Enviva announces forest conservation grant recipients

Enviva Holdings, a US wood pellet producer, has announced the recipients of its 2016 forest conversation grants.

The firm runs the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund - a $5 million, 10-year program designed to protect tens of thousands of acres of bottomland forests in northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia.

“We are very pleased to be working with our friends at The Nature Conservancy, Triangle Land Conservancy and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, who will join with the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund to preserve thousands of acres of high conservation value forestland,” said John Keppler, Chairman and CEO of Enviva.

He said: “Enviva has always believed there are special places in the forest that should remain so. This year’s inaugural grants from the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund enable leading environmental organizations to protect those special places through forest stewardship, conservation, preservation and the promotion of sustainable harvesting.”

The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund, established by Enviva, and administered by the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities, is awarding $500,000 in 2016 to preservation and conservation programs that span more than 2,000 acres of environmentally sensitive bottomland and wetland forests in North Carolina and Virginia.

The 2016 Enviva Forest Conservation Fund matching-fund grant recipients are the following:

  • The Nature Conservancy North Carolina Chapter, to assist with acquisition of 1,294 acres of forested wetland in the floodplain of the Roanoke River, Washington County, North Carolina. The property will be protected as part of The Nature Conservancy’s Roanoke River Preserve and includes extensive stands of cypress-tupelo and Atlantic white cedar forests;
  • The Triangle Land Conservancy, to help finance purchase of a permanent conservation easement on 127 acres of bottomland hardwood forest, uplands, and lake area near Raleigh, North Carolina. The lake and wetlands on the property help filter water flowing into the Neuse River, the drinking water source for the Town of Clayton and Johnston County;
  • The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, to assist with acquisition of 385 acres of hardwood bottomland, cypress-tupelo swamps and 2.6 miles of frontage along the State Scenic Nottoway River in Southampton County, Virginia. Conserving this land will provide water quality enhancement and flood storage capacity, and support a myriad of threatened and endangered flora and fauna; and
  • The Nature Conservancy Virginia Chapter, to finance a conservation easement donation of a 408-acre floodplain tract along the Meherrin River, Southampton County, Virginia. This project blends working forest uses with limited harvest designations to maintain health and condition of floodplain forest communities.

“The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund’s grant will help ensure Virginia’s forests continue to harbor wildlife, support recreation and forestry, and clean the air we breathe and the water we drink,” said Michael Lipford, Executive Director of  The Nature Conservancy Virginia Chapter. “The Nature Conservancy is pleased by Enviva’s commitment to conserve sensitive areas that help maintain the health, condition and sustainability of floodplain forests in southeast Virginia.”

The grant recipients were selected from a pool of high-quality applications submitted by local, state and national conservation organizations committed to protecting forests and environmentally sensitive areas in the Virginia-North Carolina coastal plain, an area that is home to three wood pellet production facilities and a deep-water marine terminal owned by Enviva.

Applications were evaluated by the Endowment based on a number of factors, including the ecological quality of the property, potential threats to the property’s integrity, its associated conservation values and links to other conservation areas.

The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund focuses on about 35 North Carolina and Virginia counties that include approximately 6 million acres of forests 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. Most of this is working forestland where harvest is recommended.

Although less than 15% of Enviva’s wood supply in the region comes from bottomland forests, the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund targets sensitive bottomland areas because they offer a wide range of environmental and economic benefits, according to Enviva. Many of them also face the threat of conversion to other uses.

“The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund aims to be a catalyst that will attract other conservation investments to the region, particularly to the bottomlands of the Albemarle Sound drainage basin along the Roanoke, Chowan, Meherrin, Nottoway and Blackwater rivers,” said Carlton N. Owen, president and CEO of the Endowment.

He added: “We received applications from best-in-class conservation organizations and are excited about the environmental and economic benefits our first round of grants will provide for communities throughout North Carolina and Virginia.”

Along with the 2016 grants, the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund is sponsoring two additional initiatives that protect the region’s forests and environmentally sensitive areas:

  • In consultation with leading academic and environmental organizations, the Endowment has identified four specific bottomland forest ecosystems that will be priority conservation targets – cypress-tupelo swamps, Atlantic white cedar stands, pocosins and Carolina bays. Enviva does not take wood from these sensitive areas and is working with its suppliers and landowners to preserve them.
  • The Endowment has empaneled a multi-stakeholder panel to develop enhanced, science-based forestry practices for working bottomland forests, building on the generations-old tradition of sustainable forestry there. This “blue-ribbon committee” is developing specific measures to protect these areas, which Enviva intends to incorporate in its supply practices.

“The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund is an important pillar in Enviva’s commitment to sustainability, but it is just one part of our company’s mission to improve the environmental conditions in the communities we serve,” Keppler said.

He added: “We maintain forest sustainability certifications at every level of our production process. We are developing a proprietary ‘track and trace’ system that will enable us to identify the source of every truckload of wood we use. And our overarching goal is to displace coal with a fuel that can reduce lifetime greenhouse gas emissions. Enviva works every day to ensure sustainable use and protection of our resources.”

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