By Iris Richmond Part of Weyerhaeuser Co.'s Northwest holdings, the Snoqualmie Forest just east of Seattle, Wash., has long been the object of affection for conservationists. An innovative financing mechanism structured by forestry consultants made the timber company amenable to a land deal with the Evergreen Forest Trust. Weyerhaeuser gets $185 million for 104,000 acres in the Snoqualmie Forest, and the trust gets control over future development -- or the absence of it.
Using a concept never before applied to a conservation purchase, the Trust intends to raise money to protect the acreage by issuing Community Forestry Bonds. The Trust will repay money borrowed by continuing to harvest, and then sell, timber on carefully designated "working forests" over the next four decades. If the Trust succeeds in getting IRS approval to issue the tax-exempt bonds, it can raise millions of dollars quickly and without philanthropic or government support.
"It's ironic in a mild way that they will have to cut trees to save trees," says Frank Mendizabal, Weyerhaeuser's director of media relations, who sees the financing mechanism as evidence of the maturing of the environmental movement. Although no agreements have been made, Weyerhaeuser could end up being a buyer of the Trust's timber.
After the transaction closes this summer, Weyerhaeuser will own 7.4 million acres of productive commercial timberland in the United States (including the acres acquired from its pending merger with Willamette Industries).
BIG BUILDER Magazine, March 2002