Friday, August 04, 2017

Conservation Fund buys forest to preserve it, bring back logging jobs, thwart developers

A new McMansion in the Cowee Forest (Photo by Alexander Kaufman)
In an effort to preserve dwindling forests in the Northeast, nonprofit organization The Conservation Fund closed a $25 million deal Aug. 1 to buy the Cowee Forest, which covers 23,053 acres in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont. The purchase may help bring logging jobs back to an area hurt by their loss, Alexander Kaufman reports for The Huffington Post. The Cowee Forest was once owned by a wood milling company that made the tiny forked stakes that used to hold up notes in flower arrangements, but the Cowee family sold it to investors in 2009 after increasing competition from plastics companies made the mill unprofitable.

It's one example of a growing trend of struggling milling companies selling off lands to investors who sell those former logging lands to developers for large summer homes for wealthy city dwellers. This takes away their economic potential for logging. "When properties get fragmented, they lose the economic integrity as timberland," Larry Selzer, chief executive of the Conservation Fund, told Kaufman. "Once they lose the economic value, then it’s an inevitable march toward conversion and development."

But logging jobs can come back to privately owned forests, which welcome sustainable forestry as a way to keep the forests clear of deadwood. "Those jobs are an economic engine for rural areas that industry has abandoned. Conservation easements help not only to preserve the land, but to put it in the hands of the people who depend on it," Kaufman reports. Conservation Fund Chief Executive Larry Selzer says "What we’re doing is preserving the rural character, meaning lands stay as forested lands, preserving the forest-based economy of logging, trucking, value-added manufacturing, like flooring, furniture and molding."

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