Volkswagen marks National Wildlife Day with Chattanooga preservation efforts

When Volkswagen built the Chattanooga plant, the company pledged to restore nearby wetlands in an effort to help protect local wildlife and preserve the natural environment. In the first several years after the plant’s opening, Volkswagen successfully restored over 40 acres of biodiverse wetland through regular testing, monitoring and studies.

Today, the total wetland area spans over 88 acres and is home to 15 endangered animals, hundreds of species of wildlife, including 167 species of birds, and continues to grow. The area is restricted, which means there is no hunting or fishing allowed on site, and people come from all over to see the protected environment throughout the year. The wetlands’ water is tested regularly and regarded as some of the highest grade in the state of Tennessee.

“Volkswagen’s commitment to environmental stewardship is inspiring,” said Kaye Fiorello, an environmental compliance specialist at Volkswagen. “At the plant in Chattanooga, precautions are taken to help protect local wildlife, wetlands and surrounding land. We take our commitment to the environment seriously. It’s a special place to work.”

Sherry Teas, a licensed rehabber from Happinest Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, gives a red-tailed hawk a final check before release.

Today, September 4, is National Wildlife Day, and Volkswagen is more committed than ever to helping protect our environment. Globally, the automaker has made large-scale commitments to employ more sustainable practices, such as working to reduce the company’s carbon footprint and bringing electric vehicles to market, including the ID.4 introduction later this month. The company continues to help protect the land surrounding the Chattanooga plant, and as a result, fosters a habitable environment for an array of wildlife species.

Volkswagen employees are no strangers to the local wildlife. Animals often need to be rescued from the plant perimeter and relocated for their safety. To do this, Volkswagen has collaborated with Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation & Rescue, Inc., a group of licensed volunteer rehabilitators who help sick, injured and orphaned animals. The organization is also trained to inform the public about wildlife and their habitats so people can become more aware of the native wildlife surrounding them.

Injured wildlife are rescued, brought back to health, and released back into the wild.

“We have a really great relationship with our local animal rehabbers,” said Timothy Youngblood, a technical assistance manager at Volkswagen. “They help take injured animals from us and put them into rehab. Once the animals are healthy again, we release them back into the wetlands park onsite. You’d be amazed at the amount of wildlife we have at the plant. We often see deer, hawks, owls, snapping turtles, raccoons, nutria and more. It’s really neat.”

In addition to the outside help from nonprofits, Volkswagen also leverages its onsite fire department to assist with animal rescues. Members of the fire department are often tasked with moving wildlife back to wetlands or other safe areas outside the plant property.

Placing a Common Nighthawk in a tree so it would be ready to fly at dusk with other birds.

Over the years, Volkswagen has proudly hosted graduate students who are interested in birding and wildlife studies. One student used the wetlands as part of a study on Tree Swallows, which included counting how many of the birdhouses had Swallows, and for those with eggs, how many hatched, and how often the parents fed them, as well as how they responded to stressors such as human and predator presence.

“We are really lucky to live and work where we do,” adds Youngblood. “The ability to see wildlife at work so easily at a vehicle production plant is pretty unique. It sounds crazy, but the animals are part of us. We name them, help protect them. They are part of the Volkswagen community.”