BIG ISLAND, Va., Feb. 23, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Georgia-Pacific and The American Chestnut Foundation, in a joint effort to reintroduce the American chestnut to its native habitat, planted 560 test chestnut saplings today at the Georgia-Pacific Big Island, Va., mill.
This event marks the first corporate collaboration with The American Chestnut Foundation and an important step towards restoring the American chestnut, once an essential part of the Eastern U.S. forestry ecology and economy, after it was nearly eradicated by a fungal disease in the early 1900s.
The Big Island mill made a 20-year commitment to provide and manage a protected plot of land on which The American Chestnut Foundation can monitor the saplings in a natural setting. In addition, Big Island built an eight-foot fence around the planting site to increase the saplings' chances of reaching maturity by keeping out deer.
The saplings used in this planting are products of 25 years of genetic back crossing with the Chinese chestnut. The saplings are 15/16 American chestnut and are expected to have American chestnut attributes, but retain the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut. A total of 560 saplings were planted, grouped in several different "families," each representing slight genetic variations. Part of the monitoring over the next 20 years will include seeing if any particular genetic mix is more successful than the others.
"This re-establishment of the American chestnut aligns well with our commitments to being good stewards of the environment and enhancing the sustainability of Virginia's forests," said Eldon Brammer, Big Island mill vice president. "We at Georgia-Pacific Big Island feel fortunate to be able to help in some small way and be a part of this historic effort."
"The plantings represent a conservation success story and reflect the power that alliances can have in bringing a 'mighty giant' back to its native range. Thanks to our support from Georgia-Pacific, we are making critical progress in restoring the American chestnut," said Bryan Burhans, president & CEO of The American Chestnut Foundation.
Georgia-Pacific has long been committed to sustainable forestry practices. In November 2010, the company expanded its forest policy to better identify and protect endangered forests in the United States; promote conservation of forest diversity; and enhance its sustainable forestry and recycling practices. The policy update is the result of ongoing discussions with customers and suppliers, and several years of consultation with a number of environmental organizations, including the Rainforest Action Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Dogwood Alliance.
Headquartered at Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific is one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of building products, tissue, packaging, paper, cellulose and related chemicals, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, LLC, a privately-owned company headquartered in Wichita, Kansas.
Koch companies and its subsidiaries (including INVISTA) employ more than 1,700 people in Virginia and provided more than $550 million in compensation and benefits in the past five years. Additionally, Virginia-based non-profit organizations have benefited from more than $25 million in contributions from Koch companies in the past five years, as well as from countless hours of volunteerism from employees.