Plum Creek Timber Co., based in Seattle, plans to buy 650,000 acres of forest in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula from Escanaba Timber LLC for $345 million. The deal would make Plum Creek the biggest private landowner in Michigan, and would bring Plum Creek’s holdings in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula to 1.2 million acres.
Additionally, International Paper has recently put nearly a half million acres of Upper Peninsula land up for sale.
The prospect of new ownership has raised concerns about whether the forests will remain open to the public for hunting, fishing and snowmobiling, which generations of outdoor lovers have taken for granted.
A spokesperson for Plum Creek stated the company, which owns about 8 million acres nationwide and is one of the nation’s largest corporate timberland owners, opens much of its land for public recreation.
Earlier this year, the state and The Nature Conservancy struck a $57.9 million bargain with another corporate landowner to place 271,000 acres of Upper Peninsula forestland in a conservation easement. The deal provides for continued public access and sharply limits development.
Garret Johnson, chief conservation officer for The Nature Conservancy in Michigan, said the group would consider proposing a similar arrangement for at least some of the Plum Creek land, which stretches across the central and western U.P.
“The goal would be to keep it in private ownership and on the tax rolls, keep it in production so it contributes to the local economy,” Johnson said. “But also keep it open for hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other recreation, and keep it from being fragmented.”