The project aims to protect around six million acres of forest along the Virginia-North Carolina coastal plain – an area that is home to three Enviva wood pellet production facilities.

The $5m fund will award grants to non-profit organisations to enable them to protect ecologically sensitive areas and conserve working forests. Organisations that can match funding will be prioritised, Enviva says.

“The commitments we are making today are unique in our industry and we are proud to lead on these important issues,” said Enviva CEO John Keppler.

Around 20% of the area to be protected is bottomland forest – low-lying, marshy areas near rivers and streams that are home to tree species such as cypress, gum and oak.

Although the vast majority of Enviva’s wood supply does not come from bottomland forests, the conservation fund is targeting these areas because they offer a wide range of environmental and economic benefits.

“Southern forests help clean our water, shield us from storms, and serve as home to many species of wildlife, while at the same providing jobs and economic opportunity for rural families and private landowners,” said Carlton N. Owen, president of the US Endowment for Forestry and Communities

Hot topic

Biomass generation – the main use for wood pellets – has recieved criticism from environmentalists despite its ‘renewable’ tag, because of its effect on forests and the emissions associated with shipping large quantities of wood pellets from the US to the UK.

Enviva says it does not use high-grade wood that could be milled into furniture or lumber, but instead accepts low-grade or leftover materials such as pulpwood, crooked or diseased trees, limbs, tops, chips and sawdust.

In related biomass news, last week saw environmental services firm Veolia acquire the business and assets of Boomeco Limited, a waste-wood processor and producer of Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF).

Brad Allen

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