The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund and Bottomland Forest Stewardship Program will focus on about 35 North Carolina and Virginia counties that include about 6 million acres of forest of all types. Of this total, about 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 that offer a wide variety of environmental benefits and contain some of the most unique plant and wildlife communities in the Atlantic coastal plain.
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 Endowment has identified four distinct forest ecosystems that are worthy of special protection, based on its own experience with conservation and environmental issues and through consultation with leading independent academic and environmental organizations.
It’s vital we ensure these sensitive areas remain a part of otherwise managed working forests to serve as refuges and sources of structural and biological diversity across the greater landscape. They are:
In 2016, the Endowment will lead a conservation planning process for Enviva, appointing and administering a science-based advisory committee that will make additional recommendations to protect bottomland forests. While each of these four forest types have been part of managed forest operations for more than a century, in recent years cypress and Atlantic white cedar have not been regenerating as expected. Enviva has decided to avoid any additional pressure that would exacerbate a situation that is not yet fully understood.
The Bottomland Ecosystems We Protect
Cypress-tupelo swamps are characterized by saturated soils during the growing season and standing water during certain times of the year. The highly organic soils of swamps form a thick, black, nutrient rich environment for the growth of water-tolerant trees such as cypress, Atlantic white cedar and tupelo.
Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum (bald cypress, cypress, southern-cypress, white-cypress, tidewater red-cypress, Gulf-cypress, red-cypress, or swamp cypress) is a deciduous conifer that grows on saturated and seasonally inundated soils of the southeastern and Gulf coastal plains of the United States.
Water Tupelo – Nyssa aquatica, commonly called the water tupelo, cottongum, wild olive, tupelo, tupelo-gum, or water-gum, is a large, long-lived tree in the tupelo genus (Nyssa) that grows in swamps and floodplains in the southeastern United States. Nyssa aquatica trunks have a swollen base that tapers up to a long, clear bole, and its root system is periodically under water.
Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic white cedar, Atlantic white cypress, or whitecedar falsecypress), is native to the Atlantic coast of North America from Maine to Georgia, with a disjunct population on the Gulf of Mexico coast from Florida to Mississippi. It grows on wet sites on the coastal plain at altitudes from sea level up to 50 meters.
Often tucked between coastal freshwater marshes and deepwater swamp forests of the southeastern coastal plain, low Pocosins are one of the South’s rarest wetlands. Low Pocosins generally occur in flat, poorly drained areas with a sandy or peaty acidic soil composition. The word “pocosin” comes from the Algonquin Native American word for “swamp-on-a-hill.” These wetlands are dominated by small trees and shrubs and have a high water table, leaving the soil saturated for much of the year.
Carolina bays are elliptical geologic depressions in the sand of the southeastern coastal plain. Called “bays,” they are not ocean inlets, but rather, these depressions are usually surrounded by a variety of bay trees such as red bays and sweet bays. The depressions are almost perfectly oval and are unique. They support an abundant community of plant and animal life.
In addition to the Endowment’s staff of foresters and wildlife biologists, the Endowment made preliminary outreach calls to a wide range of land management agencies and conservation organizations to identify the most sensitive forestlands for preservation including state forestry agencies in Virginia and North Carolina, the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, National Resource Conservation Service and land trusts in both states.
“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.”