90 million acres of Southern hardwood forests, along with 600,000 acres in 11 endangered forests and special areas in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Eco-Region, recently got a big boost in protection. Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific (GP) has announced that “it will no longer purchase trees from endangered forests and special areas, or from new pine plantations established at the expense of natural hardwood forests.”
GP is one of the largest wood and paper products companies operating in the Southern United States, and the Southern U.S. is the largest source of wood and paper production in the world.
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. [Info provided to me by email last week.]
This considerable commitment comes from 6 years of consultation between GP and a few leading environmental groups: the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Dogwood Alliance, and Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
This is clearly a big step forward in addressing critical deforestation issues in the U.S., a problem most are unaware of but which is very significant. There is actually a lower percentage of forest loss in Brazil and Indonesia than in the U.S. and Canada!
Kudos to GP for taking the lead on this issue (with, I’m sure, a big and continual push from the environmental organizations listed above).
“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. “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.”
Hopefully, the NRDC, RAN, and Dogwood Alliance can get other companies to follow suit soon.
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