Breaking News Around the State

Climate Strategy Venture Buys the Forestland Group Timberlands

An investment consortium has purchased the 1.7-million-acre timberland portfolio of The Forestland Group for $1.8 billion.

A Nov. 2 announcement states that Anew Climate and an Oak Hill Advisors-led investor group acquired the landholdings and plans to focus on climate issues. Anew Climate is joined by Blue Source Sustainable Forests Co. in the purchase and entered into two agreements to buy an additional 200,000 acres.

“BSFC’s ownership of these properties will bring the highest degree of care and focus on creating real, additional, and measurable environmental benefits for decades to come,” Jamie Houston, Blue Source’s CEO, said in the statement. “We are thrilled to shift the management strategy to a model that enables the trees to be valued for their carbon permanence and global ecological benefit.”

The companies called the transactions one of the largest private forest carbon investments in the United States. It includes land in West Virginia, Virginia, and other states.

The Forestland Group is based in Chapel Hill, NC, and is an AHMI Forestry Division member. The company was founded in 1995 by leaders in conservation and academia and it delivers large-scale climate change mitigation, strategic conservation outcomes, and portfolio returns through the ownership and management of working forests.

Blue Source plans to sustainably manage and maintain the land following strict carbon development requirements and having selective harvests that are significantly below annual tree growth levels, according to the statement. The selective harvests will help restore native biodiversity and strengthen natural defenses against disasters such as fire and disease, while also producing high-value timber products, the companies said.

The deal also increases Anew’s carbon development portfolio, which includes public and private lands, to over 5.6 million acres in mostly North America, the companies said. Anew is an environmental services firm that is majority-owned by TPG Rise, a global impact investing platform run by private equity shop TPG Capital.

“Forests, sustainably managed, are and will be a major climate mitigation tool with substantial benefits to local ecosystems and communities,” Bill Townsend, Anew’s chief strategy officer, said in the same statement.

Biomass Refineries Interested in West Virginia

Companies from France, Taiwan, and Korea are visiting the state looking for sties to build biorefineries. The recent Inflation Reduction Act offers a tax credit incentive for biorefineries. These companies use bark, limbs, and any form of biomass to transform into two basic products: “green” methanol and biochar. Each of the units for these companies requires about 40,000 tons of biomass annually. The units can easily be put in multiple lines as markets and availability of biomass progresses.

Tri-Colored Bat Proposed for Listing by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Another bat species is proposed for listing as “Endangered” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This is sad, but a continuing saga of the White Nose Syndrome in bat species. Initially found in New York in 2006, this fungal disease has spread throughout North America. Some scientists predict regional extinction of all bat species.

Bats species are common in forests throughout West Virginia and most species rely on some tree species for critical stages of their life cycle. Protecting the hibernacula where they overwinter and delaying harvesting of some tree species has been the traditional approach to conserving the habitat in hopes of increasing the population, but these measures are proving to fail as the fungal diseases continues to wipe out bats.