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Farm in the Path of Development, Tazewell County, Illinois.
Illinois is one of highest density farmland states with some of most productive soils in the world. Yet, across the state, expanding metropolitan growth and low density development is consuming and threatening to convert that farmland. Illinois also has a dramatic need for improved habitat solutions. Illinois’ vulnerable wildlife species need better and more connected habitat across the board, but there are only limited, stretched resources to support solutions. At the same time, Illinois’ agricultural land contributes a disproportionately high amount of nutrient run-off to the Mississippi River and Gulf Hypoxia. Public and private partners across Illinois launched the Illinois Working Lands, Water and Wildlife Partnership to address these problems.

Our Role

The Conservation Fund launched the partnership in direct response to the varied farmland, habitat and water quality needs in Illinois. Serving as lead partner, The Fund works with project and funding partners – including Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation and Kinship Foundation and the Searle Funds at Chicago Community Trust – to prioritize and implement key projects.

With an investment of $8.1M from USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the project will use permanent agricultural land easements to build protected habitat corridors along targeted stream segments in Illinois. The project will also support diversified farm operations transitioning to organic, agroforestry and other perennial systems, and use of continuous living cover such as cover crops.

Why this project matters

The Partnership creates a new model by stacking resources targeting habitat, resources targeting water quality and partner capacity and expertise. The Partnership will ultimately accelerate the use of conservation easements to slow farmland conversion, increase acreage for vulnerable wildlife, accomplish measurable improvements in soil health and water quality, and support farm economic resiliency.

Learn more

USDA Press Release
Chadbourne Forest. Photo credit: LandVest.

The Chadbourne family’s tree farm is an unparalleled timber resource in Maine. Over the past 400 years and twelve generations, the Chadbournes have advanced and expanded their careful forestry practices in the state and built a distinguished legacy of working forestland.



Why It Matters

The Chadbourne Tree Farm is ripe with ecological, community and economic value. The conservation of this key forestland will:

  • Protect the fourth largest private forest in the Sebago Lake watershed, filtering drinking water for more than 200,000 residents in the City of Portland. 
  • Secure the scenic viewshed for the White Mountain National Forest and village of Bethel—a popular tourist destination. This protected land will also support Bethel’s extensive public trail network, which is key to the community’ economic future. 
  • Expand and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, supporting local economies and businesses that rely on tourism and recreation. 
  • Support a continued source of forest products for the western Maine economy and timber industry jobs. 

our role

The Fund acquired over 15,000 acres of forestland from Chadbourne Tree Farms, LLC, now owned in a subsidiary White Pine Forest, LLC. To extend our investment and deployment of our green bonds, The Conservation Fund is joined by the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation as an investor in the Chadbourne Tree Farm project. As a fellow non-profit, the Foundation shares our interest in seeing this land permanently conserved for its many values.

The property will be sustainably managed over the next several years for the improvement and protection of the forest’s valuable resources, wildlife habitat and recreational assets, carrying on the Chadbourne family legacy of exemplary forest management practices. The purchase also will provide time for we and our partners—Mahoosuc Pathways, Inc., Mahoosuc Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, the State of Maine, U.S. Forest Service and others—to raise the necessary dollars to permanently conserve the forests under predominately private ownership.

This conservation effort is part of our Working Forest Fund®—an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies, and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.

To fund this land’s permanent protection, we and our partners are seeking support from several public programs including USDA Forest Legacy Program through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We also are working with our partners to raise $7 million in private support to complete this significant conservation effort.


“Sebago Lake is one of only 50 public surface water supplies in the country that require no filtration before treatment. Conserving these forestlands is critical for the protection of the region's lakes that provide pure drinking water and recreational opportunities.”

- Karen Young, Coordinator at Sebago Clean Waters

a family legacy 

In 1634, the Chadbourne Family established a sawmill operation in what is now South Berwick, Maine, and is thought to be the first sawmill in North America. In 1936, the Chadbournes expanded to a new mill in the town of Bethel for its quality white pine. Their exceptional forestry practices, tree pruning and thinning, and intensive white pine management programs produced knot-free, award winning lumber. Robert Chadbourne (11th generation) and his daughter Nancy Lea Chadbourne Stearns (12th generation) continued the tradition of growing white pine trees on their family land through their company Chadbourne Tree Farms, LLC. Robert and Nancy are pleased that this partnership will ensure that the lands will remain forested and continue to provide timber resources.

