In its second conservation collaboration, The Conservation Fund, based in Arlington, Va., and the Hancock Timber Resource Group, Boston, pulled off the largest conservation-related acquisition in the history of the Chesapeake Bay watershed in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.
More than 75,000 acres were acquired on the Delmarva Peninsula -- a large tract earmarked for preservation -- in an area under heavy threat from development and environmental degradation.
In a complex transaction negotiated by The Conservation Fund, the state of Maryland and the Richard King Mellon Foundation, each purchased 29,000 acres in Maryland, while The Conservation Fund acquired a total of 18,000 acres in Delaware and Virginia.
The property was part of a 278,000-acre acquisition of timberland by Hancock Timber from Chesapeake Corp. in early September.
Some areas within the 76,000 acres will remain working forests, protecting the local economy, which is timber-based.
The Conservation Fund is working on a long-term forest management plan for the 29,000 acres purchased for $16.5 million by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Those acres eventually will be donated to the state of Maryland.
Bill Coleman, Hancock Timber president and chief executive officer, said in a statement: "The Chesapeake 2000 initiative has highlighted open space preservation -- particularly of forests along rivers and streams -- as critical to the health of the bay. We actively sought this partnership with The Conservation Fund because we recognize that these sensitive lands belong in public trust. The transaction is a significant step in our environmental stewardship program."
Hancock Timber and The Conservation Fund's first collaboration was for a conservation easement on 31,000 acres in Vermont in 1996, then the largest such agreement east of the Mississippi.