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Wood pellet producer Enviva launches $5m forest conservation fund

Enviva Holdings, one of the world’s largest wood pellet producers, is establishing the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund.

The $5 million (€4.6m), 10-year programme is designed to protect tens of thousands of acres of bottomland forests in northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia in the US.

The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund (EFCF), administered by the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities (USEFC), will award matching-fund grants to non-profit organisations to permanently protect ecologically sensitive areas and conserve working forests.

The EFCF will focus on 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.

‘Enviva has always believed there are special places in the forest that should remain so. For instance, we have never harvested nor have we accepted wood from old growth forests,’ says John Keppler, chairman and CEO of Enviva.

‘Although we are small – in 2014 our entire industry accounted for less than one-tenth of one percent of America’s forest inventory – as a young company in a new field, we want to be known for always doing the right thing,’ Keppler adds.

In addition to the sizable grant programme, the EFCF is underpinned by two bottomland forest stewardship pillars.

The USEFC has identified four specific types of sensitive bottomland forest ecosystems through consultation with leading independent academic and environmental organisations, which will be priority conservation targets for the EFCF.

Enviva will work with the USEFC to catalogue and protect these four sensitive habitats, and to document the company and its suppliers do not cause them harm.

The USEFFC will also appoint a science-based review team to develop enhanced forestry practices for working bottomland forests.

This committee will recommend specific additional measures to define and protect sensitive areas, which Enviva will incorporate into its wood supply practices.

‘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,’ says Carlton N. Owen, USEFC’s president and CEO.

‘The EFCF will permanently protect some of the most sensitive bottomland forests in Virginia and North Carolina and will improve the sustainable management of others,’ Owen continues.

The USEFC will solicit grant applications, asking qualified organisations to identify specific bottomland tracts that are eligible for protection, and grants will be awarded annually starting in 2016.

The EFCF will consider a variety of protection strategies, including purchasing land via fee or conservation easement, and grant making priority will be given to organisations that bring matching funds.

To produce wood pellets, Enviva does not use high-grade wood (also called saw logs) that could be milled into furniture or lumber.

Instead the company 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, the company says.