May 15, 2024 |The Conservation Fund

Tackling the Greatest Challenge in Land Conservation

America is projected to lose 13 million acres of forestland by 2050. This represents the greatest land conservation challenge today. The Conservation Fund is the leading organization in the country working to combat that loss. Through our Working Forest Fund®, TCF protects the many benefits these forests provide to communities and nature.

Photo by Jerry Monkman.

America’s large-scale working forests are typically investor-owned and managed for maximum financial return. Every year, private landowners sell hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, often through auction. As America continues to grow and develop, our forests are broken up into smaller and smaller pieces — never again will they resemble the vast canopied spaces we think of when we imagine a forest. Once broken up, these large forests lose their ability to support local timber-based economies. They are at risk of being developed for residential subdivision and commercial development.

The Conservation Fund recognized this threat early and knew we had a role to play in protecting this vital national resource. By acting quickly when forestland becomes available, TCF can purchase at-risk forests and create permanent protections that prevent them from being broken up or developed in the future.

Our model is simple and effective. We buy forests of high conservation value, manage them sustainably, then secure public and private funding to permanently protect them — primarily through Working Forest Conservation Easements. (What is an easement? An easement is a legal tool that determines how land can be used and protected forever.) We resell these forests back to the private market, forever protected as working forests.

The need is acute and urgent. The ongoing loss of forestland has far-reaching implications to climate, our communities, water quality, recreation and many animals that call forestland home.

Photo by Carl Heilman II.

TCF’s role in forest conservation is unique. Our Working Forest Fund raises capital from donors and investors to acquire at-risk forests. Once TCF owns the forest, it collaborates with community leaders to permanently conserve the land to be sustainably harvested, provide outdoor recreational opportunities, sustain critical wildlife habitat and maintain clean air and water. Once we’ve done all this, TCF sells the permanently protected forests which allows us to buy other at-risk forests.

Driven by the belief that land sustains us, The Conservation Fund has protected more than 1 million acres of working forests in 21 states, with a total annual economic contribution of $850 million. These forests sustain an estimated 10,000 American jobs and store more than 250 million tons of CO2.

Over the next 10 to 15 years, 5 million acres of critical, privately held forests will be at high risk of fragmentation and development. If we act now, we can save these forests before they are lost forever.

Written by

The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms.