Enviva sets conservation fund

Published 7:25 pm Monday, December 14, 2015

By Andrew Lind

Special to the News-Herald

Enviva, the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, has announced the establishment of the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund. The $5 million, 10-year program is designed to protect tens of thousands of acres of bottomland forests in southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina.

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“The coastal forests of Virginia are a precious natural resource, and the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund will play an important role in protecting and conserving them,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said.

“Programs such as the Enviva Forest Conservation Fund help families and other landowners keep these forests as forests for generations to come. Both our environment and our communities benefit when private industry develops and supports these types of conservation efforts.”

The fund will focus on the coastal plain region of the states, which is home to three wood pellet production facilities and a deep-water marine terminal — this includes the plant on Rose Valley Road in Southampton County and on Highway 561 in Ahoskie, N.C.

“The Forest Conservation fund will make available grant money to preserve sensitive forests and sustain working forests,” Enviva’s Vice President of Communications Kent Jenkins said.

“This program is unique, and we want to take a leadership role in sustainability. We understand that special places need to remain special and that there are a lot of working forests that have been doing so for generations that we need to keep as they are.”

“Although we are small — in 2014, our entire industry accounted for less than one-tenth of 1 percent of America’s forest inventory — as a young company in a new field, we want to be known for always doing the right thing,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Keppler said.

“We are deeply committed to keeping America’s working forests healthy and growing and protecting our forests for our families and future generations.”

Each year, Enviva will solicit grant applications, asking qualified organizations to identify specific bottomland tracts that are eligible for protection. Grants will be awarded annually, beginning in 2016.

The Dogwood Alliance, a nonprofit organization working to protect forests in the southern U.S., released a statement through its campaign director, Adam Macon, in response to Enviva’s announcement.

“While it is important that forests are protected, this fund is just a drop in the bucket compared to the overall impact that Enviva has on our forests,” he said. “It does not address Enviva’s fundamental problem, which is (that) burning whole trees is worse for our environment than burning coal.”