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EXCLUSIVE: Thousands of acres of NY forest land protected for conservation

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

Almost 200,000 acres of New York have been protected by The Conservation Fund.

Their efforts in the Empire State come as the group, which protects wilderness, working, and natural spaces, announced it has protected more than 1 million acres of at-risk U.S. forestland. Studies show 13 million acres of forestland nationwide will be at risk in the coming decades due to many factors.

Tom Duffus, vice president and northeast representative of conservation acquisition for The Conservation Fund, said forests are a major answer to climate change.

“It’s a defense mechanism against storms that happen with climate change,” Duffus explained. “But also the benefits of the carbon (sequestration) are a huge issue for conserving large-scale forestland.”

Their work has been more of a rescue mission. Duffus noted the group competes in a marketplace with timber investors and real estate developers for this land with a high success rate. By 2035, the group aims to protect 5 million acres of U.S. forests.

After purchasing land, the group works out the best long-term conservation solutions for it. It could mean state forest lands in New York or large conservation easements in Maine. Duffus added the group has one of the first forest carbon banks in the Pacific Northwest.

“That is an experiment where we are restoring redwoods and spotted owls and forest condition back to what nature really intended, using a working forest scenario,” Duffus outlined. “We are trying to manage the land to return it and restore it to the conditions that nature otherwise would create.”

Conserving forest land is important for New York to achieve its goal of conserving 30% of the state’s lands and waters by 2030. More than $1 million is available through the state’s Forest Conservation Easements for Land Trusts Grant Program. Accredited land trusts can apply for up to $350,000 to purchase conservation easements on forests to protect them.