Private investors protect vast forests in U.S. coal country – by Carey L. Biron (Reuters U.S. – July 15, 2019)

WASHINGTON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Private investors have backed what supporters say is one of the largest conservation acquisitions ever in the eastern United States, offering a promising new model to protect land.

Conservation group the Nature Conservancy announced Monday that it and partners now control almost 400 square miles (1,000 sq km) of land in three states in the central Appalachian Mountains, traditionally heavily dependent on coal mining.

The tracts, part of what backers say is one of the world’s largest intact forests, were purchased from timber management entities through a $130 million investment fund.

The parcels connect other protected areas in a region that scientists have identified as a global biodiversity hotspot and a key source of freshwater, said Charlotte Kaiser, managing director of the charity’s investing arm, NatureVest.

“I like to think we’re setting a bar for climate-resilient forest management that can generate a return, that investors can find attractive and that others will seek to emulate,” Kaiser told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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