Prairie warbler on a tree branch

Southeast’s Cumberland Plateau Region Receives $1.3 Million in Conservation Grants from NFWF to Support Forest and Stream Habitat Restoration

Seven projects will benefit game species, forest-dependent birds, and fish and mussel species

Prairie warbler

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 16, 2020) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $1.3 million in grants to restore, enhance, and protect shortleaf pine, oak and riparian forests, and in-stream habitats for wildlife in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. The grants will generate nearly $1.5 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $2.8 million.

The projects supported by the seven grants announced today will restore shortleaf pine and oak forests to benefit birds including the northern bobwhite, prairie warbler and Bachman's sparrow. They will also restore aquatic habitats to benefit freshwater mollusks like the Alabama moccasinshell and reptiles like the flattened musk turtle. These projects will also improve soil health and water quality through enhanced forestry and agricultural practices like invasive species removal. This will further enhance the habitats these species rely on and can improve working land productivity, helping landowners to make a living and maintain their way of life.

The grants were awarded through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund (CPSF), a public-private partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Initiative and Altria Group. 

“The Cumberland Plateau is home to species of both ecological and cultural significance, many of which are found only in this region,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The partnerships fostered through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund are helping to leverage technical and financial resources that preserve and restore these unique species and the places they inhabit.”

“NRCS is excited to contribute to restoring working forests in this region where conservation supports not only songbirds but also hunting for northern bobwhite and water quality to support rich stream life,” said NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr. 

Stretching from northwest Alabama to eastern Kentucky, the Cumberland Plateau consists of unique geology and landforms that create a vast diversity of habitats. The region was once dominated by shortleaf pine and oak communities, but these forest habitats have declined over the past several decades due to conversion of forest type, conversion to other land uses, fire suppression, and disease and pest infestations.

These changes contributed to the decline of multiple wildlife species including birds such as Bachman’s sparrow, brown-headed nuthatch and prairie warbler, which rely on open-canopy woodlands and grassland habitats. At the same time, sedimentation and runoff from agriculture, as well as development and modification of streams, threaten the region’s freshwater species, such as the federally endangered fish, Laurel dace, and Black Warrior waterdog, a reclusive salamander.

“Restoring the forests, streams and farmlands of the Cumberland Plateau underscores the Service’s commitment to large-scale conservation for a variety of habitats,” said Leo Miranda, the regional director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the South Atlantic-Gulf & Mississippi Basin. “Along with our public and private partners, and landowners large and small, we are committed to protecting many at-risk, threatened and endangered species while boosting recreation and local economies.”

“We are proud to contribute to this fund and look forward to the long-lasting impact that these seven grants will have on the forest habitats and water quality of the Cumberland Plateau as well as the landowners who depend on these forests,” said Sophie Beckham, International Paper’s chief sustainability officer. “Working with other businesses, government and NGOs to find solutions to restore, enhance and protect this important landscape is just one way International Paper can ensure the future of healthy and abundant forests.” 

“More than two-thirds of the forests across the Cumberland Plateau are owned by families and individuals, making them crucial players in helping ensure healthy shortleaf habitat for wildlife,” said Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. “While these forest owners care about their land, they often face barriers when it comes to taking action to improve it. AFF is proud to support projects in this region that are helping family landowners get the assistance they need to make a positive impact on the land.”

“We recognize the importance of reducing our environmental impact, both through our own actions and by supporting the important work of others,” said Kathryn Fessler, senior director of corporate citizenship for Altria Client Services. “That’s why we’re proud to continue supporting the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's reforestation and water conservation efforts in the Cumberland Plateau.”

Since 2013, the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund has invested more than $7.6 million in projects that will establish and enhance shortleaf pine, oak and riparian forests, and improve stream habitat to benefit the birds and wildlife that rely on these ecosystems.

A complete list of the 2020 grants made through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund is available here.    


About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
Since 1935, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources. NRCS provides technical assistance based on sound science and offers financial assistance for many conservation activities.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About International Paper
International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa and Russia. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods and enable world-wide commerce; pulp for diapers, tissue, and other personal hygiene products that promote health and wellness; and papers that facilitate education and communication. We are headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., employ more than 50,000 colleagues and serve more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries. Net sales for 2019 were $22 billion. For more information about International Paper, our products and global citizenship efforts, please visit See how we’re building a better future for people, the planet and our company at

About American Forest Foundation
The American Forest Foundation (AFF) is a national non-profit conservation organization that protects and measurably increases the clean water, wildlife habitat, and sustainable wood supplies that come from family-owned forests. AFF works with partners, leading businesses, policymakers, and landowners directly, to address key issues such as conserving biodiversity, reducing risk of catastrophic wildfire, and addressing the threat of climate change. To learn more about the American Forest Foundation, visit

About Altria Group
Altria Group is a Fortune 200 company located in Richmond Va. Altria’s tobacco companies include some of the most enduring names in American business including Philip Morris USA, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, the maker of Copenhagen and Skoal. Altria complements its total tobacco platform with ownership of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a collection of distinctive wine estates, and significant equity investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer.

Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166,