REED PLANTATION, Maine — A large chunk of at-risk forestland in southern Aroostook County will be protected thanks to a partnership between one of the world’s largest tech companies and a top-ranked conservation organization.
Apple has given an undisclosed amount of money to The Conservation Fund to buy and manage more than 36,000 acres of at-risk working forestland in Maine and North Carolina, including more than 32,400 acres on the Mattawamkeag River in The County.
The Conservation Fund said Thursday it also is acquiring 3,600 acres of pine and hardwood forest along the southern coast of North Carolina as a result of what Apple said is a collaboration “to help America’s working forests stay working forests.”
The forests that Apple and The Conservation Fund are protecting are larger than the land area of the city of San Francisco.
Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environmental Initiatives, co-authored an article about the partnership with The Conservation Fund CEO Larry Selzer, laying out the company’s case for starting a campaign to supply 100 percent of the fibers used in its paper and packaging “from sustainably managed forests or controlled wood sources.”
To do that, the company is buying and conserving working forestland that produces amounts of wood products equivalent to what it uses in packaging for its electronic products.
Tom Boutureira, New England field representative for The Conservation Fund, said Thursday from his office in Machias that he was “very happy” with the new partnership.
He said Apple approached the conservation organization about collaborating on the deal more than a year ago.
Boutureira said the group looked at several forests before deciding on Reed Forest, casting “a wide net” across Maine.
“We looked for forests that were well stocked with trees and were close to paper mills, along with other criteria,” he said.
Apple’s initiative protects forestlands through The Conservation Fund’s Working Forest Fund. Pioneered by The Conservation Fund in the late 1990s, the program is a model for acquiring and protecting ecologically significant portions of privately-held forests. The program places conservation easements on the land, which ensure sustainable harvests and restrict the subdivision or conversion of land to nonforest uses. In addition, the land can only be sold with the conservation easements intact, and sale proceeds are reinvested to protect other vulnerable forestlands.
Reed’s wetlands, rivers and upland forest provide refuge in the North Woods for Atlantic salmon, bald eagle, northern goshawk and Canada lynx, according to The Conservation Fund.
“We wanted to make sure that this forest remained unchanged for current and future generations,” said Boutureira. “We wanted the jobs to stay there, and we wanted the people to continue to have access to it for outdoor recreation. The wildlife also will be protected.”
He said that Apple has been a “great partner” throughout the process.
Boutureira said he wishes that more attention was paid to the health of the timber and forest industry in America, noting that of 750 million acres of U.S. forests, more than 420 million acres are “working” forest, which provide timber for construction, as well as fiber for paper and packaging. More than 45 million acres of those working forests are at risk of being lost to development, he said.
“It is not an issue that people think about too often, but we all should,” he said. “I applaud Apple for what they are doing.”