December 19, 2023

The Conservation Fund, Washington State Partner For Climate Solutions, Sustainable Economies With Coastal Forest Purchase

Deep River Woods acquisition with Washington State Department of Natural Resources promotes climate-smart forestry, habitat protection and community revenue across 20,000 acres 

PACIFIC AND WAHKIAKUM COUNTIES, Wash. The Conservation Fund (TCF), a leading nonprofit in U.S. land and water protection, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have partnered in a $121 million purchase to acquire more than 20,000 acres of forestlands in the southwest part of the state from clients of Manulife Investment Management. 

The two organizations submitted a joint bid for the property at auction, with DNR acquiring 9,115 acres for $55 million, and TCF acquiring the remaining 11,390 acres for $66 million. The Washington State Board of Natural Resources approved DNR’s purchase in November, which was part of the combined bid. TCF and DNR have entered into an option agreement for the 11,390 acres, with TCF managing those lands until DNR can take full ownership. 

“Conserving working forests is a win for nature and wildlife, for local economies and for the climate. That’s why projects like the Deep River Woods acquisition are so important to us,” said Larry Selzer, The Conservation Fund’s president and CEO. “Deep River Woods marks a major addition to the more than 1 million acres of working forest TCF has already acquired around the country. Washington state is a leader in protecting its working forests, and we’re honored to work with DNR on a project that will bring so many benefits to the state’s people and environment.”  

“The Deep River Woods purchases are the perfect example of what happens when we don’t fight over our forests, but instead come together to fight for them,” said Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, who oversees DNR. “This is the State of Washington’s largest land purchase in more than a decade, and one that will help support Washington’s rural communities and keep working forests working — and we could not have reached this win-win outcome without the assistance of The Conservation Fund.”  

“Keeping our forests working is crucial to supporting our rural communities, preventing wildfires, and rebuilding good jobs in the woods,” said U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washington. “Washington State DNR’s future investment in another 11,000 acres of working forests in Wahkiakum County is exciting news for Southwest Washington, and I’ll continue working in Congress to strengthen our forest products economies.” 

In total, Deep River Woods is 20,505 acres consisting of Douglas-fir, western hemlock and red alder tree species west of Longview, Washington, a premier wood products hub in the Pacific Northwest. The vast majority of the lands purchased have high-quality soils, and tree ages ranging from recently harvested and replanted stands to those that are mature enough to be harvested. The property consists of several large parcels that are adjacent to lands owned by Washington state that DNR already manages for sustainable forest management and habitat protection. 

TCF will actively manage its portion of Deep River Woods through its Working Forest Fund® and convey it over time to the DNR for long-term ownership under an option agreement. Under DNR ownership, the property will provide a significant benefit to the local communities that depend on the revenue from timber harvests. This revenue will provide critical funds for a range of public services, including schools, libraries and fire departments. 

TCF used capital from its green bonds and a loan from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to purchase the forest. As one of the nation’s top funders of land conservation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s legacy is etched across every state — with more than 4.5 million acres of environmentally sensitive areas protected throughout America. 

Said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation: “This forestland supports important habitat for endangered bird species. It provides clean water vital to native salmon populations. And these lands also are essential to the local timber industry and the state’s effort to manage forests for both economic and climate benefits. Conserving this forestland is a multi-faceted accomplishment for Washington and the nation, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation is proud to partner with The Conservation Fund to help make it happen.” 

For the lands immediately acquired by DNR, 941 acres were purchased with $7.2 million in funding from prior property sales and will benefit K-12 school construction across Washington state. That tract is on the southern end of the Elochoman State Forest east of Cathlamet, the Wahkiakum County seat. 

The other 8,174 acres of land immediately acquired by DNR, which are north and northwest from Cathlamet, were purchased with $47.8 million in Climate Commitment Act funding allocated in the 2023-25 capital budget. These three tracts will be held in DNR’s Land Bank, allowing them to be designated to support specific public services at a later date. 

“Working timberlands have declined in our state and county for decades,” said Pacific County Commissioner Lisa Olsen. “This purchase will prevent the conversion of some of the best forestland in the world to other uses, keeping it as working forest and supporting the needs of rural communities while providing valuable wood products for people everywhere.” 

Moreover, the Deep River Woods acquisition positions the state to further deliver on its recently passed Climate Commitment Act, which implemented a cap-and-invest program to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions. Deep River Woods supports the state’s climate goals by enhancing the balance of revenue-generating working forestlands so that other state-managed lands can be set aside for carbon sequestration. 

The Deep River Woods project additionally protects critical habitat for salmon, steelhead and threatened or endangered species, such as the marbled murrelet, a small, diving seabird that forages in marine waters, but nests in forests. 

“We believe this acquisition by the Washington Department of Natural Resources working with The Conservation Fund will be good for the timber industry in southwest Washington. It will support quality jobs in the forests and wood products industries, as well as keeping wildlife and watersheds healthy,” said Tom Sarno, global head of timberland investments at Manulife Investment Management. 

Deep River Woods project map.
Map of the Deep River Woods project. Courtesy of Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund protects the land that sustains us all. We are in the business of conservation, creating innovative solutions that drive nature-based action in all 50 states for climate protection, vibrant communities and sustainable economies. We apply effective strategies, efficient financing approaches, and enduring government, community and private partnerships to protect millions of acres of America’s natural land, cultural sites, recreation areas and working forests and farms. To learn more, visit 

About The Washington State Department of Natural Resources
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz, DNR manages more than 5.6 million acres of state-owned forest, range, commercial, agricultural, conservation, and aquatic lands. Of these, more than half are held in trust to produce income to support public schools and other essential services. State trust lands managed by DNR provide other public benefits, including outdoor recreation, habitat for native fish and wildlife, and watersheds for clean water. Every acre of DNR-managed forestland across Washington state is independently certified under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. 

Media Contacts
Josh Lynsen | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |
Kenny Ocker | Washington State Department of Natural Resources | 360-810-1217 |