Rayonier buys 18,000 acres of timberland in St. Johns, Flagler

Yulee-based company paid almost $24 million.

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Yulee-based Rayonier Inc. bought about 18,000 acres of timberland last week in St. Johns and Flagler counties for almost $24 million.

It bought the land from Wilson Green LLC, part of Greenfield Partners, a Connecticut real estate investment company.

Rayonier hasn’t said what it will do with the land.

“As a public company, we don’t comment on acquisitions or divestitures outside of our ordinary public disclosures or other public release,” said Alejandro Barbero, director of strategic development and communications.

Barbero said in February, after a sale of timberland, that “We are a timber REIT and we continuously evaluate our portfolio.”

Rayonier, through Rayonier Atlantic Timber Co., paid $16 million for almost 12,416 acres of timberland in southern St. Johns County and almost $8 million for about 5,392 acres in Flagler County.

The purchase works out to about $1,347 an acre.

The St. Johns County property is near Interstate 95 and Florida 206 West in Hastings and St. Augustine. The Flagler County land is just south of that.

Wilson Green’s address is with Greenfield Partners in Westport, Connecticut. The deeds were signed by Barry Marcus, a principal with Greenfield Partners and senior vice president with Wilson Green LLC.

Greenfield Partners is a real estate investment manager. Marcus has not returned a call for comment.

Wilson Green LLC’s mailing address is 101 E. Town Place, Suite 150, which is Fletcher Davis Co. of St. Augustine.

Fletcher Davis says on its website that Wilson Green comprises almost 20,000 acres, largely in St. Johns County with some land in Flagler County.

The land was identified as “the keystone to create large corridors that perpetuate the movement of wildlife and biological resources from the Atlantic Ocean to the Ocala and Osceola National Forests.”

A Fletcher Davis representative has not returned calls for comment.

Rayonier’s May 30 purchase comes several months after it sold about 11,000 acres of timberland in southern St. Johns County to a New York-based hedge fund, which bought the land as First Coast Land and Timber LLC.

That purchase was made in two deals in December and February totaling $39.8 million, or $3,622 an acre.

First Coast Land and Timber shares a New York City address with Ruane, Cunniff & Goldfarb Inc., a privately owned hedge fund sponsor.

Rayonier is an international real estate investment trust with about 2.6 million acres in the United States and New Zealand. Its holdings include about 1.8 million acres in the South.

Of that, 348,000 acres are in Florida.

According to Rayonier, its real estate operation develops strategies to transition timberland for higher and better uses while its forest resources operation sells timber to markets that include pulp, paper, building products and energy production.

In its June 2018 investor presentation, Rayonier said it acquired $1.6 billion of timberland since 2011. It pursues “acquisitions that improve portfolio quality and sustainable yield.”

It reports that from 2015-17, its sales of $266 million averaged $2,873 an acre.

Rayonier made another sale last year, too. In September, it sold 1,311 acres at its Crawford Diamond Industrial Park for $13.1 million to Florida Power & Light Co.

The utility has not announced plans for the property, although it has been building solar farms in the state. 

Its parent company, NextEra Energy, contracted with China-based JinksoSolar Holding Co. Ltd. to buy solar panels from its Jacksonville production facility in development at Cecil Commerce Center.