On Sept. 1, eligible organizations may begin applying for grants to conserve community forests, the Recreation and Conservation Office announced today.

The new state Community Forests Program will offer grants of up to $3 million. But organizations need to hurry. Applications are due Oct. 1.

The grants must be used to buy at least 5 acres of forestland, and the land must be maintained as forestland forever. The land also must be actively managed to include timber harvest and other income-generating activities. Grants, when combined with land purchases, also may be used to restore the land or provide recreation opportunities, such as trails.

“Washington is fortunate to have so many productive forests,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office, which is administering the grant program. “They provide us with a variety of benefits, such as lumber for our homes and businesses, habitat for our wildlife and cleaner air and water. Unfortunately, we are losing many forests as our urban areas expand. Since the late 1970s, more than 700,000 acres of forestland in Washington were converted to suburban development, rights-of-ways and agriculture. This grant program aims to conserve these forestlands for future generations.”

The grants are open to local and state government agencies, Native American tribes and nonprofit organizations. More information about the Community Forests Program is available online.

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