International Paper sells 2,855 acres to state

Published 11:05 am Friday, January 11, 2013


RICHMOND —The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation has purchased 2,855 acres from International Paper for $2 million for preserving the native longleaf pine.

The property lies south of Franklin in Suffolk and is an addition to the 287-acre South Quay Sandhills Natural Area Preserve along the Blackwater River near the North Carolina border. Plans for the preserve include re-establishment of the trees on about 1,500 acres.

“For more than a century, International Paper has acted as a steward of the land, and we are pleased to be part of another conservation effort in Virginia,” said Teri Shanahan, vice president of sustainability at International Paper.

South Quay contains the last-remaining longleaf pine sandhill community in Virginia. Longleaf pine forests once covered more than one million acres in southeast Virginia, but have declined since Colonial times. Today, about 120 individual mature trees remain.

“Longleaf pine was once a dominant part of our landscape and integral to the lives of generations of Virginians,” said DCR Director David Johnson. “In fact, a personal treasure of mine is one of the many small boxes my grandmother handcrafted from longleaf pine needles. To see this special place protected is a landmark moment for all Virginians.”

The property has long contributed to the region’s rich manufacturing history.

Since 2005, the company has helped to safeguard more than 1.5 million acres through donations, easements and sales.

General obligation bonds of $1 million from 2002 and a $1 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program funded the purchase. The purpose of the Forest Legacy Program is to protect environmentally important forests from being converted to non-forest use. The Virginia Department of Forestry manages the grant program.

About 100 acres at South Quay still support mature longleaf pines that are suitable for seed production.

DCR will partner with The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to implement a prescribed-fire plan. Longleaf pine and many of the rare plants found at the site depend on fire for survival.

The preserve is a cornerstone of a larger effort to conserve iconic, ecologically important blocks of forest in the Chowan River Basin. Much of the well-drained sandhills habitat extending from the preserve into North Carolina has been conserved, as have the deep cypress and tupelo swamp forests along the Blackwater and Chowan rivers.