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NFWF and IP Advance Forest and Freshwater Habitat Restoration Through Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund

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The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and International Paper, through their Forestland Stewards Partnership, are supporting four projects that will restore and enhance more than 15,000 acres of forest and grassland habitats, benefitting bird, fish, and mussel species in Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee, all part of the rich and biodiverse Cumberland Plateau ecosystem. A total of $835,000 in grants were awarded through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund to projects that will generate $9.8 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of more than $10.6 million.

These projects will also improve freshwater habitat by treating invasive species such as hemlock woolly adelgid along riparian areas and repairing eroded stream banks to reduce sedimentation and improve in-stream habitat conditions. Additionally, projects will provide private landowners with technical and financial assistance to help implement conservation practices on private lands.

For example, the Ruffed Grouse Society & American Woodcock Society will use $400,000 in grants and matching funds to work with public land managers and private landowners to restore and enhance more than 10,000 acres of shortleaf pine and oak forest habitat to improve populations of golden-winged warbler, ruffed grouse, and other focal wildlife, including woodland and savanna-dependent species.

The grant will benefit, among other forestlands, the rich shortleaf pine-oak ecosystem found in the Daniel Boone National Forest in eastern Kentucky. “We are grateful to NFWF, International Paper, and other contributors to the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund, as this grant will help us protect shortleaf pine and oak forest habitats to improve populations of golden-winged warbler, ruffed grouse, and other at-risk forest wildlife species,” said Nick Biemiller, Southern Appalachian Forest Conservation Director, Ruffed Grouse Society & American Woodcock Society.

Over the past eight years, grants funded in part by the Forestland Stewards Partnership have contributed to the restoration and improved management of more than 45,000 acres of forest habitat on National Forests within the Cumberland Plateau region.

The Cumberland Plateau features complex geology, landforms, large forest blocks, and cold-water streams that support an immense diversity of habitats. The region was once dominated by shortleaf pine, oak, and grassland communities. However, these habitats have declined over the past several decades because of the conversion of forest types, fire suppression, disease, pest infestations, land development, and changes in agricultural practices.

These changes in forest and land-use types and conditions contributed to the decline of multiple wildlife species, including birds that rely on open-canopy woodlands and early successional and grassland habitats. At the same time, sedimentation and runoff from development and the modification of streams threaten the region's many freshwater species, including fish such as the Cumberland arrow darter.

“The health of forest ecosystems is critically important for mitigating climate change, protecting water quality, clean air and biodiversity, and benefiting the estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide who depend directly on forests for their livelihoods,” said International Paper Chief Sustainability Officer Sophie Beckham. “The Cumberland Plateau is home to vital ecosystems, and we are honored to support these projects that restore and enhance the health of the forests, grasslands and in-stream habitats found here.”

About the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund

The grants were awarded through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund, a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, and Altria Group.

Since 2013, the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund has invested more than $8.4 million in grants that will establish and enhance shortleaf pine, oak, and riparian forests and improve stream habitat to benefit the birds and wildlife that rely on these ecosystems.

About the Forestland Stewards Partnership

International Paper and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation formed the Forestland Stewards Partnership in 2013 to conserve and restore southern forestlands, which comprise some of the United States’ most iconic landscapes. The partnership supports projects to restore native forests, strengthen important fish and wildlife populations, and protect watersheds—while at the same time promoting and supporting working forests in 10 states across the South.

About International Paper

International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa and Russia. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods, and enable world-wide commerce; pulp for diapers, tissue and other personal hygiene products that promote health and wellness; and papers that facilitate education and communication. We are headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., employ approximately 48,000 colleagues and serve more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries. Net sales for 2020 were $21 billion. For more information about International Paper, our products and global citizenship efforts, please visit

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