Northern Forest Loans & Grants Program

Photo Credit: Jerry Monkman

Northern Forest Protection Fund

Programs  Conservation Finance Program

Branch River

The Northern Forest Protection Fund (NFPF) is a matching capital fund created to support the permanent protection of large forest landscapes in northern New York and New England. The NFPF appreciates the delicate and intricate balance between community development and natural resources in the Northern Forest and works to preserve this equilibrium by supporting acquisitions that protect ecological reserves and working forestlands.

Established in the fall of 2000 with capital grants from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Surdna Foundation, and operating support from the Davis and Overhills Foundations, the NFPF is administered by the Open Space Conservancy, an affiliate of the Open Space Institute.
Using criteria determined with the help of an expert advisory committee, the NFPF directs funds towards projects that protect large landscapes including reserves and working forestland; facilitates public recreation; and integrates local community interests. Because working forestland protection is an important component of a successful application, the NFPF has dedicated significant resources to determining criteria for sustainable forest management, including setting standards for working forest easements, encouraging Forest Stewardship Council certification, and providing incentives for these practices through grant guidelines and forgivable loans tied to dependent on sustainable land management. These principles are detailed in the Northern Forest Protection Fund: Encouraging better forest management and enhanced biodiversity conservation at the landscape level and incorporated into our grant criteria.

The Advisory Board, composed of representatives with extensive conservation experience from throughout the region, reviews individual projects and carefully evaluates them against specific grant criteria. Among the Panel's members are an industrial forest landowner from Maine; a former cabinet secretary of Natural Resources in Vermont, and the former chairman of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

As of September 2009, NFPF has awarded 17 grants and 13 loans to help protect 1.6 million acres of forestland valued at over $380 million.  

Geographic Focus Area

Northern Forest Grant Map
Click here to enlarge map

The NFPF’s geographic focus is the 26 million-acre Northern Forest, which extends from northern New York through northern Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The USDA Forest Service and the Governors' Task Force on Northern Forest Lands (1990) defined the area as the parts of the four states where large forested tracts of greater than 5,000 acres are predominant.

The Northern Forest is a locally, regionally and nationally significant landscape. As the largest contiguously forested region remaining in the eastern United States, the area's vast and largely private forests are the economic and cultural foundation for thousands of rural communities. In addition to providing local jobs and raw materials for the nation, the region's forests provide abundant wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities for millions of residents and visitors, and ecological services such as the production of clean water and air.

In February of 2005, OSI held a Northern Forest Summit that brought together 45 professionals from across the region to discuss the remaining gaps and future need of the region.

In the past six years, over seven million acres of land in the Northern Forest—equivalent to 26% of its land base—has changed ownership. The unprecedented scope of these land sales threatened the integrity and character of the region, increasing the potential for forest fragmentation, development along shorelines, unsustainable forestry practices, and restricted access to private lands historically open to the public. However, the land sales also presented a singular opportunity for communities and conservationists. By seizing the chance to purchase large parcels of forestland (or interests therein) for conservation purposes, over 2.5 million acres or 10% of the region's forests have been conserved in the past 15 years.   

Grant Criteria
The NFPF will determine funding priorities by measuring how conservation projects meet the following grant criteria:

1. Protect working forests and the economic and ecological values they support.
Transactions must permanently protect a suite of forest values, including but not limited to, sustainable timber harvesting, recreation, wildlife habitat, and other ecological services. Partners in such a transaction are expected to demonstrate a strong commitment to managing the land after acquisition. This commitment may be evidenced in the conservation easement, forest management plans, landowner commitment to third party forest review, and current management practices.

2. Establish ecological reserves and similar protected units to protect high quality representatives of the region's biological diversity.
Examples of natural attributes in areas of high ecological value include rare and/or threatened species or natural communities, exemplary occurrences of species, communities and/or habitats; breeding habitats; older growth forests; wetland and riparian systems; watersheds; and ecosystems. The ideal size of a reserve should be a function of the conservation goals, forest condition, and protection status of surrounding lands, but is generally 15,000 acres or greater in the Northern Forest.

3. Secure public access to and environmentally compatible recreational opportunities on the Northern Forest's lands and waters.
Preference will be given to transactions that secure and enhance public access in a manner compatible with protection of the project area's natural resources. Particular attention will be paid to a project's plan for managing public access and recreation in concert with other forest uses and values.

4. Promote landscape conservation across contiguous protected reserve and working forestlands.
The Fund seeks to support projects that protect large, contiguous blocks of forestland - generally over 25,000 acres - that connect to existing protected lands at a landscape scale.

Supporting Criteria
In addition to demonstrating commitment to one or more of the Fund's goals, each conservation project will be evaluated to determine how well it meets the following criteria.

1. Financial Leverage: The project will leverage significant additional public and private financial investments in conservation. In general, the Fund will require a minimum funding-ratio of 1:4 for each project.

2. Timeliness: Projects demonstrate an urgency and/or timeliness in proceeding.

3. Organizational Capacity: Organizations have the capacity and financial ability to execute the transaction, implement conservation plans, and ensure long-term stewardship and management of the protected property

4. Cost-effectiveness: Project is executed in a cost-effective manner. The Fund seeks to support transactions that provide the greatest benefit at the least cost.

5. Sustainable Community Development: Project supports or enhances community economic goals.


Contact Information
We are not currently accepting applications for NFPF funding but if you have questions regarding the fund please contact OSI's New England Field Coordinator Jennifer Melville at

OSI also operates in loan and grant funds in other selected regions across the East Coast. Visit the Loan Program for information on the eligibility requirements, loan terms, and application process or contact Marc Hunt, OSI's Credit Director. He is based in Asheville, North Carolina and can be reached at 828-278-0134 or

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