Dover – Announcing a major accomplishment in her Livable Delaware campaign, Governor Ruth Ann Minner today released news that the state has just completed the permanent protection of seven properties in Sussex County totaling 1,980 acres of prime forestland.
The properties, formerly belonging to the Glatfelter Pulpwood Company, a forest products company based in York, Pa., have been purchased outright or saved through the use of conservation easements. Together with previous purchases and easements accomplished between the fall of 2000 and early 2004, the state and its private sector partners have now protected more than 7,400 of Glatfelter’s original 18,600 acre holding. Early last year, Sussex County Council, also purchased an additional 1,187-acre tract from Glatfelter near Millsboro, which will be used for spray irrigation and open space.
Delaware’s partners in these historic transactions have been The Conservation Fund, a non-profit environmental organization headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, and The Forestland Group LLC, a timberland investment management organization based in Chapel Hill, N.C.
In addressing a group of state legislators, county officials, and officers of the state’s partnering organizations at Legislative Hall, Governor Minner emphasized that, “I will continue to work to protect additional properties not only in Sussex County but throughout the entire state of Delaware. The preservation of open space through acquisition of parkland, forestlands and historic properties has been a key initiative of my administration. The rewards are priceless because they will benefit generations of those who will follow us. It goes without saying that all of Sussex County is experiencing development pressures. But with this acquisition of forest land, combined with past and future preservation efforts, we are succeeding in the fight against sprawl.”
The State paid $15.325 million for the Glatfelter properties, the USDA Forest Service, State and Private Forestry Program, contributed $1.975 million of Forest Legacy Program funds towards the purchase, and the Forestland Group supplied the remaining $950,000.
“We are experiencing a sea change for conservation and forestry in America,” said Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund. “If we are to permanently conserve our nation’s forestlands, we must create innovative public-private partnerships that balance economic growth with environmental principles. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Governor Minner and the commitment of The Forestland Group and Glatfelter Company, these lands are now part of Delaware’s land legacy to be forever enjoyed by future generations of outdoor enthusiasts.”
Delaware Transportation Secretary Nathan Hayward III, who helped negotiate the purchases on behalf of the state said, “These record breaking transactions could never have occurred without the Governor’s clear vision and support from the General Assembly which has embraced so much of her Livable Delaware program.”
The state’s Department of Agriculture will take title to and manage all of the state’s interests in the lands covered by this recent purchase. Austin Short, Delaware State Forester said, “Protecting these forests will ensure that they will continue to produce the wide variety of benefits enjoyed by all Delawareans,” said Austin Short, State Forester. “These lands not only support our forest products industry by producing wood products, but they also buffer over nine miles of streams and ditches in both the Delaware and Chesapeake Bay watersheds and provide habitat for a variety of wildlife.”
The Forestland Group’s Managing Director Chris Zinkhan said his company pursues investments primarily in naturally regenerating hardwood and pine forests.
“The Forestland Group and our partners look forward to managing our Delaware forests on a sustainable basis,” Zinkhan said. “Officials from the State and The Conservation Fund helped to craft a superb working forest conservation easement that will enable these important forests to continue to be managed in a professional manner. We intend to explore such forest management options as extending the cutting cycles in order to increase the size of the timber.”