Our Mission

The 500-Year Forest Foundation conserves mature forests and the biologically diverse species they nurture. Trees of the forest will reach their maximum age and fulfill their roles – from small seedling to canopy giant to soil-making decayed log – in a continually regenerating old-growth forest. As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, we work in partnership with private landowners to help ensure their forests are protected into the future. Prospective 500-Year Forests generally contain a minimum of 100 acres and a significant number of trees of 70 years or older, minimal evidence of human disturbance, and indications that the site’s quality will support a trajectory to an old-growth forest. In designated 500-Year Forests, there is no removal or cutting of trees or other vegetation other than for eradication of invasive species, protection of people, livestock, and buildings, maintenance of approved roads and trails, and collection of non-timber forest products and firewood from downed trees for personal use on the owner’s property. Designated 500-Year Forests are protected by conservation easements or amendments to existing conservation easements that provide these protections for the forest.

Our Vision

We believe as biologist Robert Zahner believed: Old-growth forests are the key to biodiversity. As our old-growth sites age and their biological richness grows, they will also speak to our hearts. Large stands of old-growth not only provide unique ecosystems for the varied indigenous species that thrive within their boundaries, they act as refugia for plant and animal communities often lost as intense human use changes the landscape. These forests also aid the larger ecosystem by purifying water with their deep soils, enhancing groundwater recharge, generating oxygen, and storing carbon. For us as for Wallace Stegner, old-growth forests are “a scientific yardstick by which to measure the world in its natural balance against the world in its manmade imbalance.”

The Need

Old-growth forests are our most endangered forests. The few that remain outside national parks and wilderness areas are becoming increasingly threatened. In the Eastern states, they account for only one quarter of one percent of all forests—a huge loss. A first-time worldwide study showed a drastic decline in the number of big trees, the defining anchors of old-growth forest ecosystems. Forests were here long before man, but human remaking of the landscape that began thousands of years ago has rapidly accelerated, halving the earth’s forest cover. Now our forests face the threats of climate change, while a global economy has introduced tree-killing fungi and insects along with non-native invasive plant species that multiply rapidly and crowd out native species. Our forests are in biological shock.

500-Year Forest Foundation

PO Box 1272
Charlottesville, VA 22902