AFF, Enviva partner on forest certification, habitat restoration

By Enviva Holdings LP | November 29, 2017

The American Forest Foundation and Enviva Holdings LP recently announced a multi-year partnership to help private forest landowners across the Florida panhandle certify their forests are sustainably managed, and restore longleaf pine forests to improve wildlife habitat. AFF is a leading forest conservation organization specializing in helping to keep family-owned forests productive for wildlife and clean water, as well as for wood supply. Enviva is the world’s largest manufacturer of industrial wood pellets.

The partnership, which will also include The Nature Conservancy and other partners, will focus its efforts across 16 counties in the Florida panhandle, with a special focus in the area surrounding Cottondale, Florida.

“We are proud to partner with AFF, TNC, and others to help private forest owners certify their forests as sustainably managed and to restore longleaf pine forests,” said Jennifer Jenkins, Enviva’s chief sustainability officer. “We have already helped small private forest owners certify more than 22,000 acres under the American Tree Farm System. We are excited to help increase Tree Farm certification and longleaf restoration on private lands in Florida.”

The project will begin with a 38-acre demonstration site, created on TNC's Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, where landowners can learn more about the longleaf ecosystem and the practices needed to sustain it. In the surrounding area, landowners will be encouraged to create or improve longleaf pine forests, support forest biodiversity, and become certified in the American Tree Farm System. ATFS is an internationally recognized sustainable forestry certification program specifically designed for family and small forest owners, which is administered by AFF.

“The Conservancy is pleased to demonstrate the lessons we’ve learned in nearly 30 years of longleaf habitat restoration.  Private landowners will be an important part of bringing this imperiled forest back to prominence and that starts with technical assistance,” said Brian Pelc, restoration project manager at The Nature Conservancy.

Last year, AFF released the Southern Wildlife At Risk: Family Forest Owners Offer a Solution report, which found that family forest owners, who own nearly 60 percent of the forests across the South, including in the Florida panhandle, are key to ensuring the sustainability of these woodlands. According to the report, 87 percent of landowners surveyed said that protecting and improving wildlife habitat is the top reason they own land. Seventy-two percent have already conducted one or more forest practices for wildlife, and 73 percent stated they want to do more in the future.

Landowners cite an uncertainty about whether they are doing right by their land and the cost of management as barriers.

In response to this, AFF launched a series of projects across the South to help landowners overcome these barriers to management, and address some of the major threats impacting wildlife habitat and forest health such as invasive species, drought, and watershed management. 

“Landowners want to do right by the land; we hear this from them directly every day," said Tom Martin, president and CEO of AFF. “But not all landowners have the expertise or the funds to implement the practices needed to create healthy forest habitat. But when these barriers are removed—when we provide technical assistance through projects like this, or when they have the needed funds, whether from cost-share assistance or from markets for wood, such as Enviva has created—we see a significant increase in the landowners taking an active role in their forests and in creating the needed habitat for wildlife.”

Enviva, which uses small trees and brush to make wood pellets, provides a unique market for landowners who are working to improve forest health. Over the past few decades, small-diameter and low-value wood markets have been in decline, material that needs to be removed to promote growth of high-grade trees. This, plus other factors over time, have caused many stands of longleaf pine to become overgrown, which shades out the plant community on the forest floor and reduces habitat value. Expanding the small-diameter and low-value wood market not only provides an outlet for this material, but also provides landowners with the income needed to afford management.