Economic Developers React To International Paper News

The largest private landowner in the United States is thinking about selling all of its forestland. International Paper owns hundreds of thousands of acres in East Texas. The land sale could affect the region.

Three years ago when International Paper sold its plywood plant to Canadian oriented strand board manufacturer Nexfor, improvements came for employees and the community. The hope is, it won't be any different if IP sells land holdings.

Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation chairman Mike Aiken said, "Historically we've always done well on these type of things. I don't think it needs to be ignored, but I think we can say we're positive about it." Aiken said no matter what, "The asset is still there--the timber."

International Paper has actually been reducing land ownership for several years, following in the footsteps of Louisiana Pacific. The properties can move fast. Texas Forest Service District Forester John Boyette said, "They've been scooped up by individuals and investment groups who are willing to continue on the good forestry practices that IP and the other companies had been practicing on their land for long times."

Yet there are some negatives, fire among them. As timber companies reduce land holdings they decrease their organized fire protection squads. The threat is intensified by budget cuts for the Texas Forest Service. Boyette explained, "They were trained to the same standards that we were, they had similar equipment, we had the same communication, frequencies. There was a good partnership."

IP also has a good connection with hunters. Many are on waiting lists for IP leases. If property sales occur those leases will change hands or dissolve.

An IP company spokesman tells us if sales of forestlands is in the company's future every effort will be made to make sure the potential buyer recognizes the property's environmental value.