Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund have completed a multi-year effort to buy, conserve and transfer approximately 1,500 acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Cherokee National Forest.
The land consists of three separate tracts near the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee. The conserved land, located in Monroe, Polk and Cocke counties, will now be open for public use and recreation, including hunting, wildlife viewing and fishing. These sites also provide enhanced protection for ecologically important waterways, like the French Broad River, Little Toqua Creek and the Conasagua River, home to 11 federally endangered fish and mussel species.
“We are proud of the environmental strides we have made with The Conservation Fund and believe this work is integral to our endeavor of giving back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live,” said Hein Schafer, senior vice president, product marketing and strategy, Volkswagen of America.
A portion of Volkswagen’s $1.25 million donation to The Conservation Fund was used toward the purchase and permanent protection of the 1,500 acres. The remaining amount was awarded via the Volkswagen Community Grant Program to five charitable organizations. Grants of up to $50,000 each are advancing efforts to provide environmental learning and leadership opportunities to local youth, help keep rivers and waterways within the Cherokee National Forest clean and provide recreational access information to outdoor enthusiasts in the region.
The protection of these lands as part of the National Forest was also made possible with funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund, the National Wild Turkey Federation and private contributions provided through the Tennessee chapter of the The Nature Conservancy from The Tucker Foundation and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The Nature Conservancy was an acquisition partner with The Conservation Fund in this initiative.