NFWF and IP Announce $725,000 in Funding to Further Conserve and Enhance Cumberland Plateau Forestland

Grants Support Restoration of Southern Forests, Protection of Critical Habitats, Enhancement of Local Economies in Third Year of Landmark Public-Private Partnership

August 25, Memphis, TN — The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and International Paper (NYSE: IP) today announced $725,000 in grants to support forestland restoration, working forests and freshwater habitat improvements throughout the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama.  The American Forest Foundation, the Nature Conservancy-Tennessee Chapter, the Cumberland River Compact, the Nature Conservancy-Kentucky Chapter, the Alabama Forestry Foundation, and the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust will receive grants through the Forestland Stewards Initiative, a partnership of NFWF and IP. These six grants will leverage more than $1.4 million in additional funds and in-kind support from agency and project partners, ultimately establishing more than 2,650 new acres and enhancing an additional 1,400 existing acres of native forest, as well as protecting 850 acres of working forest and wildlife habitat in the region.

Established in March 2013, the Forestland Stewards Initiative is a pioneering partnership created to conserve and restore southern forestlands representing some of America’s most iconic landscapes. These forests provide critical habitats for endangered wildlife and economic opportunities for local communities. Through the initiative, International Paper has committed $7.5 million over five years to restore native forests, strengthen important fish and wildlife populations, and protect watersheds — while at the same time promoting and supporting working forests in eight states across the southeastern United States.

“By creating a stakeholder network of diverse organizations, partnerships like the Forestland Stewards Initiative enable International Paper to deliver on our commitment to use natural resources responsibly, thus strengthening the communities where we live and operate,” said Tom Cleves, vice president of corporate social responsibility. “Through a combination of co-ops, land trusts and conservation groups, these grants put the necessary resources in place to really make a difference.”

“The grants announced today will protect and enhance critical forest landscapes throughout the Southeast, improve management of private and public forests, and restore populations of at-risk wildlife and plant species,” said Eric Schwaab, vice president for NFWF’s conservation programs. “The Forestland Stewards Initiative, a landmark partnership between NFWF and International Paper, continues to revitalize some of the nation’s most biologically diverse habitats.”

“Shortleaf pine is a complex ecosystem and restoration in the Cumberland Plateau differs from other portions of the historical shortleaf range", said Trisha Johnson, director of forest conservation for The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee chapter. “This funding will help The Nature Conservancy, TN Wildlife Resources Agency and our partners continue to determine what works best for restoration in this region and provide support to both public and private landowners who are interested in restoring shortleaf on their properties.”

Since 2013, NFWF and IP have invested more than $5.4 million in projects through the Forestland Stewards Initiative, and these investments have been used to leverage more than $11.5 million in additional funds from grant partners, for a total investment of nearly $17 million for forestland conservation. These projects will restore more than 14,400 acres and improve nearly 121,000 additional acres of native forest and wildlife habitat. NFWF and IP anticipate that through this initiative, more than 200,000 acres of forestlands will be restored and improved, and more than 3,000 private landowners will be engaged through outreach and technical assistance to implement forest stewardship practices.

The initiative’s latest round of grants will benefit numerous species and support working forests in three priority regions in the Southeast: the Carolina Low Country Forests; the Cumberland Plateau of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee; and the Piney Woods of Texas and Louisiana.

About the Grants:

Partner Organization: American Forest Foundation
Title: Shortleaf Restoration on the Alabama Lauderdale and Freedom Hills Forever Wild Tracts
Objective: Partners will expand upon ongoing efforts to restore shortleaf pine habitat in the Cumberland Plateau, establishing 1,193 acres of shortleaf pine demonstration areas on Alabama public lands in Lauderdale and Colbert counties.
Award Amount: $150,000
Project Description: The American Forest Foundation will build upon ongoing efforts to restore shortleaf pine habitat by establishing shortleaf pine on public lands within the Lauderdale and Freedom Hills Forever Wild tracts in Lauderdale and Colbert counties. The State Lands Division will plant 1,193 acres of shortleaf pine in the 2015-2017 planting seasons. Primary activities include ensuring proper access, site preparation, reforestation, and management of the established stands. The project will serve as a demonstration site for education and outreach for existing and future shortleaf restoration efforts in the region, with a particular emphasis on management regimes that align with private landowner objectives.
Project Partners: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, State Lands Division

Partner Organization: The Nature Conservancy-Tennessee Chapter
Title: Shortleaf Restoration in the Cumberland Plateau (TN) - II
Objective: Reverse declining trend in shortleaf pine health by demonstrating, promoting and implementing restoration practices and combining innovative market-based conservation approaches on public and private lands.
Award Amount: $100,000
Project Description: The Nature Conservancy’s Tennessee Chapter, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and partners will build relationships with key private landowners and expand shortleaf pine through restoration and seek additional private and public landowner recruitment to engage in restoration in the Cumberland Plateau of Tennessee. Partners will establish 325 acres of shortleaf pine woodland/savanna on public and private lands and conduct prescribed burns on these lands, as well as burn an additional 1,000 acres of existing shortleaf savanna, and protect at least 500 acres of forest habitat with voluntary conservation easements. The project will engage private landowners by expanding and coordinating technical assistance. This will include market-based incentives such as implementation of forest management plans, conservation easements, carbon sequestration and enrollment in forest certification programs.
Project Partners: Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee State Parks, Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Department of Agriculture - Division of Forestry, Natural Resources Conservation Service

