The Nature Conservancy has announced a surprising business deal that could protect a quarter of a million acres of forest in southwest Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. The not-for-profit has lined up investors willing to spend over $120 million and let scientists manage it.
The land in question is important to birds and animals that migrate from northern Alabama to Canada, so the Nature Conservancy found investors willing to buy it. They also agreed to let the organization manage the forests – to make money for them in ways that are good for wildlife and water quality.
“Instead of taking a 20 to 30 year view of forestry, we’re going to take a 40 to 100 year view of forestry, and the condition of that forest will improve over time,” says Locke Ogens who heads the Nature Conservancy’s Virginia chapter.
Earnings will also come through carbon credits.
“We can sell carbon offsets and basically be paid to let the trees grow, because the trees sequester atmospheric carbon,’ Ogens explains.
The goal is also to create good jobs for people who once relied on mining.
“There could be outfitters who would take people on hikes or down rivers and some local smaller hotels – boutique hotels – are being developed," Ogens says. "We’re also looking into maybe siting solar on some of the abandoned mine lands.”
After ten years the land is likely to be sold – perhaps to state agencies or buyers willing to conserve these important forests for human recreation and wildlife habitat.