Forest Legacy & Conservation Easements
What is Forest Legacy?
The Forest Legacy Program protects environmentally important working forests threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. The program allows for the donation and/or purchase of conservation easements or fee simple land from willing participants who wish to keep the land in forestry use. Landowners may continue to own their land or sell it to someone who wants undeveloped forestland. The State holds title to the Forest Legacy conservation easements and provides technical advice to landowners. Landowners who donate a conservation easement are eligible for certain Federal and State income tax credits. Priority is given to lands that can be effectively protected and managed. Georgia has identified areas that have multiple public benefits such as water quality protection, key wildlife habitat, and outstanding recreation opportunities or scenic views, while providing the opportunity to continue traditional forest uses such as timber harvesting and wildlife management. Landowners continue to own their land and use the property at their discretion. Public access is not required, but can be allowed if the landowner chooses. A written forest management plan is developed by the GFC to address the landowner's specific goals.
What is a Working Forest Conservation Easement?
Working Forest Conservation Easements (WFCEs) do more than strip specified development rights from a property. Traditional conservation easements, sometimes called "open space" or "no build" or "scenic"easements, remove landowners' rights to engage in certain activities, such as mining, subdivision, and residential and commercial development. These easements may not mention forestry at all, or may simply allow timber harvesting according to "good practices" with no additional detail. A WFCE adds language that guides forest management in order to protect specified forest values. WFCEs can protect property-specific forest values by prohibiting damaging forest practices and encouraging management practices that promote a desired forest type. WFCEs can also protect landscape values by encouraging management of a forest in relation to its surroundings. Further, WFCEs can address broader societal goals, such as sustaining a forest economy and the regional community that depends upon it, by protecting the productive forest base. WFCEs can enable landowners to continue to derive economic value from the land to support the ongoing costs of ownership and stewardship.
Who administers the program?
The Georgia Forestry Commission administers the Forest Legacy Program through a grant from the USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry branch. For the purchase of easements or land, grants are awarded on a competitive basis and are based on a national priority ranking of projects.
How can a landowner participate?
Any interested landowner can contact their local Georgia Forestry Commission office to obtain further information.
Forest Legacy program contacts
- Buford Sanders - Athens: 706.542.9939 or firstname.lastname@example.org