On July 11, The Forest Guild hosted a webinar presented by Abby Weinberg of the Open Space Institute titled “Challenges and Opportunities for Southeastern Working Forests.”
In the southeast U.S. the majority of the forest lands are privately (family) owned. While family owned forest lands do indeed account for the majority of this acreage, these landowners often own less than 10 acres each. In contrast, Timberland Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) and Timber Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) hold nearly 30 percent of the forestland in the southeast with average holdings of nearly 1 million acres apiece. Due to the substantial size of TIMO/REIT lands, these groups play a critical role in achieving conservation at scale.
To determine conservation priority areas in the southeast, OSI worked with the Partnership for Southern Forest Conservation, state and federal agencies including the Department of Defense (DoD), and several NGOs to select Core Working Forest areas for targeted conservation. The analysis used data provided by TIMOs and REITs, Market Strength statistics, NatureServe analysis on at-risk species, and Southern Forest Futures research results on the anticipated conversion of conserved lands. The effort resulted in the creation of a shared map of priority areas currently being targeted by Partnership members in their conservation work.
While the shared map can serve as a proxy for a formal coordinated effort to conserve southeast forestlands, the webinar emphasized several other potential impacts: 1) expanding institutional policies so they include TIMOs/REITs; 2) accessing the $150 million available in DoD funding for buffer areas; 3) Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act that allows for mitigation for destruction of possible endangered species habitat on DoD buffer areas; 4) Farm Bill funds; 5) Certification of TIMO/REIT lands to strengthen markets; and 6) exploring opportunities for using wood supply agreements with mills to ensure broad level protections.
The Core Working Forest areas maps and the report on Retaining Working Forests in eastern North Carolina can be found here. To listen to the full webinar, click here.
Retaining Working Forests: Eastern North Carolina, an OSI report released in May 2012, in collaboration with the Partnership for Southern Forest Conservation considers the economic realities facing North Carolina’s forestland owners, with a focus on timber investment management organizations (TIMOs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs).
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