The Nature Conservancy, State of Wisconsin, International Paper, Conservation Forestry LLC, and Forest Investment Associates, today announced the completion of the largest land conservation transaction in state history. First announced in March 2006, the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest project will conserve 64,617 acres – 101 square miles – of forest, lakes and rivers in Florence, Forest, and Marinette counties in northeast Wisconsin.
Senator Herb Kohl, a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, has succeeded in earmarking $2 million in funding from the federal Forest Legacy Program in the Committee’s recommended budget for FY07 for the project. The budget still needs to be approved by the full Congress and the President, but a positive vote by the Appropriations Committee is a good indication of future funding.
“This project ensures that the wild rivers and hardwood forests on this unique property will be forever conserved for future generations and remain a working forest, open for public recreation and keeping jobs in northeast Wisconsin,” said Governor Jim Doyle.
“We would like to thank Governor Doyle and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for their vision and hard work on the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest project, which is a win for conservation and for Wisconsin’s economy,” said Mary Jean Huston, state director of The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “In a time of tight budgets and other pressing needs, this project takes a balanced approach to conservation – one that leverages public dollars with private capital to keep land in forest management, provides public access for recreation, and conserves wildlife habitat, water quality, and the character of the Northwoods we treasure.”
At closing, the State of Wisconsin purchased the heart of the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest – 5,629 acres of wild and scenic rivers, lakes and forests in Florence County that will be managed to protect their natural features and open to the public for recreation.
Conservation Forestry, LLC and Forest Investment Associates acquired 63,378 acres of forestland in the transaction. An innovative working forest conservation easement, crafted by The Nature Conservancy and the Department of Natural Resources, will keep the majority of this land open to the public for recreation permanently and guide forest management in a sustainable manner, ensuring that the forests remain healthy and diverse and continue to provide forest products and important forest industry jobs.
The $83.675-million acquisition will be funded through private equity from Conservation Forestry, LLC and Forest Investment Associates, Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, and private funds to be raised by The Nature Conservancy. Other sources of public funding, including federal Forest Legacy funds, are being pursued.
“The Wild Rivers Legacy Forest purchase assures these private lands will always be open to the public for recreation, continued trail systems, and sound, sustainable timber planning and harvesting,” said Butch Johnson, owner of Johnson Timber Company in Hayward. “This type of vision is important to the economy of northern Wisconsin and a great investment in the future of our state. Forest conservation easements are the best way to assure keeping private forests open to the public and not divided into smaller parcels which can easily be converted to non-accessible lands.”
The Wild Rivers Legacy Forest encompasses vast acres of forest, more than 48 lakes and ponds, and over 70 miles of rivers and streams that flow into and contribute to water quality in Green Bay and the larger Great Lakes system. It provides important habitat for wildlife, including trout and migratory waterfowl and songbirds; rare species such as the pine marten; and wide-ranging mammals such as wolves and bear.
The property also offers exceptional recreation opportunities, including hunting, fishing in Class 1, 2 & 3 trout streams, snowmobiling, canoeing, kayaking, cross-country skiing, wildlife watching, and more.
“International Paper is proud to have a part in ensuring the continued protection of and access to these forestlands," said David Liebetreu, IP's vice president of forest resources. “Knowing that these lands will remain as sustainably managed working forests, while providing opportunities for people to enjoy hunting, fishing, exploring and other recreational activities, is a lasting legacy to International Paper's century of forestland ownership and stewardship.”
The rapidly changing economics of the forest products industry are forcing an unparalleled change in ownership of the forests across the United States, including Wisconsin. This sale is part of a larger effort by International Paper to sell as much as 6.8 million acres of forestland in the Midwest, the South, and the Northeast.
From 1997 to 2002, 94% of Wisconsin’s private industrial forest lands, or about one million acres, changed hands. Some of these forests are being cut harder in a short period of time by the new owners or divided into smaller pieces and sold for development to provide maximum returns to investors.
“Collaborative partnerships like the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest are critical to maintaining large blocks of forest land and thereby ensuring these forests continue to support local and statewide economies, the full array of ecological values, and the settings in which we live, work and play,” said Scott Hassett, Secretary, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
About the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with its many partners, is dedicated to conserving and managing Wisconsin’s natural resources, environment and outdoor heritage to sustain us and the generations that follow. On the Web at dnr.state.wi.us.
About Conservation Forestry, LLC
Conservation Forestry, LLC is a timber investment fund based in Woburn, Massachusetts with a strategy of investing in conservation related transactions while achieving its investment goals. On the Web at conservationforestry.net.
About Forest Investment Associates
Forest Investment Associates is in its twentieth year of providing investment management services to institutional and private investors in timberland. Operating out of its Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, the staff of FIA manages timberland portfolios for major corporate pension plans, state and municipal retirement systems, charitable trusts and endowment funds. On the Web at www.forestinvest.com.
About International Paper
Headquartered in the United States, International Paper has been a leader in the forest products industry for more than 100 years. The company is currently transforming its operations to focus on its global uncoated papers and packaging businesses, which operate and serve customers in the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia. These businesses are complemented by an extensive North American merchant distribution system. International Paper is committed to environmental, economic and social sustainability, and has a long-standing policy of using no wood from endangered forests. On the Web at internationalpaper.com.
For the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources: Paul DeLong, Chief State Forester, 608/264-9224; Laurie Osterndorf, Land Administrator, 608/267-7552
For Conservation Forestry, LLC, Paul Young at 603/552-2062
For International Paper, Media Contacts: Amy Sawyer, 901/419-4312
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.
Wisconsin Media Contact
(612) 845-2744 (cell)