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Forest Legacy Program


In 2010, the US Forest Service designated the Rensselaer Plateau as a Forest Legacy Area. The Forest Legacy Program provides an opportunity to permanently conserve forest lands with conservation easements that maintain the traditional uses of the land while conserving it forever. This will allow municipalities and the County to leverage significant federal funds for private landowners to conserve these important environmental and economic resources. This completely voluntary program only works with willing landowners to conserve and protect working forests, and provides important assistance to local governments to protect their drinking water and rural character and enhance their forest based economies for wood products and recreation.


When you, as a landowner sell development rights, you are paid a negotiated price for the development value of the land. All other rights remain with the landowner, including the underlying fee title to the land. The value of development rights is the portion of the total land value attributed to its development value. An appraisal is required to determine and apportion the value of development and other rights (e.g. recreation, timber, etc.). Each easement is unique and terms are negotiated. In general, development rights are sold by the landowner who remains the fee owner of the land. One of the attractions of a conservation easement is you continue to own the right to enjoy your land for its open space uses such as forestry, recreation, and wildlife management and related economic activities.

How It Works

The Forest Legacy program considers annual project opportunities in designated Legacy areas. Each year NYS DEC may submit up to three grants statewide to the Forest Legacy Program (USFS) to help fund the acquisition of land or development rights from landowners who have indicated interest in participating. The grant application process begins with identifying interested landowners and determining eligibility based on the land’s location and characteristics. Landowners are identified in May and June for a grant application that is submitted in the Fall.


Forest Legacy grants are very competitive so landowners will be chosen by DEC based on established criteria and how well they will contribute to a successful grant. Applications that are not chosen one year may be considered in subsequent years. DEC may or may not submit a grant in any given year depending upon a variety of factors.


RPA will help facilitate this process by getting you in touch with the correct people at DEC, and by providing information. If you are interested in selling the development rights on your forest land in the RPFLA please contact us with a brief description of your land including size, location, and any relevant factors.

Learn More

For more, visit the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Forest Legacy Program page or contact us.

Key Points

  • 100% voluntary - only willing landowners participate (Willing seller - willing buyer)

  • No restrictions on what non-participants can do with their land

  • Private landowners retain ownership of their forests

  • An emphasis on working forests with forest management or stewardship plans

  • Supports a local forest economy that is sustainable into the future

  • An emphasis on public access (for hiking, hunting, snowmobiling, etc.)


Key Terms

Forest Legacy Program (FLP)
The Forest Legacy Program is a program of the United States Forest Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) that seeks to conserve “working forests that protect water quality, provide habitat, forest products, opportunities for recreation and other public benefits." While Forest Legacy utilizes federal funds, it is administered at the state level by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Forest Legacy funds can be used by the State to purchase conservation easements or land. The Forest Legacy Program is unique in that it seeks to ensure that lands remain under active timber management producing forest products for the region's forest products industry. Public access for traditional recreation uses is a positive for all Legacy projects in New York.


Conservation Easement
A conservation easement, or grant of development rights, is a legal agreement on a parcel of land that governs what can occur on the land in the future. A conservation easement can be tailored to the specific needs of a parcel. Typically a conservation easement will protect working lands for forestry and/or agriculture, and can either prohibit or limit future development, and can guarantee future public recreational access. It is granted by the landowner to a "holder" which is usually a land trust or public agency. The landowner remains owner of the property and continues to use it and pay taxes, while the holder is responsible for ensuring that the terms of the conservation easement are followed by monitoring it on a regular basis.


Bargain Sale

A bargain sale is the sale of land or rights for conservation for less than its appraised value. A bargain sale may provide tax benefits to the seller depending upon circumstance. We recommend that landowners seek the advice of a qualified accountant or tax attorney to determine how a donation or bargain sale would affect their taxes.

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