The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Va.,, USA, and WestRock Foundation, Norcross, Ga., this week announced a partnership for two conservation projects in Southeast Virginia and along the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee. Aligning with The Nature Conservancy, whose mission is to conserve lands and water for people today and for future generations, further demonstrates WestRock’s commitment to sustainable forestry and environmental stewardship.
“The Nature Conservancy thanks the WestRock Foundation for its generous support of our goal to restore longleaf pine forests in Virginia,” said Bill Kittrell, acting director of The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. “This gift will allow us to expand the Big Woods Conservation Area and protect vital floodplain forest along the Nottaway River, which will preserve water quality, support rare species like the red-cockaded woodpecker, and one day be home to the returning longleaf pine tree.”
The WestRock Foundation’s funding in Virginia will help The Conservancy establish conservation easements over 10,000 acres of forestland along the Nottoway River and nearby Big Woods Conservation Area. These easements will preserve high-quality, ecologically diverse floodplain forests and support the restoration of longleaf pine savannas, home to rare red-cockaded woodpeckers and bobwhite quail. In addition to the forest and wildlife benefits of this project, a portion of the targeted conservation region includes acreage in one of the most biologically diverse stretches of the Nottoway River, which is a tributary of the Albemarle Sound. River protection resulting from the project will benefit freshwater flows into the Albemarle Sound estuary, which supports a variety of recreational and commercial uses.
“With the support of the WestRock Foundation, The Nature Conservancy will also be able to preserve critical forestlands and important streams across Tennessee’s Cumberland Plateau,” said Terry Cook, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. “Our scientific analysis has enabled us to target biologically rich and resilient forest areas that we will protect through acquisition and sustainable forestry agreements with private landowners. Thanks to the WestRock Foundation, these forests will remain intact and healthy, benefitting people as well as many imperiled species that live there.”
In Tennessee, the WestRock Foundation’s funding will support land acquisition for conservation, along with efforts to grow forest certifications and increase participation in The Conservancy’s Working Woodlands program in the Cumberland Plateau. Working Woodlands is designed to empower private landowners to conserve their lands as working forests while improving forest management and water quality in headwater streams through the application of forestry best management practices.
“The initiatives, and the WestRock Foundation’s pledge, speak to the importance of shared goals,” says Kevin Hudson, SVP, WestRock, and board member of the WestRock Foundation. “The mission and work of The Nature Conservancy and the WestRock Foundation’s commitment to sustainable forest management and environmental stewardship all align to promote sustained forest health, wildlife diversity, and water quality for this generation and those to come.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, it creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to the world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. The Conservancy is tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters, and oceans at unprecedented scale, and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 65 countries, it uses a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. More information is available online.
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