, 1,648-acre Nine Times Community Forest supports seven major forest types and provides a lush habitat for the black bear, ruffed grouse and peregrine falcons. Populations of whitetail deer, wild turkeys and trout draw sportsmen from all over the state. Acquisition of this forest will provide an opportunity to demonstrate sustainable forest-management techniques and offer educational programs through partnerships with school groups and area universities. This project, and the nearby North Carolina, Hall Mountain project, support the objectives of the America’s Great Outdoors focus area for the southeast.

Indian Creek Community Forest, Wash.
The Kalispel Tribe of Indians will procure this forest located in northeastern Washington, about 60 miles north of Spokane, adjacent to Colville National Forest. The 350-acre Indian Creek Community Forest is designated as a critical habitat for the threatened species of bull trout, woodland caribou and grizzly bear, and offers a wide variety of recreation opportunities including mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, fishing and hunting.

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Forest Service lands contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice) or (202-720-6382 (TDD).

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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