We need your help 

The Conservation Fund and its partners are actively raising funds for a permanent conservation solution for these lands. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Chadbourne Tree Farm please contact Rachael Joiner

Chadbourne Forest. Photo credit: LandVest.

our role

The Fund acquired over 15,000 acres of forestland from Chadbourne Tree Farms, LLC, now owned in a subsidiary White Pine Forest, LLC. To extend our investment and deployment of our green bonds, The Conservation Fund is joined by the Malone Family Land Preservation Foundation as an investor in the Chadbourne Tree Farm project. As a fellow non-profit, the Foundation shares our interest in seeing this land permanently conserved for its many values.

The property will be sustainably managed over the next several years for the improvement and protection of the forest’s valuable resources, wildlife habitat and recreational assets, carrying on the Chadbourne family legacy of exemplary forest management practices. The purchase also will provide time for we and our partners—Mahoosuc Pathways, Inc., Mahoosuc Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, the State of Maine, U.S. Forest Service and others—to raise the necessary dollars to permanently conserve the forests under predominately private ownership.

This conservation effort is part of our Working Forest Fund®—an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies, and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.

To fund this land’s permanent protection, we and our partners are seeking support from several public programs including USDA Forest Legacy Program through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. We also are working with our partners to raise $7 million in private support to complete this significant conservation effort.

 

Why It Matters

The Chadbourne Tree Farm is ripe with ecological, community and economic value. The conservation of this key forestland will:

  • Protect the fourth largest private forest in the Sebago Lake watershed, filtering drinking water for more than 200,000 residents in the City of Portland. 
  • Secure the scenic viewshed for the White Mountain National Forest and village of Bethel—a popular tourist destination. This protected land will also support Bethel’s extensive public trail network, which is key to the community’ economic future. 
  • Expand and enhance outdoor recreational opportunities for residents and visitors, supporting local economies and businesses that rely on tourism and recreation. 
  • Support a continued source of forest products for the western Maine economy and timber industry jobs.

We need your help 

The Conservation Fund and its partners are actively raising funds for a permanent conservation solution for these lands. For more information about how you can support the conservation of Chadbourne Tree Farm please contact Rachael Joiner

Photo credit: KJB PA Wilds

Watch Our webinar: what covid-19 means for gateway communities 

Key questions

  • What should we be doing now?   
  • How can we address the economic shut-downs?    
  • How can we care for our community, businesses, and employees?


The Conservation Fund thanks all who participated in the April 1, 2020 Webinar on Seeking Ideas and Sharing Solutions for Rural and Gateway Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

A special thanks to our speakers, Kennedy Smith, Ilana Preuss and Axie Navas and all the background staff who made this work.   

 

Resources

Click here for additional resources, including funding opportunities.

 


Speaker contact information 

 

Featured Speakers

Conservation Fund staff:

 

Should you have any questions ahead of time, please contact Kendra Briechle of The Conservation Fund at kbriechle@conservationfund.org

A group from these counties saw an opportunity to connect the beaches and forest through a trail network that would encourage visitors and locals to visit the forest and bring low-impact economic opportunities to rural communities in and around the state and the national forests that protect the longleaf pines.


Our Role

A team of leaders from Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa Counties in Florida and Escambia County in Alabama was invited by CLN to participate in their Balancing Nature and Commerce in Rural Communities and Landscapes national course. Through the workshop, the resulting “Beaches to Longleaf” team discovered best practices for boosting tourism and economic development opportunities throughout the region and created a plan to increase knowledge of and access to their longleaf pine forests.  



A few months later, a local van tour took a small group of trail advocates through the potential trail corridors to visit natural and cultural attractions. The tour reinforced to participants the opportunities available, and in 2016, the team asked CLN to bring the course to the region and build on their ideas by customizing the program to the communities’ interest in regional trail opportunities.  

With CLN’s help, multiple local teams devised cross-county project areas focused on regional trail opportunities for hiking, biking, and water-based recreation, including the creation of several multi-use paths, off-road routes, pedestrian walkways and walking and water trails throughout all counties involved.  

