The world rejoiced this morning as Apple triumphantly announced they were buying 36,000 acres of “forestland” to preserve it.

But the reality is that this is not pristine forest but rather timberland. Timberland, a favourite investment of endowments, pension funds and dubious Chinese listed companies, is there for the sole purpose of harvesting.

Apple plans to “sustainably harvest” the forest and use the material in its packaging.

The land consists of two tracts in Maine and North Carolina. They will be managed by The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to environmental causes. The timberland is part of an estimated 45 million acres of private forest in the U.S. that are “in danger of being lost to development”.

Which means harvesting them for use as packaging material doesn’t count as “development”. Right.

In addition to Apple other companies will also be able to buy pulp from these forests as well.

A less hyperbolic and more sober assessment of the announcement was offered by Greenpeace. Daniel Brindis, a senior Forests Campaigner with Greenpeace, stated that “the working forest model, in which trees are harvested with an eye toward the long-term economic well-being of the forest, are generally speaking an improvement over clear-cutting — but that doesn’t mean they’re a panacea.”

“There are a lot of elements about what makes forest use responsible,” he continued, and simply purchasing forestland doesn’t necessarily mean a company (or in this case, a nonprofit) will manage it correctly.

Perhaps Apple can use some of that $100 billion stashed offshore to keep two eyes on the forest and not one.

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