New York: Lyme Timber’s Adirondack park ‘conservation easement’ pays them to cut the forest down

Getting paid to log the Adirondacks is fine by Peter Stein. Stein works for thestate’s largest landowner, New Hampshire-based Lyme Timber Co., whichhas grown by buying forests from old-line companies that used tomeasure success by how much timber was carried on log trucks rumblingout of the woods. Lyme owns 361,000 acres within the Adirondack Park, and gets a return on its investments not just fromenvironmentally sensitive logging, but also by locking away forever thousands of those acres from the developers’ bulldozer.

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Agreements known as conservation easements have put nearly $40 million
from the state into Lyme’s coffers this decade. Lyme also gets a
property tax break for lands rendered forever-wild by easements. “We
understand there are other ways to run a timber company, but we are
really just chickens.

We like to make low-risk investments,” said
Stein, conservation manager at the 33-year-old company, who made the
jump from a land conservation trust in 1990. “A conservation easement
takes that part of the investment that is not producing a timber
return and turns it into cash,” he said.

“We saw that places like the Adirondacks were going to be magnets for these conservation dollars.” Investors like Lyme have found partners in environmental groups that want to preserve forests.

but alone don’t have the deep pockets needed to buy big tracts of land. Dirk Bryant, director of conservation programs for the Adirondack chapter of The Nature Conservancy, said the group likes working with Lyme.

“They can bring a lot of capital to the table. We have shared conservation goals of what can be done with working forests.”

Comments (2)

pterophileMarch 30th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

TNC: emphasizing the “Con” in servancy to their bottom line. This is how it gets to be the largest “environmental” org

Even More outrageous news from Nature ConMarch 30th, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Keene Valley, NY — March 30, 2009 — 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.

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