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June 29, 2005

Press contact: Jon Coifman, 212-727-4535, 917-575-1885 (cell)
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Details of the Accord between NRDC, Dogwood Alliance and Bowater, Inc.

Demonstrating strong leadership in their industry, Bowater, Inc., the largest newsprint manufacturer in the South and the largest forestland owner on the Cumberland Plateau, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Dogwood Alliance committing to significant improvements in their forest management practices on all of their lands in the United States. Bowater owns approximately 380,000 acres of forestland in the southeastern United States, of which about 100,000 acres are native hardwood forests located on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee.

NRDC and Dogwood staff have been negotiating with the company for the past 15 months over ending controversial practices such as clearcutting and the conversion of native mixed hardwood forests to single-species pine plantations; limiting chemical applications on company lands; and protecting ecologically significant areas such as intact valleys and watercourses (gulfs and coves) and ephemeral ponds.

The commitments made by Bowater in this agreement are unprecedented in the South, establishing a model for other forest products companies in the region.

Background and Regional Context

The southeastern United States hosts one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world and faces unprecedented threats from a variety of diverse pressures including the international pulp-and-paper industry. The region by itself produces more wood and paper products than any other country in the world -- producing almost one-fifth of the world's paper and hosting the densest concentrations of pulp/paper mills and chip mills anywhere on Earth.

To feed increasing demands, paper companies in the region are clearing and converting native hardwood forests to pine plantations on a significant scale. For example, in the southern Cumberland Plateau between 1981 and 2000, 14 percent of the native forest acreage was converted to single-species pine plantations.

The new NRDC/Dogwood/Bowater agreement establishes a new model for forestry that rejects these trends and practices - ending clearcutting and conversion of hardwoods, rejecting wood fiber purchases from plantations that have been converted from native forests, limiting chemical use, and taking steps to protect ecologically significant forests.

The NRDC/Dogwood/Bowater Agreement

Our agreement secures many dramatic improvements in the company's overall forest management operations, including commitments to:

  • End conversion of natural hardwood forests to pine plantations on all the land it owns in the United States within three years.

  • Stop buying from third-party land owners pine fiber converted from natural forestland to pine plantations after 2007. The phase out will take place over the next three years.

  • Use the Forest Stewardship Council's Southeast standard for hardwood management requiring variable age retention harvesting systems and other practices that eliminate the clearing of natural forests;

  • Collaborate on a mapping study approximately 7,000 acres of particularly sensitive areas on all of Bowater's land on the Cumberland Plateau, and work to protect these lands once identified;

  • Adopt a moratorium on the logging or selling of gulfs and coves while the study is underway;

  • Identify and protect biologically important ephemeral ponds on Bowater's land;

  • Adopt a 300-foot buffer for any spraying of both herbicides and fertilizers around communities and the potentially sensitive sub-group populations, including schools, day-care centers, hospitals and homes, and water bodies;

  • Use helicopters equipped with geographic information instead of fixed-wing planes for better application control during aerial spraying;

  • Work towards identifying ways to increase its use of post-consumer recycled fiber, in lieu of virgin fiber, in its products.

NRDC and Dogwood Alliance will maintain an ongoing working relationship with Bowater and will review, on an annual basis, the progress they are making implementing the Memorandum of Understanding.

As the largest landowner on the Cumberland Plateau and as a global company fundamentally dependent on timber as a raw material, Bowater's commitment sends a strong signal to the world that more ecologically protective approaches to virgin timber-based paper production can be achieved - setting the stage for a broader shift in practices within the paper industry in the South - and represents a critical stepping stone for future conservation efforts in the region.

Related NRDC Pages
June 29, 2005, Bowater Announces Memorandum of Understanding With Leading Conservation Groups to Protect Southern Forests, Cumberland Plateau

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