Conservation

Preserving Land, Water, Animals, and Economies

The Conservation Fund:

Protecting Forestlands Throughout the Country

The Conservation Fund:

Protecting Forestlands Throughout the Country

Founded more than 30 years ago, The Conservation Fund (TCF) has grown into
the nation’s premier land protection organization, working efficiently and effectively with partners to protect a total of eight million acres that includes wildlife habitat, working forests, farms, parks, battlefields, and other historic sites in all 50 states. TCF’s partnership with the Foundation has conserved more than 3.4 million acres worth $745 million—a magnificent land legacy for all Americans. The Foundation’s current work with TCF focuses on America’s top land conservation challenge: the loss of the nation’s working forests through fragmentation and development.

New York’s Adirondack region, with the Adirondack Park at its heart, features one of the largest intact temperate forests in the world, a distinct ecosystem with a remarkable diversity of flora and fauna. The Foundation has worked with TCF for more than 20 years to protect key parcels in the park, primarily and in recent years using working forest easements that protect the ecological value of the property, open the land for public access, keep the land on the tax rolls, and maintain a working forest for the local economy. Recently, the Foundation has supported TCF projects with program-related investments that allow the dollars to return for future redeployment.

A Foundation investment of $15 million will help TCF fill in large missing patches in a tapestry of state land and existing working forest conservation easements that now will include the Three Rivers Forest—roughly 51,300 acres of exceptional northern hardwood timberland believed to be the largest unconserved forest in New York State. The land parcel is adjacent to the 139,000-acre former Champion Paper Company lands conserved by TCF with Foundation support in 1999 and encompasses the major unconserved forests at the headwaters of three major rivers that flow north to the St. Lawrence Seaway—the Raquette, Oswegatchie, and Grasse. Protecting these headwater forests is critical to the water quality of the rivers. As part of the effort, TCF is committed to supporting sustainable economic development, including timber and ecotourism, in this distressed region of the state.

Also in 2019, the Foundation awarded a $2 million program-related investment to TCF’s Working Forest Fund (WFF), which will enable the organization to purchase 10,366 acres of forest land in three tracts: one each in Haralson and Polk counties in Georgia and one in Cleburne County in Alabama.

Known as the Stateline tract, the forestland is located in the “Dugdown Corridor,” a distinctive ridgeline that stretches from the Paulding-Sheffield Wildlife Management Area on the east to the Talladega National Forest to the west in Alabama. The ridgeline is an important area to various conservation organizations and one that the State Wildlife Action Plans has identified as the highest priority for the protection of many rare plants, bats, birds, and threatened aquatic species. Among them are the fine-lined pocketbook mussel and the lipstick darter found in Georgia’s Tallapoosa River and Terrapin Creek in Alabama. The tracts contain nearly 45 miles of streams, so their acquisition will not only protect the streams’ water quality and quantity, but TCF and its partners also will work to restore long-leaf pine on the site and provide public access to the land.

In another WFF project this year, this one in southern Virginia, the Foundation awarded an $8 million program-related investment to TCF to acquire 7,800 acres of working timberland owned and sustainably managed by the third generation of the family of Thomas Stanley, a governor of the state in the 1950s and founder of Stanley Furniture. Although the family has moved from Virginia, they wish the land to be sustainably maintained and open to the public for recreation.

A 900-acre wetland on the property provides habitat for endangered bats, and more than five miles of streams support the Carolina darter, a state-threatened species. The land lies upstream from the Kerr Reservoir, a major recreational resource and source of drinking water for nearby communities. TCF plans to sell nearly 5,000 acres to the state as a new state forest and to protect the remaining acreage with a conservation easement, keeping all 7,800 acres as working forestland open to the public for hiking, birding, angling, and hunting. This strategy will support the local timber economy, provide ecotourism opportunities, and preserve critical wildlife habitat.