The lands were sold subject to a strict and binding conservation easement designed to ensure the long-term health of ecosystems.
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In a historic transaction that further solidifies the compatibility of forestry and conservation in the Adirondacks of New York state, The Nature Conservancy today announced an agreement to sell 92,000 acres of protected forestland to a timber investment management organization committed to environmentally-responsible forestry.
The properties sold today to Danish pension fund ATP, an investor client of RMK Timberland Group, are part of the 161,000 acres The Nature Conservancy purchased in 2007 from Finch Paper LLC. This sale is part of a thoughtful plan for the property designed with scientific assessments and unprecedented stakeholder input. From forest management to recreational leasing; hunting to snowmobiling; fishing to hiking; the former Finch lands will continue to sustain and enhance a wide array of economic and recreational activities, as well as protect key natural resources for generations to come.
In the Northeastern United States, where forest industry acreage has declined by some 15% in the past 20 years, partnerships with conservation organizations are critical factors in keeping working forests intact and economically viable. From an ecological perspective, this land is part of a globally important landscape that represents one of the last best chances anywhere to preserve a large, intact temperate deciduous forest system.
“This tremendous investment in the Adirondacks is a testament to strong partnerships toward a sustainable future,” said Michael Carr, executive director of the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. “Our scientists put in hundreds of hours identifying significant species and habitats to determine where our biodiversity conservation objectives can be compatible with forestry.”
The land, protected by a strict conservation easement, features some 274 miles of rivers and streams, many feeding the headwaters of the Hudson River, and sustains a variety of plants, animals and natural communities. Sticky false asphodel, rusty blackbird, and riverside ices meadows are among the rare, threatened or endangered. The conservation easement will ultimately be acquired and managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, a substantial backer of the timber industry in the Adirondacks. It will permit continued recreational leasing and eventually include some recreational access to places that have been off-limits to the public for at least a century.
Finch Paper, which owned the land for more than a century, has been sustainably managing the forests according to the highest industry standards of the Forest Stewardship Council and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. RMK Timberland will follow suit, supplying “green” pulpwood to Finch Paper under a fiber supply agreement. The 18-year agreement will keep logging crews working in the woods and provide an economic benefit to the upstate region, where the Finch mill is a major employer. Finch foresters will manage the ATP forestland on an interim basis and continue to sustainably manage the forestlands owned by The Nature Conservancy.
“There is a newfound enthusiasm these days for investing in natural resources like forestland,” said Charlie Daniel, president of the RMK Timberland Group. “The Adirondacks is a place widely-recognized as a model in sustainability and we are delighted to be a part of this unique region.”
Henrik Gade Jepsen, CEO of ATP Timberland Invest K/S, part of Denmark’s largest pension fund and the investor backing RMK Timberland’s Adirondack timberland purchase, said this property was “precisely” what they were looking for. “It meets the high standards of our pension fund’s commitment to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment, and it fits perfectly in our portfolio investment strategy,” he said.
Joe Martens, president of the Open Space Institute, which helped to finance the Conservancy’s original purchase of the properties, said the sale makes sense. “Today’s sale is consistent with our research suggesting that in the Northeast, timber investors benefit by partnering with conservation organizations,” he said.
Roger Dziengeleski, vice president of continuous improvement and external operations at Finch, which produces approximately 250,000 tons per year of uncoated printing papers for marketing materials, book publishing and business office use, also applauded the agreement. “We look forward to working with ATP and RMK Timberland as a new supplier of green-certified pulp wood to our mill,” he said.
It is anticipated that over the next several years New York State will continue its unparalleled leadership role in land preservation on behalf of its citizens by drawing from its Environmental Protection Fund to acquire a conservation easement to protect 89,000 acres and purchase outright about 65,000 acres.
“We didn’t know what to expect when The Nature Conservancy bought the Finch lands. I give them a lot of credit for listening and working with us on snowmobile trails and other opportunities,” said George Canon, supervisor of Newcomb, the town with the lion’s share of acreage involved in this project.
“All 27 towns have given a green light to move forward with the plan,” said Michael Carr, noting that local governments have decision-making power when New York State proposes spending money from the Environmental Protection Fund. “There is still a lot of work ahead, and we know communities are counting on the many benefits they stand to gain when we bring the plan across the finish line.”
“In the meantime, we remind everyone that there is no public access to the properties at this time,” added Carr. The more than one thousand people currently paying for exclusive use through recreational leases also help patrol the grounds. Lease revenues help pay for property taxes and other carrying costs.
Recreational Leaseholders: Click here for news.
Disposition Map: Download this map to see the conservation plan as it stands today (.pdf).
Factsheet: Download a factsheet to get more details about deal, including recreational leases (.pdf).
Protection Plan Summary: This sale is part of a thoughtful plan for the property designed with scientific assessments and unprecedented stakeholder input. Get the details here (.pdf).
ATP Timberland Invest is a wholly owned subsidiary of ATP (Danish Supplementary Pension Scheme). The ATP Group is the fourth largest pension scheme in Europe with 4.5 million members and clients. The ATP Group assets amounted to approximately USD 70 billion at year-end 2008. ATP invests in a wide variety of assets: Equities, Interest, Credit, Inflation and Commodities. ATP Group invests both in domestic and foreign assets. In its investment practice ATP demonstrates a long standing commitment to codes on corporate governance as well as corporate social responsibility. ATP has been awarded Best European Pension fund in 2006 and 2008.
RMK Timberland Group operates as a business unit partner of Regions Morgan Keegan Trust and Morgan Asset Management, the trust and asset management arm of Regions Financial Corporation. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, the group was created in 1981 and was a pioneer in timberland investing when it started one of the first commingled timberland funds for institutional investors. Today, we manage separate accounts and commingled funds with more than $1 billion in timberland assets. Clients include corporate and public pension funds, endowments and foundations, and high net-worth individuals. On the Web at www.rmktimberland.com.
Finch Paper LLC is a Glens Falls, NY-based manufacturer of uncoated printing papers with a longstanding tradition of sustainable forest management. The company sold 161,000 acres of Adirondack forestland to The Nature Conservancy in 2007 after more than a century of responsible management by company foresters, and has continued to manage those lands on behalf of TNC. It was under Finch's ownership and management that these lands earned the distinction of being called the "Jewel in the Crown" of the Adirondack Park. Finch Paper holds "green forestry" certifications from both the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) program. Its Woodlands Division offers professional forestry consulting services to private and public landowners across the northeast. The company's products, sold under the Finch Paper brand, are popular choices for advertising materials, book publishing and business office uses. On the Web at www.finchpaper.com.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.