Conservationists Buy NW Florida Land From Paper Company

Two environmental groups are buying more than 23,000 acres in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties from a paper company.

The deal is part of the largest private land conservation sale in the Southeast United States. It involves the Nature Conservancy and the Conservation Fund purchasing land from International Paper for about $300 million.

It's to serve as buffers between military bases and the Blackwater Water River State Forest.

The Conservation Fund will manage the Gulf Coast Plain Ecosystem Partnership parcel for the next few years and the Nature Conservancy will have the option to buy it later.

Blackwater River State Forest officials say the deal will allow the forest to grow undisturbed.

Forestland in northwest Florida is home to the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker, the threatened Eastern Indigo Snake, Florida Black Bear and other species.