Northfield Ridge Forest represents a long-term timber investment opportunity with attractive species composition, well-drained soils on sloping terrain, and young and middle-aged stands, well-positioned for robust asset appreciation.
The ownership, The Conservation Fund (TCF), is a non-profit conservation organization whose Mission Statement is “TCF, working with public, private and nonprofit partners, protects America’s legacy of land and water resources through land acquisition, sustainable community and economic development, and leadership training, emphasizing the integration of economic and environmental goals”. Their goal in divesting of this property is to raise funds to further their forestland conservation work on new projects.
Investment highlights include:
The property is located in central Vermont, along the eastern slopes of the Northfield Range, a prominent, 30-mile-long chain of mountains that runs from Northfield to Stockbridge. This range parallels the larger Green Mountain Range located just to the west over the ridge, where the Green Mountain National Forest and two alpine ski resorts are located.
Road access in this part of Vermont is excellent, with Vermont Routes 12, 14 and 100 providing north and south access. In addition, Interstate 89 is located 12 miles from the land, allowing swift access to forest product facilities to the south and north, including Canadian facilities. Nearby Vermont Routes 4, 2 and 302 provide solid access to mill destinations to the east in New Hampshire and Maine, as well as markets to the west in northern New York. Locally, the largest town is Randolph with a population of 5,000. Montreal, Canada and Boston are both within a 2.5-hour drive.
Northfield Ridge Forest offers a comprehensive road network, facilitating forest management activities on nearly all of the land. There is ±0.9 miles of road frontage along paved Route 12A. Additional town road access is provided by ±2 miles of frontage along Braintree Mountain Road. While not maintained by the town, this road offers a solid truck route to the central portion of the land. There are six gated access points along Route 12A, including ±2 miles of developed right-of-way across adjacent property owner’s land.
An extensive road system has been developed in the interior of the property, with ±14 miles of truck roads servicing 26 log landings.
The property spans nearly 5.5 miles from north to south and, at its center, stretches 2 miles across. This considerable footprint covers various terrain, ecological types and watersheds. The western boundary largely runs along the spine of the Northfield Range, where four peaks rise above 3,000’ ASL (above sea level). The highest of these peaks reaches 3,130’ ASL, while seven additional peaks rise to between 2,500’ ASL and 3,000’ ASL. This high-elevation terrain represents considerable future conservation value. From this high ground, the land all slopes downhill to the east, towards Route 12A and the lowest point on the property at ±800’ ASL.
Seven “top of the watershed” streams originate on the land and descend easterly along narrow valleys, often creating scenic falls with large boulders and deep pools.
The sloping terrain is largely well drained, creating excellent soil conditions for development of northern hardwoods, including specifically some of the best sugar maple and yellow birch stands in the region. The exception to these rich, hardwood-supporting soils are the tops of the east/west running ridges (and a few of the steeper side slopes) where soils are thinner and species composition shifts to softwoods. Here, red spruce is the primary species, highly sought-after for structural lumber due to its growth characteristics. There are virtually no wetlands on the property given its steadily sloping terrain.
The land is situated in a heavily forested area, unbroken by major roads and electric grid transmission lines. As such, wildlife enthusiasts may see large mammals like black bear, moose, white-tailed deer, fisher cats and coyotes, all of which are commonly seen on the land.
The recent timber data reveals a total sawlog volume of 16,984 MBF International ¼” scale (2.4 MBF/acre) and 69,371 pulpwood cords (9.8 cords/acre). Combined total per acre volume is 14.6 cords. Stumpage values were assigned to the volumes in December of 2020, producing a property-wide Capital Timber Value (CTV) of $4,759,000 ($672/commercial acre).
A species composition dominated by hardwoods prevails, with hardwoods at 91% and softwoods at 9% of total volume. Species composition for all products combined offers a favorable mix led by sugar maple at 38% of total volume, followed by yellow birch at 18%, both species with historically strong demand.
Overall, forest stocking is variable, depending on the type and level of previous harvesting. Most stands are fully stocked with a diverse age range. Natural regeneration has become fully established in areas that were previously thinned, regenerated or clear cut. Average Basal Area (BA) is 83 ft2 on 176 stems/acre.
Stem quality for the maple and yellow birch (the primary species) in all age classes is very good, providing for robust asset appreciation in the coming decades.
Average diameter for all products combined by volume is 13”, while the average sawlog diameter is 14”. Average diameters for the two major species are sugar maple 14.5” and yellow birch 15”. The typical bell-shaped diameter distribution curve represents trees from all age classes, offering a steady future cash flow.
During the current ownership’s tenure, forestry thinning operations have been conducted on a few hundred acres in 2017-18. The previous owner conducted forestry operations on most of the acreage during their tenure which began in 2002. Generally, the forest stocking is such that nearly all stands are in a free-to-grow state, providing ideal asset appreciation conditions.
The seller is retaining an option over the next 10 years to acquire from the new owner a conservation easement covering the property. This option will allow the seller to purchase a conservation easement at a value of 75% of the fair market value of the conservation easement (based on appraised value), at the time the option is exercised. This option offers the new owner an active partner who will work to secure the necessary funding to purchase the easement, providing an alternative revenue source during their ownership tenure.
During the 10-year option term, the owner shall maintain the land’s enrollment in the Use Value Appraisal program in good standing and not develop or subdivide the land unless mutually agreed upon with the option holder.
A copy of the Option Agreement is available upon request.