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Authorized by Congress in 1990, the purpose of the Forest Legacy Program (FLP) is to identify and protect environmentally important forestland from conversion to non-forest uses, through the use of conservation easements and fee purchase acquisition negotiated with willing landowners. FLP is a cooperative partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and Oklahoma Forestry Services.
Of Oklahoma’s 12 million acres of forestland, more than 90 percent is privately owned. Many of these private forests, valued for so many resources and managed for different objectives, are being converted to urban and suburban developments and infrastructure, and are being subdivided into smaller and smaller parcels. As a result, we are concerned that the state’s forestlands may be unable to maintain the full suite of environmental services that forestlands currently provide the state’s citizens.
Economic pressures on forest owners, such as escalating land values and estate taxes, often lead to fragmentation and the conversion of rural areas into developed areas that extend into cities and towns. Census Bureau data shows the population of Oklahoma in 2012 was 3.815 million people, an increase of 10 percent from 2000. It is estimated that by the year 2020 the population will increase by about 5 percent to 4.024 million. Although statistically reliable forest inventory data will not be available statewide for a few more years, the conversion of large areas of Oklahoma’s valuable forests to non-forest uses, including some of the state’s most environmentally important forests, will continue as the state’s population grows.
Forestry Services completed the Assessment of Need required as a part of the Forest Legacy Program during development of the Oklahoma Forest Resource Assessment in May of 2010.