Lessons of a land deal

Delmarva: Woodlands purchase a prime example of states, private concerns working for public benefit.

August 07, 1999

THE DEAL to preserve 76,000 acres of Delmarva Peninsula timberland is an example of how Delaware, Virginia and Maryland can -- and should -- work closely to protect valuable shared resources.

It's also an example of how private conservation groups are often crucial in negotiating and acquiring land for public benefit.

The good faith and cooperation of private landholders was also critical to the deal -- their willingness to accept below-market sales prices for the properties and to work within the sometimes cumbersome political process.

Maryland's acquisition of 58,000 acres of ecologically valuable forest on the Eastern Shore won support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, which is paying half the $33 million cost, and the Nature Conservancy, which brokered the agreement with owner Chesapeake Forest Products Co.

FOR THE RECORD - A Saturday editorial should have credited the Conservation Fund with brokering a deal for the state to acquire 58,000 acres of Eastern Shore forest land. The Sun regrets the error.

Last year, the Conservation Fund and Mellon Foundation engineered a public-private deal to acquire almost 300,000 acres of Northeast forest and wilderness land. The fund also was vital last year in public acquisition of the Chapman's Landing development in Charles County.

As in the New England land deal, carefully regulated timbering will likely occur on part of the property as a condition of its transfer to the state. During its ownership of the more than 600 tracts, Chesapeake Forest Products has been praised for its conservation ethic and voluntary preservation decisions.

When Chesapeake struck a preliminary deal in April with Hancock Timber Resource Group to buy its Delmarva timberlands, the conservation groups and the states quickly looked for ways to protect the important parcels.

The result is Maryland's largest single land acquisition ever, the public value of which will be many times its minimal cost.

Pub Date: 8/07/99

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