Working Forest FundWorking Forest Fund
The Working Forest Fund (WFF) evolved from several significant investments The Conservation Fund made in the late 1990s when it ramped up its forestland conservation efforts in response to the changing economic and natural landscape. 

We started with the protection of Champion Forest—nearly 300,000 acres that spanned three states—New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. Champion International announced an open bid process to sell a large portion of their northeastern landholdings—for either all the land at once or for any specific piece. Their offer opened the door to speculators looking for lakefront or riverside property that would yield high profit once subdivided and sold.

After extensive consideration, the Fund weighed the unprecedented opportunity and jumped in, attempting something no conservation organization had tried before—to lead the largest multistate, public-private conservation project in U.S. history.

Our bid won.  We purchased the 294,000-acre tract—keeping 70 percent of the land as a working forest and transferring the remaining 30 percent to public ownership. Protection of 139,000 acres in New York and 132,000 acres in Vermont represented the largest land preservation efforts in each state's history and conservation easements limited further subdivision to ensure long-term protection of the local forest industry.

This complex multistate, multi-partner Champion sale was soon followed by the Fund's facilitation of the 312,000-acre Downeast Lakes Easement in Maine.  We managed New York State's acquisition of a 250,000-acre International Paper working forest easement project in the Adirondacks, and then the purchase of  a 180,000-acre working forest easement in Minnesota. These transactions became a model for large-scale conservation purchases in America. With the acquisition and management of significant blocks of redwood forests in California, our in-house expertise for managing and restoring large-scale forests developed and matured. Building productive relationships with the local business and environmental communities gave us greater confidence to take on more complicated land management projects.

With greater certainty and evidence that our model was viable from both economic and environmental standpoints, the Fund took the next logical step by investing directly in working forests in a number of key forestland geographies. What initially appeared to be a set of unique acquisitions evolved into a new, coherent focus—the Working Forest Fund.