Endowment and The Conservation Fund to Launch Online Marketplace for Working Forests

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The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities announced that it has partnered with The Conservation Fund to launch an online marketplace to benefit working forests and rural communities.

The marketplace will link individual donors and groups of donors with small-scale entrepreneurs whose enterprises help retain working forests across the country.  The project will launch in the late spring with a pilot program aimed at the Mid-Atlantic region and will eventually be nationwide.

Donors will be able to “shop” online at the marketplace for enterprises they wish to support.  Their tax-deductible contributions will be distributed as low-interest loans to entrepreneurs; the repaid loan will be recycled to be lent again to the entrepreneur(s) of the donor’s choosing.  The enterprises featured on the website will be “vetted” by a network of land trusts, forestry schools, government agencies and community-based organizations with an interest in forestland retention and rural economic development. 

The Endowment is providing $1 million in initial funding for the effort.   Endowment President Carlton Owen said, “To address growing challenges facing the nation’s working forests and rural communities, we must identify new means to engage more citizens in local sustainable development activities.  We believe that the marketplace concept offers great potential to leverage a modest investment to stimulate and support America’s entrepreneurial spirit resulting in enhanced forest health and sound rural economic development in an on-going manner.”                          

Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund, applauded the Endowment’s vision. “This project will employ 21st century information technology to get working capital to enterprises that will keep forests healthy and productive for present and future generations. The marketplace will be a direct and simple way to link people who care about forests with forest-friendly entrepreneurs who need fresh working capital.”

Businesses supported through the marketplace may include eco-tourism enterprises, native plant nurseries, sustainable forestry management and value-added wood crafts, among other specialties.

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