THE PROGRAM: The Forest Legacy Program is a voluntary cooperative effort between the USDA Forest Service and the State of Texas that protects ecologically important forests threatened by conversion to non-forest uses. The program encourages the voluntary protection of privately owned forestland primarily through the acquisition of conservation easements, which are legally binding agreements transferring a negotiated set of property rights (primarily development rights) from one party to another without removing the property from private ownership. Most FLP conservation easements restrict development, require sustainable forestry practices, and protect other values.
HOW IT WORKS: The USDA Forest Service State and Private Forestry branch administers the program in cooperation with Texas Forest Service. The program allows the State of Texas to purchase conservation easements on forestland with the goal of keeping the land in its forested state. Landowners may continue to own their land and retain all other rights to the property, including the right to sell the property. The conservation easement is recorded with the property deed and transferred with the sale or transfer of the property. USDA Forest Service funds 75 percent of the easement purchase cost and the landowner provides 25 percent. The landowner’s share may come from nonfederal sources such as a donation of part of the easement value from the landowner or a non-profit organization interested in the project.
IMPORTANCE: Intact forestlands supply timber products, wildlife habitat, soil and watershed protection, aesthetically beautiful scenery, and recreational opportunities. As these areas become fragmented and disappear, so do the myriad benefits they provide. Local governments can guide development away from the most sensitive areas through traditional land use tools such as zoning and performance standards, but sometimes these measures are not sufficient to fully protect the forested component of our state’s valuable natural resource base.
For more information about the program, please visit the following links: