International Paper Supports Heirs Property Initiative In Mississippi
International Paper has announced plans to support The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation as they work alongside the Mississippi Center for Justice to provide legal services, assistance and resources to help historically underserved Mississippians keep generational land and conserve working forests through The Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative. The Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative is a two-year program designed to help families in Mississippi protect and keep their forestland; build generational wealth; and promote productive, sustainably managed forests. Launched in October 2021, the initiative is a joint effort between the centers, with support from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Kimberly-Clark.
Heirs’ property is land passed down informally from generation to generation, often because landowners die without a will. In the absence of a will, the land is considered jointly owned by all heirs, split between multiple family members regardless of whether they have set foot on the land, lived on the property or paid the taxes. This disproportionally affects Black families, and their fractured land is vulnerable to developers, natural resource exploitation, tax sales, and forced partition sales. Owners are faced with the decision to give up their land or go through the complex and costly legal process of resolving title issues. In Mississippi, this has led to an increased rate of forest loss. It is currently estimated that heirs’ property accounts for 1.6 million acres valued at $6.6 billion across the southern Black Belt.
This initiative is based on a successful model developed by the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation in South Carolina, which has helped families resolve more than 319 titles, building family and community wealth and ecological restoration in marginalized communities. The initiative will also provide landowners with forestry education and access to additional funding for forest conservation and responsible forest management.
“International Paper is honored to support this important work in the Mobile Basin, which is making a profound impact on families and sustaining communities and forests where IP employees live and work,” says Sophie Beckham, VP and Chief Sustainability Officer, International Paper. “These efforts are fundamental to support landowners, build climate resilience, and advance our Vision 2030 goals of creating a better future for people and planet.”
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