“Through the collective efforts of many who attended the 2016 workshop, we have continued to attend local transportation meetings and to advocate for better bike-ped facilities and connections. Some of the results of this advocacy can be seen in the continued advancement of local projects and planning efforts that further our goal of a connected local trail network that better serves our citizens.”  – Jeff Snow, City of Milton Council member

 

Why This Project Matters

The longleaf pine restoration project is working to connect recreational pathways extending from Pensacola to Alabama's Conecuh National Forest. With a population of nearly 500,000 people, the Pensacola Metropolitan Area is the most heavily populated area in the Florida Panhandle. Connecting these people to surrounding trail opportunities as far away as Alabama’s National Forest creates significant opportunities not only for improving health through outdoor recreation and proximity to nature, but for generating jobs and small business opportunities based around an outdoor recreation economy. 

This cross-county partnership has seen a tremendous growth in awareness and support among elected officials and other advocates for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. One of the elected officials who addressed the 2016 gathering has since become mayor of Pensacola and has committed to construction of a multi-use path along the Bayfront Scenic Highway, which constitutes a large link in the eventual network. He also hired the first complete streets coordinator ever in the area, who is helping to facilitate the creation of multiple bicycle and pedestrian facilities. These efforts have already found success through events like Bike Pensacola Slow Rides, which have featured as many as 450 riders a month, and the Ciclovia event, which allowed 12,000 people to walk or ride their bikes on closed off downtown streets. 

Photo by Stacy Funderburke
Rapidly expanding demand for local and sustainable foods, especially across metro regions, provides an opportunity to grow America’s food supply in a unique way. We need new approaches to conserve farmland and support the next generation of American farmers.

Our Working Farms Fund takes an innovative approach to growing our food future with three critical priorities:

  1. Protecting important farmland from fragmentation and development
  2. Supporting the expansion of next-generation farm business through land access
  3. Scaling local food supply to meet growing demand in large metro areas.

Our Role

Working Farms Fund is a sustainable revolving fund that acquires and permanently protects farmland, transitioning ownership to next generation farmers and the farm businesses that will scale our local food system. This self-sustaining model allows dollars to revolve into future farm acquisitions, leverages public funding for long-term conservation outcomes, and amplifies the scope and collective impact of investments in the local food systems.

“We will be working with a large number of partners to go out and purchase small to mid-size farms that are under threat of being lost to development. We’ll match a farmer to that site and secure the funds to purchase a conservation easement. It means that that land will be restricted from development and protected as a farm forever. It also means that it will lower the ultimate purchase price for the farmer and grow our local food system in a way that can be a model for the rest of the country.” – Stacy Funderburke, The Conservation Fund

 

Why This Project Matters

In the past several years, the agriculture industry has seen two positive trends: an increase in farmers under the age of 35 and a 9% growth in demand for local-produce in urban areas. However, development pressure on quality farmland outside our cities is at an all-time high. It is critical that we support our future farmers as they expand their farm business and ultimately supply the growing demand for local and sustainable food.

“When I was growing up here in Morgan County, there were 150 some odd dairies. Today there are eight. We’ve lost most of the agriculture that was here. No one has stepped up yet and figured out how do we not be a part of this industrial food system and still farm.” – Keith Kelly, Multi-generational farmer, owner of Farmview Market in Madison, GA

“You’re always being challenged by mother nature or markets. There’s always something to learn out here. Growing up in Atlanta, you want to be close to home, you want to feed the people you’ve been around the most. In order to scale up, there’s going to have to be a lot of capital put into the farm. Coming in at 24, most people at this age have not built the capital to have access to land.” – Demetrius Milling, next-generation farmer

Working Farms Fund demonstrates how the conservation of working lands can bring together the best of environmental and economic interests to support thriving local communities. By working alongside farmers, we ensure that lands remain working and in sustainable management, driving economic growth into the future.

