WelcomeItasca County forests (c) John Connelly

Minnesota’s forests and forest industries play an important role in the health of forest-based communities, especially in the Grand Rapids area, where the forest has played an central role in its history, identity, and economy. 

In 2003 the Blandin Foundation launched the Vital Forest/Vital Communities Initiative to work in partnership to promote the connection between a healthy forest-based economy, healthy forest ecosystems and healthy communities. By the end of 2009 a significant number of initiative elements had come to a natural end and the initative was concluded.

During it six years, the Vital Forest/Vital Communities addressed the key factors relevant to the health of the forest products sector, forest-dependent communities and the state’s forests. Developed with broad input, the Initiative objectives fell in three major categories:

  1. Forested land base
  2. Forest management
  3. Economic development

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

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).

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