Forested watersheds play a vital role in storing and purifying water for downstream consumers, and provide two-thirds of the drinking water in the U.S.That’s why the Georgia Forestry Foundation (GFF) is embarking on an initiative to help develop ecosystem services payments to landowners who help sustain water quality and quantity for local communities who depend on forested watersheds for their drinking water.

Working forests cover nearly two-thirds of the land area in the state, and they serve as the ecological backdrop for Georgia’s most pristine landscapes —providing critical value such as habitat for wildlife, clean air to breathe and, importantly, clean and cool drinking water.Ninety percent of Georgia’s forests are held by private landowners who use their own resources to sustainably manage their land to provide these benefits.The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the importance of forested watersheds to lowering drinking water treatment costs and providing a stable source of clean water for communities. Understanding the importance of private land ownership, the Georgia Forestry Foundation’s Center for Forest Competitiveness is exploring the possibilities for ecosystem services payments to private landowners.

“We understand the critical value that forest landowners provide to the survival, comfort and progress for every Georgian,” said Andres Villegas, President & CEO of the Georgia Forestry Association and its Foundation. “If we are successful in sustaining the economic and environmental interest of the private forestland owner, we will ensure a continuous clean water supply that is so important to the future of our communities.”

The project will bring together highly recognized experts in natural resources, forestry and water quality and will be managed byBrian Tolar of Tolar Capitol Partners.

Upon completion of the project, GFF will release a report and policy recommendations that will include next steps. If you are interested in learning more about this project or becoming a donor of the Foundation, contact Andres Villegas at