“If we don’t have resources in place to support new and beginning, particularly our small growers, the farming sector will become more monopolized. Without resources to new, beginning and smaller farmers, that Big-Ag footprint will just continue to expand.” – Rodney Brooks, USDA Beginning Farmer Regional Coordinator

“Increased food access is a problem in every county in the state of Georgia. The Working Farms Fund will help those farmers in that sweat spot – ready to make the leap from farmers market sales to wholesale markets.” – Michael Wall, Director of Farmer Services at Georgia Organics



Learn more

Places We Work: Georgia

Located in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, the Rockbridge Area has a large number of recreational draws, including 100,000 acres of public forests and parks for camping, hiking, biking, fishing and hunting. The region is also filled with historic sites and cultural experiences showcasing crafts, music, art and food. Over $21 billion is spent in Virginia on outdoor recreation every year, but many travelers have traditionally been unfamiliar with Rockbridge and its tourism-related amenities.


Our Role

A team of leaders from Rockbridge attended CLN’s Balancing Nature and Commerce workshop. The workshop’s aim is to help all participants take inventory of their natural assets and build a vision for outdoor recreation and economic development around them. With the excitement and new knowledge spurred by the workshop, Rockbridge participants first established the Rockbridge Area Outdoor Partnership (RAOP), a collection of local governments, business partners and public land managers from Rockbridge County, the Cities of Lexington and Buena Vista, and the Towns of Glasgow and Goshen to consolidate and incorporate past trail and blueways planning efforts and supports economic, stewardship, and community health and wellness goals across all jurisdiction. Next, with resources and inspiration gained from the Balancing Nature and Commerce workshop, the RAOP set on to create a master strategic plan. By leveraging the newly found capacity from the workshop and a technical assistance award from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA), the 2017 Rockbridge Area Outdoor Recreation and Trail Plan came to be, an action plan detailing a vision and strategy to generate jobs and small business opportunities based around an outdoor recreation economy.

“Taking six folks with diverse backgrounds and community goals to a workshop hundreds of miles away seemed like risky business. We were, however, inspired by workshop presenters as well as the other attending communities and from that adventure have been able to create partnerships and collaborations that are producing tangible results and excitement in our region. I am forever grateful for the opportunity.” – Jean Clark, Director of Tourism Lexington & the Rockbridge Area Tourism

 

Why This Project Matters

The Trail Plan developed expands upon a 15-year vision to braid together a network of trails, water trails and greenways into an interconnected system over the next 10-20 years. It recommends future trails be selected based on connectivity, feasibility, access to natural and historic assets, accessibility, community support and funding. The Trail Plan also calls for improved signage, maps and support infrastructure and notes the need for increased partnerships, communication, branding and marketing and outreach.

Today, Rockbridge continues to fulfill the projects and priorities from the Trail Plan. Full development of the Trail Plan offers great potential for increased economic returns throughout the Rockbridge Area, and will positively impact community health by curbing inactivity in Rockbridge County, where over 32% of residents report high blood pressure.

People of color account for nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, but only 20 percent of the annual visitors to national parks. Similarly, people of color are largely underrepresented in natural resource degree programs and environmental and natural resource-based careers, comprising only 12.4% of environmental nonprofits, 15.5% of environmental government agencies and 12% of environmental foundations. In North Carolina, the numbers are even more stark, with people of color accounting for only 10% of the NC State Park system and 5% of NC Forest Service staff. 

Our Growing an Outdoor Generation initiative is working to address these inequities by engaging underrepresented youth, primarily youth of color and youth in rural areas, and giving them opportunities to experience the outdoors and connect with natural resource-based careers.


Our Role

With $10,000 in funding from Patagonia, Resourceful Communities will foster partnerships with youth-focused grassroots organizations and more than 60 low-income youth of color and rural youth to:

  • Engage in nature through a series of 6-8 environmental/ outdoor education field trips across NC, where youth will explore and become familiarized with outdoor opportunities and skills.
  • Deepen science exploration by completing a series of STEM-based curriculum programs at each visit, including biology, aquatics, natural history and more.
  • Explore professional development opportunities in natural sciences, including connecting with environmental professionals of color and engaging with targeted youth environmental programs and affinity groups to begin sustained engagement early. This multi-pronged approach, combined with community support in partnership with youth-serving organizations, will help address significant inequities in use and awareness of natural public spaces and natural resource careers.

