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During it six years, the Vital Forest/Vital Communities initiative addressed key factors relevant to the health of the forest products sector, forest-dependent communities and the state’s forests.
The Foundation invested $14.8 million in grants and $1.8 million in additional program costs in support of 29 major projects which leveraged nearly $40 million of other public and private funds. The initiative involved nearly two dozen major partner institutions and an estimated 200 individuals who participated directly in at least one activity (with most individuals participating in multiple ways).
Developed with broad input and guided by an advisory board, the initiative objectives fell into three major categories:
Forested Land Base and Resource
- Maintain Minnesota’s forest resource base and reduce losses caused by conversion, parcelization, and fragmentation of private lands and disposal of public lands.
- Capture and enhance the productivity of Minnesota’s forests for forest products and consumption.
- Establish ecologically-based forest management as the norm in Minnesota.
- Increase the number of acres of private, non-industrial woodland being actively and sustainably managed.
- Increase public understanding of forest management and practices and the role they play in ensuring resource health, quality, and productivity for vital communities.
- Create new products and markets for Minnesota’s wood products industry.
- Enhance the operating efficiency and economic viability of Minnesota’s wood products industry.
- Increase the number of acres of private woodland and number of forest products companies under third-party certification.
- Increase the capacity of the forest management services sector (ex: logging operators, professional foresters).
Through a rigorous, adaptive approach, over time the initiative targeted a subset of issues:
- Conservation easements to protect the forested land base
- Enhancing forest productivity
- Third-party certification and non-industrial private forest land owner engagement to increase the number of acres of forests under sustainable management
- Branding for Minnesota-grown forest products and creation of new markets for those products
- Forester and logger training
- Emerging bioeconomy opportunities for forests and forest industry