Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bank of America Helps Nonprofit Buy A Forest

SAN FRANCISCO — Bank of America and the Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) announced the country's first forest acquisition by a nonprofit using 100 percent private capital to close the deal. The transaction preserves more than 50,000 acres of critical working timberland in the Usal Redwood Forest, just north of Fort Bragg in Northern California's Mendocino County.

This transaction will stop the forest's fragmentation while also allowing the property's coastal redwood trees to grow and be managed as a working sustainable forest. The foundation will purchase the acreage from Hawthorne Timber Company using $65 million in flexible long-term financing from Bank of America.

This unique structure provides a national model for nonprofit ownership of a forest, and enables local environmentalists and timber companies to implement sustainable timber practices that sustains jobs and tax base while protecting critical ecological areas. The transaction also provides a return on investment for Bank of America.

"This is the beginning of a new era for our local community," said Art Harwood, President of RFFI. "We are banding together to protect and manage our forests. We are pulling together private capital, and the hopes and aspirations of people from all walks of life to create a bright beacon for our future. We are doing this by ending the 30 years of fighting, and focusing on what unites us."

RFFI's oversight of the forest will preserve open space, restore the quality of the Redwood forest, purify waterways, enhance wildlife habitat and maintain family wage jobs for those who depend on forests for their livelihoods. Upon fulfilling its financial obligations, RFFI will continue to harvest timber and reinvest in the community as determined by RFFI.

Almost 75 percent of the nation's nearly 70 million acres of privately-owned industrial forests has changed hands between 1995 and 2006. As more tracts are put up for sale or fragmented, communities and businesses are seeking alternative ways to finance large-scale forest acquisitions.

If this works, which is seems like it will, it could usher in a new era of private stewardship for our country's environmental asssets beyond the public lands our government perserves.

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