When Volkswagen built its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, the company pledged to restore nearby wetlands in an effort to protect the local wildlife and environment. Today, that pledge is ongoing with more than 88 acres being protected, monitored and tested.
No hunting or fishing is allowed in the wetlands, which is home to 15 endangered animals and hundreds of species of wildlife, including 167 species of birds. The wetlands’ water is tested regularly and regarded as some of the highest grade in Tennessee.
“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,” said Kaye Fiorello, an environmental compliance specialist at Volkswagen.
Volkswagen’s commitment to the environment extends to wildlife that might need to be relocated for its own safety. Volkswagen partners with Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation & Rescue Inc., a group of licensed volunteer rehabilitators who help sick, injured and orphaned animals. The organization also is trained to inform the public about wildlife and their habitats.
“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.”
Volkswagen’s onsite fire department assists with animal rescues, and Volkswagen allows graduate students to conduct wildlife research studies on the wetlands.
“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.”
Volkswagen’s Chattanooga facility sits on 1,400 acres. In addition to protecting the wetlands, the company’s other environmental efforts include using LED lighting throughout the facility and installing 33,000 solar panels that help generate 12 million kilowatt-hours of energy for the plant.