Experts acknowledge the important role of forestlands in protecting our nation’s water quality. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that about two-thirds of our nation’s freshwater resources originate in forests. Water utilities are increasingly taking responsibility for the health of local watersheds as the best way to ensure a long-term supply of clean water for the community. A new project managed by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment), and supported by a grant from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative ® (SFI®), will engage forest landowners and water utilities to support innovative ways to promote watershed protection and maintenance on privately owned forest lands.
“The most cost-effective way for a community to ensure clean water is to maintain their watershed in a healthy, forested area,” said Kathy Abusow, President and CEO of SFI. “We’re excited to support new tools that encourage forest owners and water utilities to work together to conserve watersheds. This project will provide us with a greater understanding of what is needed to advance watershed protection and management.”
“Developing collaboration between water utilities and forest landowners is a unique approach to protecting our nation’s water quality,” said Carlton Owen, President and CEO of the Endowment. “We welcome SFI’s leadership and support helping us to link stakeholders and communities to promote innovative new clean water programs.”
The SFI Conservation Grant will help the Endowment educate community stakeholders, water utilities and landowners and ultimately develop a financial instrument that will compensate forest landowners for protecting and maintaining the health of the watershed they manage. One example of this approach has been implemented in Raleigh, North Carolina. In 2011, Raleigh established a “watershed protection fee” of 1 cent/100 gallons, included in customers’ monthly water bills. The fee costs homeowners an average of 40 cents/month and generates about $1.8 million annually for land protection and management to protect drinking water quality. This project was supported by a grant from the Endowment and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
This grant builds on SFI’s commitment to water resources through conservation grants awarded in 2012 to the World Resources Institute to examine how SFI requirements related to best management practices result in improvements in water quality, and to the National Association of State Foresters to assess development and implementation of best management practices in all U.S. states and territories.