WASHINGTON,  D.C. -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced the award of grants to permanently protect private forestland in 33 states and U.S. territories through the Forest Legacy Program. The 2010 FLP awards, which total $72 million, will help the program reach a total of over 2 million permanently protected acres across the country.

"The threats facing our nation's forests do not recognize property boundaries, and we must cooperate across landscapes to protect working forests that supply clean and abundant water, shelter wildlife, and help us mitigate and adapt to climate change," said Vilsack. "The grants announced today will help the Forest Legacy Program protect working forests in states around the country that are in danger of becoming fragmented or disappearing altogether."

The Forest Legacy Program works directly with states to protect privately-owned forests from conversion to housing development or other uses that would threaten the conservation, management and restoration of the nation's forests. The program promotes voluntary land conservation through the principle of "willing buyer, willing seller." Program lands are protected through conservation easements, which allow landowners to retain ownership, or through property acquisition by states.

FLP uses a competitive process to strategically select ecologically and socially important projects facing the greatest threat of conversion to other land uses. Projects that protect air and water quality provide recreational opportunities, protect wildlife habitat, and provide forest products and resource-based jobs receive strong consideration.

A list of the 2010 FLP recipients and brief project descriptions can be found at www.fs.fed.us.

FLP grants help fund costs associated with the program, such as appraisals and land surveys. The Forest Legacy Program requires at least 25 percent of project costs come from private, state or local sources; however, it consistently leverages more than a 50-percent non-federal match. FLP lands that remain in private ownership continue to contribute tax revenue while providing ecological and open space benefits to people throughout the nation.

The mission of the USDA Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages the 193 million acres of National Forest System land, provides stewardship assistance to non-federal forest landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.