Smith Gambrell & Russell partners Mark Pottorff, Sharon Duvall and David Burge advised The Nature Conservancy on the historic purchase of 218,000 acres of timberlands in 10 states, closing the single largest land conservation sale ever in the South.
The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund jointly purchased the forest lands from International Paper for $300 million, the largest financial commitment in The Nature Conservancy’s 55-year history.
“It is part of what is being called the largest land deal in the U.S. since the Louisiana Purchase,” Pottorff said, “as International Paper is scheduled to sell over 5 million acres of its timberlands.”
The transaction was especially complex because the lawyers had to negotiate agreements to continue supplying wood to the paper mills while making sure that The Nature Conservancy’s environmental goals are met.
“Our firm has a long history of representing buyers and sellers in large timberland transactions, including many deals on the other side of the table from International Paper,” Pottorff said, “so we were able to offer that experience to The Nature Conservancy to get the purchase and sale agreement signed and the deal closed in a timely fashion.”
Smith Gambrell & Russell associates Richard Crotteau, Jonathan Gallant and Alexander Clay also participated in the transaction.
International Paper will retain rights to harvest trees at a set volume and in compliance with sustainable forestry standards. Key conservation areas will remain off limits to wood harvesting.
The sale includes land in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas.
The protected lands provide habitat for migratory birds, black bears and other wildlife. Most of the lands are along rivers and waterways and help to enhance water quality by preventing erosion and filtering runoff water. Some of these woodlands also will be made available for recreational use.