By Deborah Baker, vice president – sustainable forestry, environmental and community outreach
Southern forestlands are a valuable diverse ecosystem providing many benefits to landowners and the public. While we value the forests for the products we get from them, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the intangible benefits they provide, such as offering habitat for a variety of wildlife, maintaining species diversity, and improving air and water quality.
Georgia-Pacific’s customers and communities highly value these resources, so in 2010, we expanded our forest sustainability efforts with an updated policy to better identify and protect forests in the U.S. that had the highest conservation values. Using a well-grounded scientific methodology – coupled with the latest GIS technologies – we mapped all the forestlands in our key supply regions across the South. We then applied screening layers – such as high biodiversity, rare forest type, and concentrations of rare and endangered species – to identify those lands that were the “rarest of the rare.” These areas were then ground-truthed to make sure they had the high conservation values identified during the mapping process.
Using this mapping process, over a five-year period we identified 4.5 million acres of forestland that Georgia-Pacific believed needed additional safeguards to protect their special values. As a result, Georgia-Pacific will not buy fiber from these areas except in unique situations when active forest management is needed to improve habitat for endangered, rare and/or vulnerable species.
We trained more than 100 foresters on how to identify and locate endangered forests and special areas in their regions. In turn, they have met with landowners and fiber suppliers to make them aware of Georgia-Pacific’s commitments about fiber sourcing in these areas. In addition, employees at our plants and mills who process incoming loads of logs also have received training on these “areas of concern” and are critical to ensuring that fiber coming in is from appropriate sources.
Georgia-Pacific’s customers have expressed appreciation for our efforts, and we are proud to protect the broad societal benefits of these areas as well as promote and support sustainable forestry for generations to come.
Georgia-Pacific LLC received the 2016 AF&PA Innovation in Sustainability Award for its Protecting Endangered Forests and Special Areas project.