U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Roger Wicker (R-MS) introduced the Forest Conservation Easement Program Act, which would help conserve working forests by expanding and enhancing the abilities of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
This program would mirror the framework of the established Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which is familiar to farmers and landowners. Eligible entities would purchase development rights from willing private and tribal landowners to prevent conversions to non-forest uses while maintaining working forests. This would help landowners restore, enhance, and protect habitats for at-risk species.
Gillibrand says preserving forest land helps provide clean air and water, wildlife habitats, and jobs all while producing a steady supply of wood and fiber for forest products.
“Forestry plays a vital role in supporting New York’s economy, creating numerous jobs across the state,” Gillibrand said. “I am proud to be leading this effort with Senator Wicker to ensure that we preserve our working forests and the habitats they provide so foresters can continue to operate responsibly.”
“Forestry is one of the largest agricultural industries in Mississippi, creating jobs and providing valuable habitats to wildlife,” Wicker said. “I am glad to work alongside our nation’s forest owners to protect more of our land and preserve this vital industry for future generations.”
“Forest conservation has been a priority of the Boone and Crockett Club since Theodore Roosevelt founded the organization in 1887 in New York City. We applaud Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in authoring the Forest Conservation Easement Program Act of 2023. Once enacted, this bill will provide critical incentives for landowners to conserve forests for their many attributes, from habitat for fish and wildlife, outdoor recreation, sequestering carbon as a partial natural solution to climate change, buffering our military bases, to filtering drinking water. This bill, which is so important to New York and the rest of the Nation, wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Senator Gillibrand’s hard work,” said James L. Cummins, President of the Boone and Crockett Club, America’s oldest conservation organization.
“We applaud Senator Gillibrand for championing this bill. Private forests play a vital role in providing clean water, pure air, and wildlife habitat and the more we can do to keep forests intact, the better for both people and nature,” said Mike Carr, Executive Director, Adirondack Land Trust.
The legislation is supported by dozens of organizations including American Bird Conservancy, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Boone and Crockett Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Land Trust Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Adirondack Land Trust, Dutchess Land Conservancy Inc., Hudson Highlands Land Trust Inc., Mohonk Preserve, Rensselaer Plateau Alliance, Scenic Hudson, Western New York Land Conservancy, Wildlife Mississippi and the National Alliance of Forest Owners.
The text of the bill is below: