RICH SQUARE, N.C., April 5, 2022 — Forest landowners in six additional North Carolina counties are eligible to participate in a nonprofit program that for the past nine years has helped families in the northeastern part of the state implement healthy forestry practices and increase the asset value of their land so their heirs can keep it.
The Sustainable Forestry and Land Retention Project (SFLRP) is expanding from its original, seven-county service territory to assist woodland owners in Edgecombe, Granville, Martin, Nash, Vance and Warren counties. Since it was created in 2013 through the sponsorship of Roanoke Electric Cooperative (REC) and other entities, SFLRP has assisted more than 250 families owning approximately 20,000 acres of woodland in Bertie, Chowan, Gates, Halifax, Hertford, Northampton and Perquimans counties.
SFLRP partners with state and federal forestry and conservation agencies, with timber industry professionals and with leading nonprofit organizations and academic institutions like the American Forest Foundation, The Conservation Fund, the Black Family Land Trust, NC A&T State University and NC State University. The program helps them connect with technical and estate planning experts, identify financial assistance programs they can leverage, network with other woodland owners, attend landowner education workshops and more.
“The Sustainable Forestry and Land Retention project team is delighted that woodland owners in a large new expanse of the state are eligible to participate in this important program,” SFLRP Director Alton Perry said. “It means more work for us, but it also means that many more families, habitats, animals and forests can benefit from wider adoption of sustainable forestry practices.”
One of the primary reasons the SFLRP program was established was to counter the huge land loss among African-American woodland owners over the past century. Between 1910 and 1997, woodland ownership among African Americans in the United States fell to about 2.4 million acres from 15 million acres – an 84 percent decrease. Roanoke Electric Cooperative joined with the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities as original sponsors of the program to advance its mission of assisting the diverse communities it serves. While reaching African-American landowners remains a major SFLRP focus, the project is available to all landowners in what is now a 13-county region.
“(M)any more families, habitats, animals and forests can benefit from wider adoption of sustainable forestry practices.”
The program’s expansion comes in response to requests that landowners and state and federal partners have made over the past several years, and is made possible by additional funding the SFLRP has received from foundations, the forest industry and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the USDA Farm Service Agency and the North Carolina Forest Service have partnered with the program since its inception.
“As an original sponsor of the Sustainable Forestry and Land Retention Project, Roanoke Electric Cooperative is thrilled that the success of this program is being recognized and has resulted in additional support that will expand its reach and its positive impacts,” said Marshall Cherry, the cooperative’s president and chief executive officer. “Roanoke Electric’s primary mission is to serve and help improve the quality of life of our member-owners. The SFLRP program helps us to achieve that goal. We welcome its expansion so that woodland owners in counties beyond those we serve can increase the asset value of their property, keep it for future generations, and in parallel improve forest health and wildlife habitat, and increase forest productivity.”
Programs similar to North Carolina’s SFLRP also have been established over the past decade in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. More than 1,500 landowners are participating in these programs, and forest management plans have been developed for a combined 100,000 acres of land. In North Carolina, the SFLRP has assisted development of 167 forest management plans, with 22 Tree Farm certifications and allocation of $600,000 of assistance from the state and federal governments, foundations and the forest industry.
“The favorite part of my job is seeing families become empowered by taking the information and guidance from our support system of partners and putting it into action,” said Perry, who joined the SFLRP program at its inception after retiring from a 30-year career with the North Carolina Forest Service. “Some families have never worked with a government agency before, so we guide them through the sustainable forestry planning process. We have these landowners sit around a table with the agency experts who listen to their objectives for the property; then we inform them of services and programs that will assist them; and then we help make a plan to reach their goals.”
Additional information is available on the SFLRP website at www.recforestry.org.
Contact: Alton Perry