Big conservation deal will protect 218,000 acres of forest in the South

Conservationists are celebrating the biggest sale of private land for preservation in the South’s history. The Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Fund have put up a combined $300 million for 218,000 acres of forestland owned by International Paper in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Most of the acreage will continue to be worked for timber, but the most eco-sensitive areas will be put off-limits to loggers, and all of the land will be kept out of the hands of real-estate developers. Green groups are pleased that the deal will preserve contiguous forest and shoreline wildlife habitat. Meanwhile, up in Wisconsin, the Nature Conservancy has gone in with the state on a purchase of more than 64,000 IP acres worth about $83.7 million.