As private forests in U.S. go for sale, enviros are pit against developers

Privately owned forests make up nearly 20 percent of U.S. land, and they’re changing hands at a blistering pace. A U.S. Forest Service study predicts that 44 million acres of private forestland will be sold over the next 25 years — an area twice the size of the state of Maine — and conservationists are scrambling to save some of the most ecologically sensitive areas, lest they be transformed into condos and trailer parks. Many timber companies tired of hassling with logging restrictions are finding they can make more money by selling their property off as real estate. Combined with the Bush administration’s plans to auction off more than 300,000 acres of national forests and other federal lands, the unprecedented sell-off “has the potential to permanently and profoundly change the landscape of America,” says Conservation Fund President Lawrence Selzer.