Several environmental groups are cheering today over paper giant Georgia-Pacific’s commitment not to purchase timber from environmentally sensitive areas and to discourage landowners from clearing hardwood forests to plant pine plantations. The commitment comes after a multi-year campaign by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Dogwood Alliance, and Rainforest Action Network.
Georgia-Pacific “worked with the environmental groups and scientists to identify 11 Endangered Forests and Special Areas totaling 600,000 acres in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Eco-Region, as well as 90 million acres of natural hardwood forests in the Southern region. Endangered Forests and Special Areas in other regions will be mapped in a similar process, over the coming years,” explained the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Dogwood Alliance in a press release.
“No other U.S. company has demonstrated this level of initiative in mapping unique forests across such a broad region,” said NRDC Senior Resource Specialist Debbie Hammel. “Through this process, [Georgia-Pacific] has proven that — by harnessing scientific advances and seeking conservation guidance — corporations can help protect unique places without sacrificing profitability.”
The first designated Endangered Forests and Special Areas span North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia. The Southern Appalachians are home to more than 10,000 plant and animal species, making it a global hotspot for biodiversity. Millions of acres of this priceless ecosystem have been converted to pine plantations for wood and paper production.
Danna Smith, executive director of Dogwood Alliance, notes: “Our forests are not completely out of harm’s way until other companies also agree to protect them. 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.”
Associated Press Reporter Ray Henry makes a critical point: “The policy is nonbinding, so Georgia-Pacific faces no penalties other than possible embarrassment should it fail to meet its goals. Company executives will not call the policy an agreement, and they are still deciding how it will be enforced.”