Albany Times Union Article: Forest conservation is an important line of climate defense


Forest conservation is an important line of climate defense

By John K. Bartow Jr.

New York is experiencing, first-hand, the far-reaching impacts of climate change and the global nature crisis. Climate change during our lifetimes may affect New Yorkers more than people in other parts of the world.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service report predicts that within the next several decades the northeastern United States will have a greater upward change in the yearly minimum temperatures than the rest of the country. This same report predicts the increase in summer heat will be most profound in the Northeast and Midwest, and that 50 percent of northeastern lands will see significant increases in drought.

New York’s forests and woodlands can make significant contributions to reducing the effects of impending climate shifts.

Additionally, to sustain the outdoor way of life that is common in New York, we rely on the precarious fate of our forests. With 18.9 million acres of forested land, the New York forest products industry employs approximately 100,000 men and women and accounts for a statewide economic impact of nearly $23 billion. This is a workforce that not only spends time in the woods for work, but for recreation as well; they care deeply for its future. Our industry is built on the principles of sustainability; producing products and energy from a renewable resource; creating family-supporting jobs in all regions of the state; and managing our forests in a manner that sustains and enhances the ecosystem benefits of clean air and water, carbon sequestration, wildlife habitat, and open space. Rural communities are in jeopardy, and their fate is tied to the sustainably working forest as well.

We need generational investment in natural climate solutions and outdoor access for all, chief among them forest conservation, to provide a sustainable future — both ecologically and economically — for the Empire State.

Congress is considering a substantial investment in forest conservation that would grow the economy, create jobs, and take critical action on climate change. We were glad to see that the House Agriculture Committee included $40 billion for forestry provisions in their reconciliation legislation. Included in that bill is a critical $1.25 billion investment in the Forest Legacy Program, which helps states and private forest owners maintain working forest lands and which is a key tool to protect natural infrastructure and climate resilience.

The Forest Legacy Program is a voluntary conservation program that is responsible for the conservation of over 2.8 million acres of working forest lands across the U.S., primarily through conservation easement purchases, with more than 50 percent of project costs leveraged from nonfederal sources. Here in New York, the program has conserved 135,820 acres, using $12.1 million in federal funds for a total investment of $34.3 million to protect places from the Tug Hill East Branch of Fish Creek working forest, to Ticeteneyk Mountain in the Catskills, to Sterling Forest outside New York City, to many investments in the Adirondacks including Indian Lake and the 10,000-acre Tahawus tract. Equally important: Of 135,820 acres conserved, 126,749 acres — 93 percent — are working forest conservation easements, demonstrating the leverage of millions of dollars in private-sector investment at a greater than 2:1 private-to-public ratio.

The program invests in natural infrastructure by conserving forests that sequester carbon dioxide, provide important wildlife habitat, protect our rivers, lakes, and ponds as well as our drinking water supplies, and help to keep rural communities alive. The forests provide all these benefits while producing timber and providing public recreation access, contributing significantly to New York’s economy via multiple sectors. It’s a win-win, a program that really works.

With the rapid pace and scale of forest conversion, now is the time to invest in forest protection before it is too late. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have been consistent champions of forest conservation. We urge them to support the forestry provisions in the reconciliation bill and make clear to congressional leadership that these natural climate solutions should remain in the final reconciliation package.

John K. Bartow Jr. is the executive director of Empire State Forest Products Association.

©2023 New York Forest Owners Association

All Rights Reserved.

Contact Us


PO Box 541 Lima, NY 14485

PHONE: 800-836-3566



Support Us

NYFOA is registered with Amazon Smile, help support us!