Permanently protecting sensitive bottomland forests is the cornerstone of the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund. Enviva’s $5 million commitment over the next 10 years is designed specifically to protect and conserve tens of thousands of acres of sensitive bottomland forests in northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia.
The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund, which will be administered by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, will award matching-fund grants to nonprofit organizations to protect ecologically sensitive areas and conserve working forests over the next decade.
At its outset, the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund will focus on about 35 North Carolina and Virginia counties that include 6 million acres of forests of all types. Of this total, 20 percent are bottomland forests – low-lying, marshy areas near rivers and streams that are home to tree species such as cypress, gum and oak. Conservation efforts in this area of the Virginia-North Carolina coastal plain are especially important to the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund because these communities are home to three wood pellet production facilities and a deep-water marine terminal owned by Enviva.
The goal of the joint effort by Enviva and the Endowment is to act as a catalyst that will attract other conservation investments in the region, preserving 35,000 acres of bottomland forests.
Though the vast majority of Enviva’s wood supply comes from areas other than bottomland forests, the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund is targeting these areas because they offer a wide range of environmental and economic benefits while facing a number of potential threats, including conversion to other uses.
“The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund’s grants and Enviva’s enhanced sustainable practices will protect and conserve forests, and provide working bottomland forest owners with markets which will keep these forests as forests. The commitments we are making today are unique in our industry and we are proud to lead on these important issues. Our program will deliver tangible environmental and economic benefits to Virginia and North Carolina.”
“Southern forests help clean our water, shield us from storms and serve as home to many species of wildlife, while at the same time providing jobs and economic opportunity for rural families and private landowners.”
“Enviva’s investment in environmental stewardship will help conserve the sensitive forest areas of North Carolina and Virginia. These steps will help preserve biodiversity in sensitive areas, conserve special forests where Enviva works, and continue to provide economic opportunities for the communities Enviva serves.”
In addition to the sizeable grant program, the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund’s mission will be supported by the expansion of two bottomland forest stewardship pillars that exemplify Enviva’s commitment to protecting the region’s forests and environmentally sensitive areas.
To produce wood pellets, Enviva does not use high-grade wood (also called saw logs) that could be milled into furniture or lumber. Enviva uses only low-grade or leftover materials such as crooked or diseased trees, limbs, tops, chips and sawdust and where markets allow, pulpwood. Enviva does not accept wood that is harvested from old growth forests or other sensitive areas.
To prioritize grant-making opportunities for the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund, the Endowment identified four distinct ecosystems worthy of conservation: cypress-tupelo swamps, Atlantic white cedar stands, pocosins and Carolina bays. In developing its recommendations, the Endowment consulted with a wide range of other organizations including state forestry agencies in Virginia and North Carolina, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and land trusts in both states.
These four wetland ecosystems and forest types contain some of the most unique plant and wildlife communities found across the Atlantic coastal plain. They provide a range of important environmental benefits, including improving water quality and maintaining wildlife habitats.
These areas will be priority conservation targets for the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund and will serve as a foundation for future expansions of our conservation efforts. Although the vast majority of Enviva’s wood comes from areas other than bottomland forests, Enviva will work with the Endowment to catalog and protect these four sensitive habitats and to document the company and its suppliers do not cause them harm.
Additional forest types or landscape features may be added to this list as a result of the science-based management practices review. Enviva’s proprietary “track and trace” system, which utilizes tract-level GPS coordinates to trace every wood delivery to the company, will be used to verify that the company’s sustainability policies are observed.
To continue its work identifying sensitive bottomland forest tracts, and to develop enhanced sustainable management practices for bottomland forestry, the Endowment empaneled a “blue-ribbon panel” composed of environmental and forestry experts. This multi-stakeholder group proposed a number of recommendations for research and management in these areas.
The “blue-ribbon panel,” which was funded by the Endowment and Enviva, included members from state forestry and wildlife agencies, universities and conservation groups. The panel’s proposals build on Best Management Practices (BMPs) and the long tradition of sustainable forestry in bottomland areas, and are designed to protect water quality and a broad range of other ecological attributes.
Enviva has already begun applying these recommendations to its sourcing process. On October 14, 2016, Enviva held a conference call with members of the “blue-ribbon panel” to discuss its recommendations. A recording of that conference call can be found here.
“The coastal forests of Virginia are a precious natural resource, and the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund will play an important role in protecting and conserving them. Programs such as the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund help families and other landowners keep these forests as forests for generations to come. Both our environment and our communities benefit when private industry develops and supports these types of conservation efforts.”
“Enviva is one of the fastest-growing companies in the wood pellet industry. It turns byproducts of sawtimber harvests into renewable fuel that is in great demand around the world. By creating this Forest Conservation Fund, Enviva is ensuring that North Carolina’s bottomland forests will be sustained and protected for generations to come.”
“Ensuring that working forests are sound habitats for a wide range of bird species includes maintaining diversity within individual forest stands and at the landscape level. Enviva’s plan to identify and protect specific wetland forest types, such as Atlantic White Cedar, and to continue to enhance management of working forests, is a great step toward this goal for the Coastal Plain of Virginia and North Carolina.”
“I applaud the Endowment and Enviva for this innovative and positive agreement to ensure conservation and management of our critical forested wetland habitats. This agreement is the model of how corporate America can and should work to truly define sustainability for the future. Enviva’s commitment to protect diminishing hardwoods, cedars, pocosins and bays will help ensure a healthy future for both important habitats and forest product supply.”
“Increasingly, conservation successes will be defined by the convergence of business and the environment. The partnership of the U. S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and Enviva is a great example of how the innovation of business can accelerate the achievement of conservation on the ground. The enhanced management of family-owned forests, the permanent protection of the most sensitive areas, and the clear signal that healthy markets for forest products translates into forests being kept as forests rather than being converted to shopping centers, all are great outcomes of this strong partnership.”
“I commend Enviva for their new initiative to conserve bottomland hardwood forests in North Carolina. This project is a great example of private enterprise leading conservation efforts across our state.”
“The hardwood forests of the Southeast have been actively harvested for centuries. Unfortunately, all-too-often harvesting was done by ‘tak’n the best and leav’n the rest’. What’s often needed to restore those forest to resiliency and to help keep the forests healthy and productive are markets for the low-value trees left behind. The Enviva/Endowment plan is to harvest and allow for natural regeneration on operable sites while protecting stands on fragile soils in order to accomplish both economic and ecological objectives.”
“The raw materials that supply the wide range of forest products – from paper to lumber and more – are heavily dependent upon stewardship by our nation’s family forest owners. Just paying the annual taxes, insurance and maintenance on those lands can be a challenge. To have a for-profit corporation commit to helping fund long-term forest conservation efforts to help these landowners defray part of these costs and keep their forests as forests benefits us all.”
“An enduring commitment to sustainable forest management and a diversity of strong markets for wood products helped forest owners and managers increase the volume of growing trees in our country by 50 percent since the 1950s. Those forests provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities and economic benefits that improve the quality of life of millions of Americans. Conservation efforts are central to the business of sustainable forestry, helping to protect unique places and sensitive areas essential to the overall health and vitality of our forests. We applaud Enviva’s commitment to sustainable forestry and the people who make it possible.”
“Our agency believes in strong forest markets and the simultaneous conservation of declining forest types. We look forward to working closely with the partners to achieve effective landowner outreach, timely reforestation and active management that will strengthen forest health.”