Landmark conservation deal adds 38,000 acres to North Carolina open space

provided by International Paper

he Nature Conservancy and International Paper have announced one of the largest land conservation deals in North Carolina history. The 38,320-acre transaction in Pender and Sampson counties will greatly enhance the conservation of southeastern North Carolina by tying together big parcels of forestland which protect habitat for rare mussels, the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, black bear and numerous rare plants.

    At a ceremony in the state's Museum of Natural Sciences, Governor Mike Easley called the agreement a gift to current and future North Carolinians. “Through this historic transaction, The Nature Conservancy and International Paper have endowed our state with a lasting gift, the preservation of our natural heritage,” Easley said. “This exemplary conservation project will move North Carolina closer to its goal of preserving one million acres of land.”

    Katherine Skinner, executive director of The Nature Conservancy's North Carolina Chapter applauded International Paper and praised the state's conservation efforts. “North Carolina's conservation trust funds, Clean Water Management and Natural Heritage, and the work of our state's Natural Heritage Program have helped to lay the groundwork for this conservation effort,” said Skinner. “The Nature Conservancy is proud to share this environmental legacy with International Paper and we look forward to working with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Wildlife Resources Commission to make these forestlands available for all Tar Heels to enjoy.”

    To date, International Paper has sold nearly 43,000 acres of forestland or conservation easements in North Carolina toward the state's open space initiative. “Buying and selling forestland is part of our strategic planning process. It is a wonderful complement to our sustainable forestry management, when one of our conservation partners like The Nature Conservancy is interested in a parcel we are selling,” said Robin Richerson, regional manager of the Atlantic Operations for IP's Forest Resources business.

    The $24 million International Paper conservation land deal is the largest single financial transaction for The Nature Conservancy's North Carolina Chapter, which was established in 1977. In terms of the amount of acreage protected, it is second only to the Conservancy's protection of 118,000 acres, which created the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern North Carolina.

    The project consists of nine tracts, five of which are located in the vicinity of the state's Holly Shelter and Angola Bay gamelands and Camp Lejeune Marine Base. These tracts will provide an important link between these significant natural areas, and are an example of landscape conservation, a conservation strategy employed by the Conservancy. Four of the tracts are located along the nationally significant Black River and will protect these Outstanding Resources Waters (ORW) and rare fish, mussels, and other aquatic life.

    The Nature Conservancy plans to transfer most of the property to state land management agencies who will be responsible for their management and compatible public use.

    The Nature Conservancy is a worldwide nonprofit organization working in all 50 states and 28 other countries to preserve the plants and animals that represent the diversity of life by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
    In North Carolina, IP employs more than 3,000 people at 66 sites. The land sale is not related to the operations of those sites and the company remains deeply committed to continuing operations in North Carolina.
    International Paper ( is the world's largest paper and forest products company. Businesses include paper, packaging, and forest products. As one of the largest private forest landowners in the world, and the world's largest seedling producer, the company manages its forests under the principles of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI(SM)) program, a system that ensures the continual planting, growing and harvesting of trees while protecting wildlife, plants, soil, air and water quality. Headquartered in the United States, at Stamford, Conn., International Paper has operations in nearly 50 countries and exports its products to more than 130 nations.