Supporting Forest and Stream Habitat Restoration in the Cumberland Plateau

International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation supports $1.3 million in conservation grant funding
Jul 21, 2020 12:30 PM ET

Stretching from northwest Alabama to eastern Kentucky, the Cumberland Plateau consists of unique geology and landforms that create a vast diversity of habitats. The region was once dominated by shortleaf pine and oak communities, but these forest habitats have declined over the past several decades due to conversion of forest-type, conversion of forests to other land uses, fire suppression, and disease and pest infestations.

The changes in this landscape have contributed to the decline of multiple wildlife species including birds such as Bachman’s sparrow, brown-headed nuthatch and prairie warbler, which rely on open-canopy woodlands and grassland habitats. At the same time, sedimentation and runoff from agriculture, as well as development and the modification of streams, threaten the region’s freshwater species, such as the federally endangered Laurel dace, a fish species, and Black Warrior waterdog, a reclusive salamander. Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), explains, “The Cumberland Plateau is home to species of both ecological and cultural significance, many of which are found only in this region.”

That’s why International Paper supports the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund through our Forestland Stewards Partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). At International Paper, our entire business depends on the sustainability of forests, and we recognize that sustainable forestry doesn’t just happen in the working forests from which we source our fiber. Through strategic collaborations like this one and our Vision 2030 goal of Healthy and Abundant Forests, we are working to conserve the biodiversity and health of all forestland, including those that are not used to make renewable, fiber-based products.

NFWF recently announced $1.3 million in grants that will support seven projects to restore, enhance and protect shortleaf pine, oak and riparian forests, and in-stream habitats for wildlife in the Cumberland Plateau. Matching contributions result in a total conservation impact of $2.8 million across Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Funding from International Paper supports six of the seven grants awarded.

“We are proud to contribute to this fund and look forward to the long-lasting impact that these grants will have on the forest habitats and water quality of the Cumberland Plateau as well as the landowners who depend on these forests,” said Sophie Beckham, International Paper’s chief sustainability officer. “Working with other businesses, government and NGOs to find solutions to restore, enhance and protect this important landscape is just one way International Paper can ensure the future of healthy and abundant forests.”

The six projects supported by our Forestland Stewards Partnership will achieve the following:

  • establish more than 450 acres of forest through the planting of more than 300,000 trees
  • improve more than 4,000 acres of existing forest habitat by removing invasive species and introducing prescribed fire
  • reconnect more than 100 miles of stream habitat by retrofitting or removing failed stream crossings, which currently block the passage of fish and other aquatic species.

In addition, project partners expect to engage nearly 6,000 private landowners through outreach such as workshops, trainings, and one-on-one technical assistance, helping these landowners make informed decisions on how to sustainable manage their forests.

The Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund (CPSF) is a public-private 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, American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Initiative and Altria Group.

Launched in 2013, the International Paper Forestland Stewards Partnership with NFWF protects and enhances ecologically important forestlands and coastal savannas in ten southern states. The Cumberland Plateau is one of four priority landscapes in which we invest through the program.

The Forestland Stewards Partnership has helped to restore the forestland, improve water quality, and enhance the habitats wildlife species rely on throughout the Cumberland Plateau. Over the past seven years, our partnership has supported the planting of more than 6.2 million trees across more than 12,000 acres, the enhancement of more than 81,000 acres of existing forest habitat and the improved management of more than 580 miles of stream and riparian habitat in this landscape. These efforts improve working land productivity, helping landowners to make a living and maintain their way of life.

Our Forestland Stewards partnership is just one way we will make progress on our Vision 2030 target to conserve and restore one million acres of ecologically significant forestland. Learn more about our other strategic collaborations to manage, conserve and restore forestland at Our Renewable Future.

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 worldwide 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 more than 50,000 colleagues and serve more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries. Net sales for 2019 were $22 billion. For more information about International Paper, our products and global citizenship efforts, please visit See how we’re building a better future for people, the planet and our company at