Usal Redwood Forest:
The Redwood Forest Foundation (RFFI) has signed a purchase agreement with Hawthorne Timber Company (Hawthorne) to acquire approximately 50,635 acres of redwood forest just north of Fort Bragg, CA.
RFFI will continue to manage the property as a working forest whereby the property's environmental attributes will be maintained and restored over time. In addition, sustainable timber harvests will provide economic benefits to the local community in terms of jobs, property taxes and forest products.
The Bank of America (BofA) is providing RFFI with an innovative loan package that enabled RFFI to negotiate the purchase from Hawthorne Timber Company. Patient and flexible loan terms along with the sale of a conservation easement will allow RFFI to meet its conservation management goals, keeping harvest levels low while the land and inventories recover. Once RFFI pays off the loans, they will own the property free and clear and will be able to increase the conservation benefits and economic returns to the local community. The parties believe this financing is a model for raising private capital that provides community development and environmental benefits.
RFFI and The Conservation Fund have signed a letter of intent that will allow the Fund to seek funding to acquire a working forest conservation easement. The easement sale has the joint benefit of assuring that the baseline conservation benefits are maintained in perpetuity and assisting RFFI service its debt, thereby facilitating their long-term ownership.
Seller - Hawthorne Timber Company - Hawthorne provided US Forest Capital with an opportunity to find a conservation buyer and arrange disposition financing.
Buyer - Redwood Forest Foundation - A California based nonprofit comprised of environmental, timber, business and local community leaders. RFFI will be the fee owner and manager of the Usal Redwood Forest.
Financing - Bank of America - BofA will serve as the sole lending institution to RFFI at terms that achieve both the Bank's financial objectives and RFFI's public purposes.
Transaction Manager - US Forest Capital, LLC - An advisory company that originated, facilitated and managed the transaction on behalf of the parties.
Forest Management - The Campbell Group - the manager for Hawthorne, will continue to manage the property for RFFI.
Conservation Easement - The Conservation Fund - One of the nation's largest land conservation groups that will seek funding for and hold a conservation easement on the property.
- Very large intact working forest threatened by fragmentation
- Important coastal property adjacent to existing state park and recreational opportunities
- Restoration of degraded forest ecosystem and water quality
- Landscape connectivity between important public lands - tribal coastal forest, state parks
- High priority salmonid fish conservation areas
- Threatened and endangered plant and animal species habitat
- Eventual FSC certification after initial restoration period (5-7 years)
- Economic development will be maintained and enhanced through:
- Direct, indirect and induced family wage jobs associated with forest management and harvest
- Direct, indirect and induced family wage jobs associated with the manufacturing of forest products
- Property taxes
- State and County income, sales and property tax revenue generation
- Forest restoration job opportunities
- Public access & recreational opportunities
- For the first time, environmental, timber and other community leaders have jointly formed a nonprofit to acquire and manage large timber properties
- For the first time, a nonprofit forest acquisition will be 100% privately financed
Preliminary Conservation Easement Terms
RFFI, The Conservation Fund and others are currently determining what terms will be included in the perpetual conservation easement as defined by Sections 815 et seq. of the California Code.
The purpose will be to conserve a large expanse of ecologically important coastal forest as an economically-productive working forest, but restricting development and incompatible commercial uses and ensuring sustainable forest management practices. Terms under discussion include:
- Carve out tracts for conservation fee disposition, such as Usal Beach
- Prohibition against subdivision, development and conversion across remainder of the property
- Forestry restrictions including:
- Compliance with California Forest Practice Rules and TMDLs for the relevant impaired water bodies.
- Limit timber harvest volume removals to not more than 3.00 percent of standing inventory volume on an annual average basis over a 10 year period.
- Minimum harvest age for even-age regeneration harvests set at 50 or 60 years
- Provide a buffer of at least 60' on either side of class III streams with at least 50% canopy retention.
- Even-aged regeneration harvests permanently retain 15% (by area or basal area) post harvest.
Public Policy Needs
- State of California - RFFI will sell and The Conservation Fund will seek funding for the purchase of USAL beach and a conservation easement on the property. The conservation easement will prohibit development, subdivision and conversion and provide guidance regarding timber management practices.
- US Congress - RFFI's ability to refinance and meet the Bank of America's financial covenants will be substantially enhanced with passage of the Community Forestry Conservation Act which allows tax-exempt revenue financing to be used for forest acquisition purposes. Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) is the lead sponsor of this legislation.