Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund announced an initiative to help protect and restore forestland in the United States, starting with making some 1,500 acres.
Officials said the property is around an hour from the Chattanooga VW plant.
Volkswagen plans to provide a $1.25 million donation to The Conservation Fund, who will use a portion of the funds to buy, protect and donate hundreds of acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service. The remainder of the donation will go toward providing community grants in Eastern Tennessee.
“We are excited about our partnership with Volkswagen and the opportunity to advance their commitment to corporate leadership around sustainability,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund.
“Volkswagen is taking real, measurable steps forward to help protect the environment, embrace sustainable business practices and support the communities in which they work.”
"A large portion of Volkswagen’s contribution to The Conservation Fund is expected to increase the Cherokee National Forest by about 1,500 acres, enhancing statewide efforts to help protect wildlife habitat and cultural resources, improve water quality and provide additional recreation access and environmental education," officials said. "The goal is for the additional lands, which consist of three separate tracts near the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant, to be open to the public for outdoor recreation use and to help protect the habitat for the black bear and the Indiana bat. This project is part of an ongoing effort by The Conservation Fund to protect American forestland from development and fragmentation."
“Our work with The Conservation Fund will help strengthen the environment and help us give back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live," said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America. "This collaboration in our own backyard underscores our ‘Drive Bigger’ goal of pursuing ideas bigger than ourselves and then taking action. We feel a responsibility to show how a major automaker can credibly contribute to the greater good.”
The land will be added to the 650,000-acre National Forest, which stretches the length of eastern Tennessee’s border, with lands north and south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Forest is home to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, several whitewater rivers and 12 designated wildernesses, and is managed cooperatively with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as a Wildlife Management Area. The Conservation Fund is negotiating with private landowners to acquire properties that will be held until they can be transferred to the USDA Forest Service for long-term stewardship in 2020 and 2021.
"In addition to supporting land conservation, The Conservation Fund shares Volkswagen’s commitment to the natural resources and the communities of Tennessee," officials said. Together, they are announcing a community grant program of $200,000 to support work towards environmental and community goals. The Conservation Fund, in collaboration with Volkswagen will solicit grant requests of up to $50,000 each from qualified nonprofits, schools and public agencies working in eastern Tennessee to help improve water quality, increase access to outdoor recreation and advance environmental education.
More information, grant requirements, and application are available here. Application deadline is Feb. 14, 2020.