Forest conservation shows economic benefits

Forest conservation shows economic benefits

Graduate student analyzes contributions forests make to local economies 

January 22, 2019

We may often think about the benefits of forest conservation for wildlife, hiking trails, and the like, but how much do we recognize what forests contribute to the economic life of a region? 

Helena Murray, M.S. student in environmental conservation, reckons with this question from an economic angle in her new report: Economic Contributions of Land Conserved by the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program. The report’s examples and implications were discussed on the homepage of the forest service’s website as an innovative approach to evaluating the value of conserving forests.  

Sap buckets on maple trees

From Private Forests, Public Benefits: 

Privately-owned forests provide water, recreational opportunities, timber and other forest products, as well as habitat for fish and wildlife. However, as forests become fragmented by roads or converted to development, the benefits they provide can be compromised or lost altogether. 

Now a new report is asking that we take a closer look at the economic contributions of the privately-owned forests – specifically, forests conserved through the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program (FLP). The FLP is one way that the Forest Service responds to land use changes that threaten rural communities and economies. 

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts and the Forest Service used national, regional, and statewide data to estimate annual timber harvest volumes and wood utilization, the value of maple syrup production, and annual use and trip spending for fishing, hunting and snowmobiling for FLP-conserved properties in four areas of the country: the Northeast, Northern Wisconsin and Michigan, Idaho and Western Montana, and Georgia and South Carolina. 

The numbers are compelling: the study found that $140 per acre average annual value was added to the regional economy from economic activities on FLP land in the study area, and lands conserved with FLP funds support from 280 to 2,500 jobs per region.  

Harvested timber

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