New Georgia-Pacific Policy Increases Protection for Millions of Acres of South’s Natural Hardwood Forests
In a bold commitment to forests, Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific (GP) has announced that it will not purchase trees from Endangered Forests and Special Areas, or from new pine plantations established at the expense of natural hardwood forests. This commitment to increasing protection for forests is the result of six years of engagement between GP and environmental groups Dogwood Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
While GP’s new forest policy applies to all of its operations, as a first step in implementing its commitment on Endangered Forests and Special Areas, GP worked with the environmental groups and scientists to identify 11 Endangered Forests and Special Areas totaling 600,000 acres in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Eco-Region, as well as 90 million acres of natural hardwood forests in the Southern region. Endangered Forests and Special Areas in other regions will be mapped in a similar process, over the coming years.
“No other U.S. company has demonstrated this level of initiative in mapping unique forests across such a broad region,” said Debbie Hammel, NRDC Senior Resource Specialist. “Through this process, GP has proven that—by harnessing scientific advances and seeking conservation guidance—corporations can help protect unique places without sacrificing profitability.”
“Georgia-Pacific has shown real leadership on issues of critical importance in the South. At the same time, our forests are not completely out of harm’s way until other companies also agree to protect them,” said Danna Smith, Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance.
The South’s natural forests are home to more plant and animal species than anywhere else in North America. They also help protect the drinking water for millions of people and naturally eliminate carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Yet less than two percent of the region’s forests are protected, and the South produces more wood and paper than any other place in the world.
The 11 designated Endangered Forests and Special Areas span North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia and include forests in the Alligator River Region, Camp Lejeune Area, Congaree River Area, Croatan National Forest Region, Fort Jackson, Francis Marion National Forest, Holly Shelter Region, Great Dismal Swamp Area Green Swamp Region (account for two distinct areas), and Savannah River Site. These areas are home to endangered species such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker, rare plants including the carnivorous Venus flytrap, and unique geographic features—including pocosins, the Algonquin term for “swamp on a hill.”
To see a map and learn more about some of the special areas that will be protected, click here. (PDF)
In addition to helping protect Endangered Forests and Special Areas, GP is helping to protect the South’s natural hardwood forests from being converted to plantations in the future by not buying pine fiber from natural hardwood forests that have been converted to pine as of July 1, 2008. Over the past several decades, the intense wood and paper production in the region has resulted in the conversion of millions of acres of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations.
These plantations are more intensively managed than natural hardwood forests, often involving the spraying of chemical herbicides and fertilizers, causing concerns about the human health impacts in nearby communities. In addition, the replacement of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations diminishes biodiversity and wildlife habitat and releases carbon into the atmosphere. The conversion of wetland forests to pine plantations has also been linked to increased flooding on the southern coast of North Carolina.
“We will continue to urge the companies that are lagging behind to take action to protect unique places on the Southern landscape and end the conversion of natural hardwood forests to plantations,” added Danna Smith.
Dogwood Alliance, NRDC and RAN are members of the Environmental Paper Network.