From Mark Lovelace:

Release January 31, 2008

Alliance of Timber Industry Investors and Conservation Interests Intend to Bid on Great Redwood Forest. Coalition’s Proposal Focuses on Permanent Sustainable Timber Operation and Protection in Humboldt County.

(January 31, 2008, Humboldt County, California) – An alliance of community groups, conservation organizations and private investors formally expressed interest in acquiring more than 200,000 acres of redwood forest, the Scotia sawmill and other assets. The coalition’s proposal would create a sustainable timber operation, which would preserve jobs by guaranteeing the forest is always kept in working timber management, and would ensure permanent protection for the remaining old-growth.

In court filings yesterday, the Indentured Trustee for the Noteholders, the largest secured creditor group in the bankruptcy proceedings, proposed a restructuring plan for Scotia Pacific that included an auction of the timberlands and other assets. In a letter sent to the Indentured Trustee earlier in the week, the alliance expressed interest in purchasing the timberlands, mill and other assets.

If the coalition’s proposal comes to fruition it would ensure that 197,000 acres of redwood forests will be permanently kept in sustainable timber management, which provides a permanent source of jobs for the local community, and resolves a long-running environmental dispute by protecting the remaining old-growth and environmentally significant habitat.

“Our goal is to recover the job base by recovering the resource base,” said David Simpson of the Community Forest Team.

The coalition’s proposal, while dependent on an open and public auction occurring, would aim to:

a.. Place 197,000 acres under permanent protection through an enforceable conservation easement that ensures the forests are managed in an environmentally sustainable way while providing a continuous supply of timber to mills in Northern California

b.. Set aside the most ecologically important habitat, including old-growth forests, in publicly protected wildlife areas

c.. Maintain the operations of the Scotia sawmill

d.. Support the current local economy by keeping the forests in sustainable timber management in perpetuity regardless of future ownership

e.. Position Humboldt County to take advantage of future economic opportunities, such as the emerging carbon market

f.. Extend key elements of the existing temporary Habitat Conservation Plan into perpetuity through the easement

­The alliance is a unique combination of experienced and well-capitalized timberland investors and mill operators, globally significant financial institutions, non-profit conservation organizations and community interest groups that combine four powerful elements:

a.. timber industry experience and private financial capacity required for a transaction of this scale,

b.. wood products industry operating expertise and financing capacity

c.. conservation and scientific expertise to ensure that the lands are managed appropriately and the most sensitive are protected; and

d.. community stakeholders to represent the community’s position in decisions for the long-term future of its local forests.

“Our goal, as partners in the alliance, is to focus our operational and financial resources on the Scotia sawmill,” said Tim Fazio, managing partner of Atlas Holdings. “We believe that this mill, coupled with sustainably managed timberlands, can be a viable enterprise and a source of employment and economic stability for the region.”

“Our proposal of a permanent working forest means permanent work for the community,” said John Tomlin, managing member of Conservation Forestry. “The local mill operations are critical to a viable, permanent working forest.”

“Our coalition has the financial capacity, timber management expertise, conservation interest and local community participation to offer the best solution for the community, local workers and for conservation,” said George Yandell, North Coast project director for The Nature Conservancy’s California chapter.

“The Murphy family was a good steward of these lands for years before financial pressures forced a sale,” reflected Simpson. “We want to ensure that the jobs and the land are cared for regardless of future market pressures or changes of ownership. We are proposing a permanent working forest that provides a permanent supply of timber for local mills and local jobs. We want what is best for the long-term viability of the community, the local timber industry and for the
long-term health of the forests. We have found investors whose interests are compatible with our own.”

Though unique, the make up of the coalition is modeled on previous partnerships of conservation interests and private timber investments that have successfully conserved huge tracts of forests, while developing sustainable timber harvesting practices that support local jobs and help ensure a healthy timber industry in the future.

“The Great Redwood Forest,” which includes the long-disputed Headwaters Forest, represents fully 10 percent of the redwoods left on Earth, is home to numerous threatened or endangered species and comprises nearly half the watershed of Humboldt Bay.

Contacts:

Jordan Peavey, The Nature Conservancy, 415-281-0492, jpeavey@tnc.org

David Simpson, Community Forestry Team, 707-629-3670, hnpetrolia@aol.com

Jennifer Benito, Save-the-Redwoods League, 415-362-2352 x314, jbenito@savetheredwoods.org

Zach Sufrin, Atlas Holdings, 203-622-9138, zsufrin@atlasholdingsllc.com

Eloise Hale, Bank of America, 980-387-0013, eloise.hale@bankofamerica.com

Art Harwood, Redwood Forest Foundation Inc., 707-984-6181, art@harwoodp.com

What followed was a description of each involved group, which I’ll post in the comments section.

Addendum: Meanwhile, PALCO has finally gotten around to submitting its bankruptcy plan, and the Governor weighs in.

Photo comes from the Nature Conservancy site.

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