 

Why This Project Matters

We’ve seen the need and important impact this can have for vulnerable communities across North Carolina. Our initiative is not only helping to diversify the next generation of environmental stewards, but also improving economic opportunities and positively impacting health outcomes and social equity.

 

BACKground

Cook County, Illinois is a unique place. With over 5.2 million people and 130 separate municipalities, including the city of Chicago, Cook County is the second most populous county in the U.S. It’s also home to the Forest Preserves of Cook County, which is one of the oldest and largest metropolitan open space agencies in the country. Currently, the Forest Preserves system includes over 70,000 acres, 300 miles of trails, 250 picnic groves and rich ecological biodiversity.


Our role

The Forest Preserves system is not equally distributed across Cook County. Recognizing the potential to address this inequity and acquire remaining undeveloped lands, the Forest Preserves retained The Conservation Fund for strategic land acquisition planning. The effort had a particular focus on Southeast Cook County because of its high opportunity and high need.

To create the plan, we led a team that included Metropolitan Planning Council, Antero Group and Rudd Resources. Together, we evaluated the region’s natural resources and engaged the public to develop a Plan that incorporates a Health Impact Review and reflects suitability and feasibility assessments under five weighted scenarios:

  • Ecological Value
  • Flood Mitigation
  • Inholdings/Adjacency
  • Connectivity
  • Equity/Social Vulnerability

The Plan identifies over 5,000 acres within Southeast Cook County that are considered suitable to achieve all five scenarios and makes recommendations for new partnerships and strategies towards implementation

 

Why This Project Matters 

Southeast Cook County is experiencing severe economic challenges and higher health risks than Cook County as a whole. The goal of the Strategic Land Acquisition Plan for Southeast Cook County was to develop a model that integrates land conservation and economic development, recognizing the critical important of both in community resilience. The resulting Plan identifies areas where new protected lands can deliver on the Forest Preserves’ natural lands mission, while generating multiple benefits to residents.

The Plan also presents a framework for how land conservation planners in other major urban areas can use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Social Vulnerability Index to identify areas of high need and vulnerability, and focus investments, environmental improvements, economic progress and social justice to meet those needs.

Read More
Click here to read the full text of the Southeast Cook County Land Acquisition Plan.

In 1608, during Captain John Smith’s exploration of the Chesapeake Bay, he was ambushed by a tribe of Native American Indians atop of Fones Cliffs on the Rappahannock River. The Rappahannock Tribe villagers atop the cliffs signaled to the warriors lying in wait in the marsh across the river from the cliffs. The Rappahannock then emerged from the marsh and ambushed the explorer and his crew. Although Smith’s ships were able to pass through unharmed, Fones Cliffs became a staple of Rappahannock history and will forever be remembered for the tribe’s dedication to preserving their sacred land.

Today, 252 acres of Fones Cliffs have been officially protected as part of the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge, where it will remain unhindered by development and open for public visitation.


Our role

After more than ten years – and efforts from many partners – The Conservation Fund was able to successfully purchase the 252-acre Fones Cliffs property from a private landowner who had gained approval for more than 40 houses atop the cliffs. We then transferred the property in 2019 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) so it could remain under their management as part of the Refuge. Thanks to funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as the support of many partners, this Fones Cliffs property now supports greater opportunity for public recreation and helps preserve the value this land has to the Rappahannock Tribe and Virginia community.

 

Why This Project Matters

Ensuring that Fones Cliffs remained protected and open to the public was the only acceptable result for this decade-long effort. Aside from the Rappahannock’s 1608 encounter with Captain John Smith, Fones Cliffs was also home to three Rappahannock towns: Pisacack, Matchopeak, and Mecuppon. Now, the Rappahannock Tribe will be able to use this property to educate future generations about the importance of the land, and visitors alike can come to hike, search for wildlife, and enjoy the cliffs truly indescribable beauty.



But Fones Cliffs isn’t just rich with history and great views. It is one of the most pristine locations on the east coast to view bald eagles. The eagles use the property’s high elevation to survey the river for hunting opportunities, and it is not uncommon to see up to 400 eagles along this stretch of river. Even when populations were at their lowest, bald eagles could still be found here. As part of the Refuge, habitat for these eagles and various wildlife will remain under the USFWS’s permanent protection.