The scope of the forestland is massive – in Washington, the land bought by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) covers 75 square miles, an area more than twice the size of Manhattan. Both the Washington and Montana land is “among the most ecologically diverse and intact biological systems remaining in the United States,” according to Plum Creek.
“Plum Creek has a strong history of conservation and is pleased to partner in the sale of these lands to accommodate the public interest in securing permanent conservation that protects ecological and recreational values,” said Rick Holley, chief executive officer for Plum Creek. “This is an important conservation project that recognizes the highest benefit these lands offer — protecting ecological values and helping to maintain public access. We are pleased that we were able to work with TNC to conserve some of the nation’s most important forest areas,” said Holley.
In a recent interview with REIT.com that did not include news of the land sale, Plum Creek’s CEO, Holley, expanded on the company’s conservation strategy.
REIT: What level of interest are you seeing for the sale of conservation, recreation and non-strategic rural lands? How do you determine which parcels of land to sell?
Holley: We continue to see interest in each of these categories. In terms of conservation, we are proud to be one of the largest purveyors of conservation in the country, having commited to nearly 1.5 million acres of land to conservation outcomes. Conservation transactions are dependent on state and federal funding, which is tight.
Over the past 12 years, we’ve developed a disciplined approach to evaluating rural lands for their recreation and alternative use values. Our approach combines robust, objective market data with the expertise and judgment of our local asset managers and other experts. It’s a successful process that has allowed us to efficiently identify and realize superior values for certain properties within our portfolio.
Bill Chapman of the Mountains to Sound Greenway and Melissa Garvey of TNC told SeattlePI.com that Plum Creek’s sale of the Washington land is a key step to protecting not just the Interstate 90 corridor from development but in creating a greenway into other protected areas east of the Cascades.
The Nature Conservancy acquisition includes land bordering on three reservoirs — Lakes Keechlus, Kachess and Cle Elum — as well as 390 miles of rivers and streams. It safeguards headwaters of the Yakima River, site of a major plan to store additional water for both irrigation and salmon restoration.
“We’re absolutely not locking it up,” said Garvey. “We’re not just about forest restoration, we’re allowing public access for recreation.”
The preserved lands form “a mosaic,” Chapman said. The just-acquired Plum Creek lands adjoin the newly created Teanaway Community Forest.
Plum Creek is one of the largest private landowners in America, with about 6.7 million acres in the Northwest, Northern Rockies and Southeast U.S. Its forests in these parts are a legacy of the Northern Pacific Land Grant, an inducement to building a transcontinental railroad, signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln…
…The full task of preserving and protecting the I-90 corridor is not “done,” Chapman emphasized, but “what happened today completes a substantial percentage of what we need to do. It’s of huge, significant benefit to Seattle and Kittitas County, to the Mountains to Sound Greenway, and to the integrity of the land itself.”
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., praised Plum Creek for its role in the sale of the Montana forestland.
“Plum Creek and the Nature Conservancy have demonstrated their real Montana values by coming together and making sure Montanans for generations to come will have access to one of our state’s most treasured places. I’m pleased to see these two groups working collaboratively. Because of this deal, Montana’s hunters, anglers, outdoorsmen and women will have thousands of acres to enjoy for years to come.”