Errol New Hampshire forest - photo: Monkmans
OSI's Community Forest Fund recognizes that local
communities can play a critical role in conserving land. Stewardship is often
best assured through citizen involvement in the sustainable management of
natural resources - for wood products, watershed protection, outdoor recreation
and other forest-based values.
To date, OSI has made grants to help create or expand 15
community forests that have conserved over 30,000 acres. These projects
illustrate how the Fund helps move community conservation forward, especially
in small towns with tight budgets and limited volunteer capacity. Supporting
transaction costs or a forest management plan can turn a tentative idea into an
on-the-ground success. See descriptions of completed projects here.
Because OSI recognizes the importance of funding at all
stages of the land conservation process, the Fund provides small support grants
– for transaction and planning costs – as well as more substantial capital
grants. Towns and non-profit land conservation groups are welcome to apply.
Town forests are an historic fixture in many northern New
England communities. Today global economic change, the purchase and sale of
forestland by investors, and continuing fragmentation of the land highlight the
need for this effective model of local land stewardship. Community forests can
help stabilize ownership of the region’s productive forestland, expand the
assets of rural communities and build civic capacity.
OSI’s Fund helps rural communities in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont gain
control not only of their forests but also their economic futures. By taking on
planning, ownership and stewardship responsibilities, communities benefit
directly – economically, culturally, ecologically - from their forests.
The federal Community Forest Program, brings a similar approach to sustaining
working forests. Combined these two programs focus scarce funds and attention
on this emerging conservation and economic development tool. Read more
about the federal program here.
Download a summary report of the OSI Community Forest Fund
The Community Forest Fund supports projects that integrate
community, economic and conservation goals, e.g, efforts that create and retain
jobs, promote sustainable forestry, conserve land, and increase and deepen
community involvement in land stewardship.
To be eligible for funding, projects must meet all of the following criteria:
in municipal or community ownership (such as through a regional or local
land trust) of forestland;
the full suite of forest values, such as wildlife habitat, water quality
and productive soils;
sustained community involvement in management and use of the forest;
community access to the economic and non-economic benefits of the forest
through, for example, the planning board, town forest committee, or
that the community benefits directly from access to the economic and
non-economic values of the forest, such as timber revenues, water supply,
and recreational access; and,
permanent protection through a conservation easement or other legal
mechanism that restricts development and ensures sustainable forest
The Fund will give preference to projects that also
meet the following supporting criteria:
contiguous to, or part of a plan to protect, a large block of forestland;
productive forestland at a scale that can sustain forest-based economic
new and promising approaches to managing and/or financing community
capital projects, achieve significant financial leverage; and,
executed in a cost-effective manner, providing the greatest benefit at the
Conservation Easements must be consistent with the Fund’s
goals and, at a minimum, include the following: enforceable standards for
permanent protection of forest values (such as wildlife, wetlands, recreation,
drinking water, timber); workable monitoring and enforcement provisions;
process for communication between the easement holder and landowner; provisions
ensuring sustainable forest management; process for community involvement in
property stewardship; public access guarantees appropriate to the forest
values; a stewardship or management plan process; and, baseline documentation
Because there are multiple ways to craft a conservation
easement that meets the same goals, OSI does not require specific easement
language but we can provide examples and guidance. OSI staff must approve the
final CE prior to distribution of grant funds.
The Fund awards grants in the northern New England states of
Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
Land Trusts and towns are eligible to apply to the Fund. OSI
works with municipalities, economic development organizations and land trusts
and makes loans and grants to
municipalities and to nonprofit organizations that demonstrate they are working
in active partnership with municipalities and relevant local community
Uses of Funds
The Fund awards matching capital grants to support the
purchase of conservation easements and fee interest in land. Smaller support
grants (under $30,000) are available for planning, transaction and stewardship
activities directly related to community forest projects, such as: community
planning, resource inventory and mapping; timber cruise; forest management
plans; appraisals, legal expenses, title exams and environmental assessments.
The Fund also makes low-cost loans to bridge gaps in public or private funding.
Grants funds cannot be used for fundraising expenses, staff time, buildings,
advocacy, or stewardship endowments.
An advisory board, composed of
experts from the community economic development, forestry and conservation
fields, helped OSI develop the Fund and reviews individual projects against
funding criteria. OSI staff and board of trustees make the final funding
Once OSI has approved a grant, we will provide the grantee
with a checklist of items required for OSI to prepare a grant agreement. When
all required information and documents are received, OSI will forward a grant
agreement to the grantee. OSI releases capital funds at the time the
transaction closes. Capital projects must close within 18 months of OSI’s grant
Six years ago, OSI launched the Fund with $1.6 million that
supported 15 exemplary projects.
Thanks to lead support from the Thomas W. Haas Fund and the
Tarleton Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Fund, Jane’s Trust, the Elmina B.
Sewall Foundation, and several generous anonymous donors, OSI has secured a new
round of funding and continues to seek additional capital to support the most
Of the $650,000 of funding in hand, $200,000 is specifically
dedicated to Capital and Support Grants in New Hampshire and $100,000 is
earmarked for Support Grants in Maine. The remaining funding can be spent in
any of the three eligible states.
Process and Deadline
OSI is currently accepting applications through February 9,
2017. All applications must be submitted through our online service here.
Additional grant rounds will be announced every six to nine
If you would like more
information on the Fund, please sign up here.
We encourage applicants to contact OSI staff before
preparing a proposal. For questions regarding the grant program and the
application process contact:
Vice President, Conservation Grants & Loans