The U.S. Congress created the Forest Legacy Program in 1990 to help landowners, state and local governments, and land trusts identify and protect environmentally important forest lands that are threatened by present or future conversion to non-forest uses.
The Forest Legacy Program is authorized through the federal Farm Bill and made available to the State of New Mexico by a grant from the USDA Forest Service (USFS). Landowners who choose to sell conservation easements to the state may sell the development rights to all or part of their properties, are encouraged to form partnerships with land trust organizations that can help them with their property appraisals, and tax or estate planning. Up to 75% of the easement purchase price is provided through a federal grant. The other 25% must be funded by non-federal sources or donated by the landowner.
Conservation easements are held in perpetuity by the state and effectively retire the rights to subdivide and develop the properties for non-forest uses. Participating landowners retain all other rights to their properties including occupancy, use for enjoyment or profit, and transfer to heirs or sale to new owners. Property taxes are paid on the retained rights, as determined by the County Assessor. These private forests continue to produce wood products, provide wildlife habitats and open space, contribute to watershed integrity, help combat climate change through carbon sequestration, and are protected from urban sprawl.
Forest Legacy Program Eligibility Criteria
To be eligible for inclusion, a property must be 75% forested with timber or riparian woodland species and meet all of the following four eligibility criteria. Properties less than 40 acres in size will generally not be considered unless they contain significant features, such as endangered species habitat or rare types of forest.
To meet this criterion, the property must be threatened by one of the following:
Conversion to non-forest uses;
Further subdivision into smaller parcels.
2. Public Values
To meet this criterion, the property must possess one or more of the following public values:
Natural aesthetic or scenic values;
Public education opportunities;
Public recreation opportunities;
Fish and wildlife habitat;
Threatened or endangered species habitat;
Cultural and historical resources;
Traditional forest uses; and/or
Other important ecological values.
To meet this criterion, the property must have one of the following:
A Forest Stewardship Plan or equivalent forest management plan approved by the State Forester or his or her designated representative in accordance with National Forest Stewardship Program criteria, or
Where land is acquired in fee or timber management rights are transferred in the conservation easement, a management plan will be developed by the organization acquiring those rights.
To meet this criterion, there must be non-federal matching funds of at least 25% available in the form of cash and/or in-kind contributions.
Private forest owners and local government managers who wish to apply to the Forest Legacy Program can contact Carol Bada at email@example.com
Funding for this program is provided by the USDA Forest Service. In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs). To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.