From fresh drinking water and wildlife habitats, to helping fight climate change and providing natural resources, American forests play an essential role in our daily lives. To help protect forests in the United States from development and fragmentation, Volkswagen, through a sponsorship of The Conservation Fund, will donate $1.2 million to help increase the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee by roughly 1,500 acres and support other woodlands projects.
“We are excited about our partnership with Volkswagen and the opportunity to help 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.”
The goal is for the additional public lands, located near the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant, to be open to the public for recreational use and used to help protect the habitats of local animal populations, including the black bear and the endangered Indiana bat. The Conservation Fund is currently negotiating with private landowners to acquire the properties, which will be held until they can be transferred to the USDA Forest Service for long-term stewardship over the next few years.
“Our support of 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.”
Located on the outer edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, the Cherokee National Forest stretches the length of eastern Tennessee’s border. The forest’s acreage includes the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, several whitewater rivers and 12 designated wildernesses.
In addition to supporting land conservation, Volkswagen’s donation will go toward helping to preserve and protect natural resources in Tennessee, with The Conservation Fund developing a grant program of $200,000 to support the state’s environmental objectives and goals. The Conservation Fund, will solicit grant requests of up to $50,000 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.
For more information and an application, visit to conservationfund.org.