TENNESSEE: Cherokee National Forest Expands by 1,500 Acres

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee, October 15, 2021 (ENS) – Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund have completed a multi-year effort to buy, conserve and transfer 1,500 acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Cherokee National Forest.

Consisting of three separate tracts near the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee, the protection of this land enhances efforts to help preserve wildlife habitats and cultural resources, improve water quality, and provide recreation access and environmental education to the community.

The final land conveyance has been completed as part of Volkswagen’s $1.25 million donation to The Conservation Fund. The conserved lands, located in Monroe, Polk and Cocke counties are now open for public use and recreation, including hunting, wildlife viewing, and fishing.

As part of the 660,000-acre Cherokee National Forest, these sites will provide enhanced protection for ecologically important waterways, like the French Broad River, Little Toqua Creek and the Conasagua River, one of the most aquatically diverse rivers in the state that contains critical habitat for 11 federally endangered fish and mussel species.

This conservation effort benefits wildlife by securing key habitats used by black bears and federally endangered Indiana bats.

“We are proud of the environmental strides we have made with The Conservation Fund and believe this work is integral to our endeavor of giving back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live,” said Hein Schafer, senior vice president, product marketing and strategy, Volkswagen of America.

This land conservation effort is part of an ongoing initiative to help protect and restore forestland in the United States, starting in eastern Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest. A portion of Volkswagen’s $1.25 million donation to The Conservation Fund was used towards the purchase and permanent protection of the 1,500 acres.

“Forests are one of the most important life-sustaining systems on the planet because they play an integral role in cleaning the air we breathe and water we drink, absorbing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and offering natural habitat for wildlife to thrive as well as opportunities for people to explore the outdoors,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund.

“Support from our local communities and partners enables us to better serve the public and protect important forest habitat,” said Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris. “We are grateful to The Conservation Fund and the other partners for their hard work on making this happen.”

The protection of these lands as part of the national forest were also made possible with funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and private contributions provided through the Tennessee chapter of The Nature Conservancy, from The Tucker Foundation and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The Nature Conservancy was an acquisition partner with The Conservation Fund in this initiative.

“The Appalachian forests of the eastern U.S., including the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, are globally recognized as a climate change-resilient landscape that will provide refuge and life-sustaining ecosystem services for people and nature now and for years to come. The Nature Conservancy is honored to play a land acquisition role side-by-side with The Conservation Fund to implement Volkswagen of America’s ongoing initiative,” said Terry Cook, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee.

Tennessee’s U.S. Congressional delegation representing Monroe, Cocke and Polk counties where the lands have been added to the national forest supported the use of federal funding for this conservation effort.

“Thank you to Volkswagen for investing in the Volunteer State. The recent partnership program demonstrates a renewed commitment to the areas surrounding the state-of-the-art assembly facility in Chattanooga,” said U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican. “I look forward to the next stage of Volkswagen’s involvement across Tennessee.”

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