Enviro News

Ecotrust lands tax credits to benefit jobs and environment in Northwest's rural, struggling communities

posted Nov 5, 2009, 11:21 PM by RCC Sustainability Club   [ updated Nov 5, 2009, 11:34 PM ]

By Abby Haight, The Oregonian

November 05, 2009, 2:30PM

Rural and disadvantaged communities in the Northwest could receive an economic boost thanks to $30 million in new markets tax credits allocated to Portland-based Ecotrust.

The nonprofit organization plans to target former timber towns struggling to recover jobs and tribes working for economic benefits by improving the health of forests.

The tax credits are intended to help projects already under way to cross the last financial hurdle to starting business. For instance, a $12 million project that has raised $10 million in capital could get the additional $2 million it needs through the tax credits.

Ecotrust is working with about a dozen projects on the West Coast, said Bettina von Hagen, chief executive of Ecotrust's Forest Management division.

The tax credits will focus in three areas, von Hagen said.

  • To help purchase forest land that will be improved for the public benefit. This could include economic and job creation through water quality improvements, restoration, carbon storage, non-timber forest products and recreation.
  • Assist the start-up or expansion of wood-related manufacturing, such as biomass and wood pellet facilities and mills that create new products out of wood waste.
  • Help tribes purchase and create management plans for forest land that formally was part of reservation land.

"The reason we're really interested in new markets tax credits is because it provides stimulus for disadvantaged communities," von Hagen said.

The U.S. Treasury allocated $5 billion nationwide in new markets tax credits last week; $1.5 billion was from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The treasury issues the tax credits to stimulate investment in communities suffering from poverty and unemployment. In the past, the tax credits were directed almost entirely to urban areas.

Ecotrust used $50 million in tax credits received in 2005 to help businesses that emphasized job creation in rural communities and long-term forest restoration through timber rotations, non-timber forest products and ecological services such as carbon storage.

"We know how difficult it has been to get financing for these projects," von Hagen said. "We're really anxious to bring this resource to them. It doesn't solve all the problems, but it's a big help."


 -- Abby Haight

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