Cooperatove Conservation Project
COOPERATIVE CONSERVATION CASE STUDY

Vermont Family Forests Community Forests Project

A new model for cooperative forest ownership that preserves forest health and offers economic returns on an affordable, living investment.

Location: Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic Region: Vermont

Project Summary: The Vermont Family Forests Partnership has created The Little Hogback Community Forest LLC, made up of 16 area residents who will collectively own and manage a 115-acre, conserved forest in VT.
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Residents interested in participating in the Little Hogback Community Forests Program tour the forest and gather at a vista. Photo: Vermont Family Forests
Resource Challenge

In New England, forestland is becoming increasingly fragmented, with forestland ownership shifting to higher income, often non-resident property owners. Lower income community members are increasingly squeezed out of forestland ownership and stewardship by high land costs. We envision a new kind of forest ownership that achieves two main goals: protecting forest health and allowing community members to own the carefully managed forest land. To meet the first goal, the property will be protected by covenants to ensure careful management in perpetuity:: Subdivision, development, and over-cutting are off-limits. To meet the second goal, we will sell shares in the land to local community members, many of whom could not, individually, afford forestland. Their purchase will be an investment that yields financial returns; and it will be an investment they can walk in, work with, and be proud of.

Examples of Key Partners
 

Vermont Family Forests has partnered with the Vermont Land Trust, the Ford Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to make this project possible. Sixteen area residents are poised to purchase shares in the pilot Community Forest, a 115-acre parcel known as the Little Hogback Community Forest.

 

Results and Accomplishments
Vermont Family Forests has created The Little Hogback Community Forest (LHCF) LLC, which will own and manage a 115-acre forested parcel in Monkton, Vermont . The Vermont Land Trust will hold a conservation easement that will prohibit subdivision and development, require excellent forest management, and lower the price of the land.

An additional contribution from a sponsor has further lowered the price to one that should provide a modest rate of return from the land under careful management. A covenant will allow VFF to repurchase the land, if it is ever offered for sale, at a price that could similarly yield a return. This makes the parcel perpetually affordable to community members who need a return on their investment. 

 The underlying rights—including rights to cut firewood, harvest timber, hike, hunt, camp, etc.--will be sold to the Little Hogback Community Forest LLC, comprising 16 area residents. Each member will own a share in the LLC and receive returns from the various products of the forest. Members can use their share of those products themselves or they can receive a return from the sale.

Because of meticulous management geared toward the long term, the land should be more valuable as the forest grows older. We expect the members to receive about the same return on their investment that they would get if the money were in the bank. But, we also expect them to have the satisfaction of knowing their piece of the earth is well cared for, and to enjoy the land.

Little Hogback Community Forest will be managed according to Vermont Family Forests’ (VFF) principles, under the direction of a forester. This will not only protect forest health; it will also provide low-cost FSC certification and allow the LLC to be an active partner in VFF collaborative marketing opportunities. The sixteen shares to be sold will cost less than $3000 and half of the shares are reserved for community members whose incomes are below the county median. VFF will set up a
revolving loan fund to help lower-income community members with their investment.

 
Innovation/Highlight

Countering the trend toward increasingly fragmented ownership of forestlands by upper income residents, VFF’s Community Forests Project offers shares of an undivided, ecologically managed forest parcel to area residents at low cost.

Project Contact
Deb Brighton
Project Leader
Vermont Family Forests
PO Box 254 14 School St.
Bristol, VT 05443
802-453-7728
info@familyforests.org






Website: www.familyforests.org

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