NFWF and International Paper Public-Private Partnership Works to Restore, Enhance, and Protect 20,000+ Acres in Nine States

Jun 23, 2021 11:00 AM ET

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and International Paper, through their Forestland Stewards partnership, are awarding nine grants to support habitat restoration efforts within the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley region of Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee, as well as the greater Mississippi Alluvial Valley region of Oklahoma and Texas.

The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley was once the largest forested wetland ecosystem in North America. However, widespread forest conversion, combined with flood control and drainage efforts, have led to critical habitat loss for wildlife, damaged water quality and reduced floodwater retention.

Today, the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley remains critical to sustaining populations of Louisiana black bears, waterfowl, swamp rabbits, and a variety of forest birds and other species. The Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley provides an important migratory stopover and wintering habitat for more than 40 percent of North America’s waterfowl. It is also home to more than 100 fish species and 107 breeding land birds.

The nine grants, worth a total of $3.3 million, will restore, enhance, and protect sensitive forest, wetland, and aquatic habitats. The grants will leverage $2.8 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of $6.1 million. The grants were awarded through the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund, which is supported by the Forestland Stewards Partnership.

In addition to expanding and reconnecting forest and wetland habitats, these projects will also benefit communities throughout the region by improving water quality, increasing natural carbon capture and storage, reducing flood risks, and supporting local economies through forestry and recreation-based jobs.

The projects will restore forested wetland habitat through tree planting and restoring wetlands and waterways. Additionally, projects will protect bottomland hardwood habitat with conservation easements and improve forest habitat quality through forest thinnings and invasive species control. Grantees will monitor species’ response to sustainable management practices to help assess progress toward conservation goals. Collectively, the funded projects will:

  • Plant 3.6 million trees to create and connect forest habitat and increase carbon capture and storage
  • Restore 8,000 acres of wetland and floodplain habitat benefitting myriad species
  • Enhance more than 4,000 acres of existing forest to improve habitat conditions
  • Protect 16,000 acres of forest and wetland habitat with conservation easements

“Healthy forest ecosystems play a critical role in water quality, clean air, biodiversity and in supporting the estimated 300 million people worldwide who depend on them for their livelihoods,” said International Paper Chief Sustainability Officer Sophie Beckham. “And just as important, healthy forests are a critical component of any natural climate solution. We are thrilled to support this necessary work taking place in the LMAV that has so many benefits for people and the planet.”



About the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund

Launched in 2017, the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley Restoration Fund is restoring, enhancing, and maintaining bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands, and safeguarding water quality. The program has awarded four rounds of grants totaling $10 million in grant funding, generating $9.1 million in grantee matching funds and resulting in a total conservation impact of more than $19.1 million.

These grants are made possible with federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and private funding from International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership, the Walton Family Foundation, the Arbor Day Foundation and the American Forest Foundation.


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.