Archive for July 2nd, 2008

by Jay Stevens

It’s official. Plum Creek is selling approximately 320,000 acres of its holdings to conservation groups, the Nature Conservancy and the Trust for Public Land:

The groups will pay $510 million for about 500 square miles of forest now owned by Plum Creek Timber, a lumber and real estate firm based in Seattle. It is one of the biggest sales of forest land for preservation purposes in United States history, conservation experts said.

About half the amount will come from private donations, the conservation buyers said, and about half from the federal government under a new tax-credit bond mechanism that was included in the giant farm bill recently passed by Congress over President Bush’s veto.

This is part two of the earmark put in the recent Farm Bill by Senator Baucus for this very purpose, and it alleviates the problem that Plum Creek lands posed to county taxpayers, who would have no doubt had to shoulder the financial burden of providing streets, fire service, and other infrastructure had the timber company sold the land as individual allotments.

The cynical side of me wonders, though, at the half-billion price tag, and whether it was necessary. Could county zoning have led to a similar, if less expensive conclusion? Plum Creek also reserved the right to log the land for 15 more years – with no incentives to leave the forests healthy – and saved some of its best land for private ownership. But that’s the blogger in me talking.

In the end, this is 500 square miles of land that will remain wilderness, preserving the character of Western Montana from the encroachment of rural sprawl. An outcome I can’t complain about.

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