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International Paper Sells Forestlands to Conservation Groups

March 28, 2006 - International Paper, The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund have reached an agreement to protect 218,000 acres of forestlands across 10 states in the single largest private land conservation sale in the history of the South, and one of the largest in the nation.

The Nature Conservancy will acquire more than 173,000 acres in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi. The Conservation Fund will acquire more than 5,000 acres in Florida and 500 in North Carolina. The two groups will jointly purchase an additional 39,000 acres in South Carolina.

International Paper will receive approximately $300 million for the land at closing, which is expected to occur in the next several months. The tracts included in the sale are some of International Paper's most ecologically important lands. The majority of the land will remain working forests. Under the terms of the agreement, timber will be sustainably harvested from some tracts and a set amount of timber volume will be supplied to International Paper for local production. Sensitive areas will continue to be set aside from harvesting activities.

The biodiversity and ecological importance of the parcels included in the project reflect International Paper's sustainable management of its working forests. Many of the parcels, which have thrived under the company's leadership, are home to bald eagles, black bear and the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. Several tracts also provide vital linkages between existing public and private conservation areas. The majority of lands being acquired by the Conservancy and The Conservation Fund are located along rivers and estuaries, such as the Perdido River on the border of Florida and Alabama, the Lower Roanoke River in North Carolina and Pee Dee and Little Pee Dee Rivers in South Carolina.

"This historic transaction demonstrates the compatibility of environmental, recreational and economic interests, and is a testimony to International Paper's legacy of sustainably managing healthy, working forestlands and protecting special forestlands for 108 years," said John Faraci, International Paper chairman and chief executive officer. "As we consider the sale of our U.S. land holdings, we saw this as an important opportunity to protect in perpetuity many of our most ecologically significant lands."

Steve McCormick, president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy, said, "This project was made possible through the leadership and vision of public officials and public agencies across the South. The South's landscape is changing before our eyes. It is only through partnerships among state and federal agencies, companies like International Paper, private landowners and nonprofit organizations that we can hope to conserve the South's natural heritage and quality of life."

"This announcement is extraordinary in every sense of the word -- from its scope and scale to its tremendous conservation outcomes," said The Conservation Fund's president, Larry Selzer. "Thanks to the support and commitment of our partners, these important lands will protect wildlife habitat, enhance air and water quality, support local economies and provide exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities for future generations."

In a number of states, the conservation organizations are working closely with state agencies and other partners to ensure these lands are conserved for future generations. Today's announcement represents the beginning of this landmark conservation project.

International Paper has protected approximately 1.5 million acres of forestlands through conservation land donations, sales and easements during its history. Recently, for example, IP and The Conservation Fund closed on the first phase of a 257,000-acre conservation easement in New York's Adirondack Park, permanently protecting those acres from development. This and many other past conservation agreements have been in partnership with The Nature Conservancy or The Conservation Fund. These partnerships laid the foundation for the three organizations to identify some of International Paper's most ecologically diverse forestlands for purchase in this historic transaction.

The agreement represents the largest financial commitment in the 55-year history of The Nature Conservancy. To secure the necessary funding to complete this project, the Conservancy engaged Conservation Forestry, LLC and its consortium partner, Forest Investment Associates.

The Conservancy will transfer ownership of some lands in Virginia, Florida and Georgia to Conservation Forestry, LLC and Forest Investment Associates. The Conservancy will retain rights to acquire nearly all the properties, or interest in the properties in the form of conservation easements at later dates based on the availability of funding. In the interim period, the lands will be managed to sustainable forestry standards and key conservation areas will continue to be off-limits to wood harvesting.

"We are delighted to participate in this opportunity with The Nature Conservancy and International Paper," said John Tomlin, a founder of Conservation Forestry. "Our goal is a good outcome for conservation and a solid return for investors, and we look forward to achieving both on these and other properties."

As much as 44 million acres of privately owned forestland, a critical part of the nation's landscape, will be sold over the next 25 years. The future of these lands -- especially in the South where forestry has long supported hundreds of thousands of jobs and helped to safeguard some of the nation's most biologically important wildlife habitat -- will be told within that time.

The continued fragmentation of forests because of subdivision, land use change and development is one of the most pressing threats facing the American landscape today. Forests -- both public and private -- protect biodiversity, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and jobs for more than 1.6 million Americans. Healthy forests protect water resources by slowing runoff, stabilizing soils, preventing erosion and floods and filtering pollutants.

Private and non-profit conservation groups continue to express interest in additional International Paper land holdings, and the company will continue to explore those opportunities.

About International Paper

Headquartered in the United States, International Paper businesses include paper, packaging and forest products. As one of the largest private landowners in the world, IP professional foresters and wildlife biologists manage its forests with great care in compliance with the rigorous standards of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® program. The SFI® program is an independent forest certification system that ensures the perpetual planting, growing and harvesting of trees while protecting biodiversity, wildlife, plants, soil, water and air quality. The company also has a long-standing policy of using no wood from endangered forests.

About The Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

About The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund is the nation's foremost environmental nonprofit dedicated to protecting America's land and water legacy for current and future generations. Seeking innovative conservation solutions for the 21st century, the Fund works to integrate economic and environmental goals. Since its founding in 1985, the Fund has helped its partners safeguard wildlife habitat, working landscapes, community "greenspace," and historic sites totaling more than 5 million acres. With 1 percent fund raising costs and 96 percent program allocation, The Conservation Fund is recognized as the nation's top rated environmental nonprofit by both the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charity Navigator.

About Conservation Forestry, LLC

Conservation Forestry, LLC is a timber investment fund based in Woburn, Massachusetts with a strategy of investing in conservation related transactions while achieving its investment goals.

About Forest Investment Associates

Forest Investment Associates is in its twentieth year of providing investment management services to institutional and private investors in timberland. Operating out of its Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, the staff of FIA manages timberland portfolios for major corporate pension plans, state and municipal retirement systems, charitable trusts and endowment funds.

SOURCE: International Paper




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