New Georgia-Pacific Policy Protects South’s Natural Hardwood Forests

ATLANTA, Georgia, November 16, 2010 (ENS) – Forest products corporation Georgia-Pacific announced today that it will not purchase trees from Endangered Forests and Special Areas, or from new pine plantations established at the expense of natural hardwood forests. The policy statement was developed during years of consultation with environmental groups Dogwood Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council 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.

Georgia-Pacific mill at Big Island, Virginia (Photo by Diesel Ducy)

Georgia-Pacific said in a statement it adopting the new policy to better identify and protect endangered forests in the United States, promote conservation of forest diversity, and enhance its sustainable forestry and recycling practices.

Georgia-Pacific manufactures and markets building products, tissue, packaging, paper, cellulose and related chemicals, employing more than 40,000 people at 300 locations in North America, South America and Europe.

“This policy continues our commitment to sustainability in the fiber we source and the products we make,” said Jim Hannan, Georgia-Pacific chief executive officer and president. “We continue to believe it is possible to operate in a way that is environmentally responsible and also economically sound.”

“This policy also gives us the opportunity to address issues of increasing interest to our customers and to consumers,” said Hannan.

In addition, the group worked with Liz Kramer, Ph.D., from the University of Georgia, to develop the scientific methodology that is a focus of the updated policy.

Key provisions of Georgia-Pacific’s policy include:

  • working collaboratively to help define and map endangered forests and special areas where the company will not source fiber
  • encouraging the conservation of natural hardwood forests through measures to evaluate the existing level of natural hardwood forests and not promoting future conversion of such forests to pine plantations
  • continue to not source fiber from the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, until roadless areas identified in the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule are permanently protected
  • continue requiring loggers to use both mandatory and voluntary state forestry best management practices
  • continue certification of our wood and fiber procurement practices
  • increasing the internal rate of post-consumer recycled fiber within the company’s total recycled fiber supply system to 50 percent

“This expanded policy on forest protection and sustainable practices outlines our new commitments, but also reaffirms the sustainable forestry activities and processes we already have in place,” said Deborah Baker, vice president of sustainable forestry, environmental and community outreach. “Working with the environmental groups helped us make sure that we had outside input, which we believe helped us formulate a better policy statement.”

“No other U.S. company has demonstrated this level of initiative in mapping unique forests across such a broad region,” said Debbie Hammel, senior resource specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Through this process, GP has proven that, by harnessing scientific advances and seeking conservation guidance, corporations can help protect unique places without sacrificing profitability,” she said.

“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.”

The South’s natural forests are home to more plant and animal species than anywhere else in North America. They 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.

The 11 designated Endangered Forests and Special Areas span North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia and include forests in the Alligator River Region, Camp Lejeune Area, Congaree River Area, Croatan National Forest Region, Fort Jackson, Francis Marion National Forest, Holly Shelter Region, Great Dismal Swamp Area Green Swamp Region (account for two distinct areas), and Savannah River Site.

These areas are inhabited by endangered species such as the Red-cockaded woodpecker, rare plants including the carnivorous Venus flytrap, and unique geographic features, including pocosins, the Algonquin term for “swamp on a hill.”

The company says Endangered Forests and Special Areas in other regions will be mapped in a similar process over the coming years.

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