Partner Organization: Cumberland River Compact, Inc.
Title: Strategic Plan for Barrier Removal in the Tennessee and Cumberland River Watersheds
Objective: Improve aquatic connectivity in high priority watersheds of the Cumberland and Tennessee River basins by strategically accelerating the momentum of barrier removals.
Award Amount: $125,000
Project Description: Cumberland River Compact, Inc. and partners will develop a comprehensive inventory of dams and diversions in the Cumberland and Tennessee River basins, identify priority sub-basins with highest predicted ecological benefits from barrier removal projects, and initiate the removal of three high-priority barriers, which will increase habitat connectivity for numerous aquatic species of conservation concern. The project will contribute to the development of a regional aquatic barrier strategic plan and identify opportunities for reducing barrier removal costs. In addition, partners will develop outreach tools for stakeholders on the benefits of barrier removal and best practices for engaging private landowners, as many barriers are located on private property.
Project Partners: American Rivers, The Nature Conservancy – Tennessee Chapter

Partner Organization: The Nature Conservancy – Kentucky Chapter
Title: Upper Green River Riparian Corridor Protection Project
Objective: Permanently protect and restore 3 linear miles of critical riparian corridors along the Green River and key tributaries.
Award Amount: $100,000
Project Description: The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky Chapter and partners will restore and protect riparian corridors along the Green River and several key tributaries, improving water quality and habitat for numerous species of concern, including 11 listed species of freshwater mussels. Partners will work with willing landowners to prioritize parcels that offer the greatest potential conservation benefits, including sensitive riparian areas where agricultural activity is taking place immediately adjacent to the streams. The project will restore these sensitive areas to native forest and grasses, improving and protecting 180 acres of habitat along 2–3 miles of the Green River and important tributaries.
Project Partners: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kentucky Heritage Land Fund, Campbellsville University, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, Kentucky Division of Water

Partner Organization: Alabama Forestry Association
Title: Landowner Incentives for Shortleaf Pine Restoration in the Alabama Cumberlands
Objective: Provide cost-share incentives for site preparation and planting of shortleaf pine on private lands.
Award Amount: $150,000
Project Description: Alabama Forestry Association and partners will provide cost-share assistance to landowners who face barriers to applying for assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) or need assistance with any portion of their ownership which is ineligible for EQIP. This project will establish 1,136 acres of shortleaf pine on private lands in the Cumberland region of Alabama. In addition, project partners will develop management plans for participants and enroll willing landowners in the American Tree Farm System to promote sustainable management and ensure ongoing access to technical assistance. The project will prioritize assistance to larger tracts located in areas where shortleaf forests already exist, and will establish demonstration areas on these tracts.
Project Partners: American Forest Foundation, Alabama Forestry Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service

Partner Organization: Georgia-Alabama Land Trust
Title: Freshwater Replenishment through Forest Protection and Restoration
Objective: Protect and restore shortleaf and riparian forests to protect wildlife habitat and safeguard and recharge aquifers and streams.
Award Amount: $100,000
Project Description: The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust and partners will protect 200 acres of privately owned working forests and natural areas with conservation easements, protecting important wildlife habitat and replenishing 40 million liters of fresh water to aquifers and streams. This project will highlight the ecosystem services provided by protected forested lands, including safeguarding and replenishing community drinking water resources. The project will restore and enhance 50 acres of riparian forests with bottomland hardwood species and treat 109 acres of hemlock forests to curb woolly adelgid blight. In addition, partners will host a landowner workshop on shortleaf pine ecosystem restoration and protection through conservation easements and habitat management.
Project Partners: Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Thrive 2055 Natural Areas Initiative, Lula Lake Land Trust

Learn more about Forestland Stewards at:

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation:

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges. Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.9 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at

About International Paper

International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a global leader in packaging and paper with manufacturing operations in North America, Europe, Latin America, Russia, Asia and North Africa. Its businesses include industrial and consumer packaging along with uncoated papers and pulp. Headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., the company employs approximately 58,000 people and is strategically located in more than 24 countries serving customers worldwide. International Paper net sales for 2014 were $24 billion. For more information about International Paper, its products and stewardship efforts, visit



Rob Blumenthal (NFWF), 202-857-0166
Kim Clewis (International Paper), 910-362-4887, 910-512-0086 (cell)
Mike Smith (GreenSmith PR, Public Relations for NFWF), 703-623-3834

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