October 12, 2021

Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund complete efforts to protect 1,500 acres within Cherokee National Forest

Chattanooga, Tenn. — Today, Volkswagen of America and The Conservation Fund announced the completion of a multi-year effort to buy, conserve and transfer approximately 1,500 acres of land to the U.S. Forest Service for inclusion in the Cherokee National Forest. The protection of this land, consisting of three separate tracts near the Volkswagen Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee, enhances statewide efforts to help preserve wildlife habitats and cultural resources, improve water quality, and provide additional recreation access and environmental education to the community.

The conserved lands, located in Monroe, Polk and Cocke counties are now open for public use and recreation, including hunting, wildlife viewing, and fishing. As part of the 660,000-acre Cherokee National Forest, these sites will provide enhanced protection for ecologically important waterways, like the French Broad River, Little Toqua Creek and the Conasagua River, one of the most aquatically diverse rivers in the state that contains critical habitat for 11 federally endangered fish and mussel species. This conservation effort also benefits wildlife by securing key habitats used by black bears and federally endangered Indiana bats.

“We are proud of the environmental strides we have made with The Conservation Fund and believe this work is integral to our endeavor of giving back to a community where more than 3,800 of our colleagues live,” said Hein Schafer, senior vice president, product marketing and strategy, Volkswagen of America. “Working with The Conservation Fund underscores our sustainability commitments to bolster the positive impacts in the communities where we work and live.”

This land conservation effort is part of an ongoing initiative to help protect and restore forestland in the United States, starting in eastern Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest. A portion of Volkswagen’s $1.25 million donation to The Conservation Fund was used towards the purchase and permanent protection of the 1,500 acres. The remaining amount was awarded via the Volkswagen Community Grant Program to five charitable organizations. Grants of up to $50,000 each are advancing efforts that provide environmental learning and leadership opportunities for local youth, help keep rivers and waterways within the Cherokee National Forest clean and provide up-to-date recreational access information for outdoor lovers in the region.

“Forests are one of the most important life-sustaining systems on the planet because they play an integral role in cleaning the air we breathe and water we drink, absorbing harmful greenhouse gas emissions, and offering natural habitat for wildlife to thrive as well as opportunities for people to explore the outdoors,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “Our collaboration with Volkswagen continues to deliver tangible benefits for forests and wildlife, while supporting local communities.”

“Support from our local communities and partners enables us to better serve the public and protect important forest habitat,” said Cherokee National Forest Supervisor JaSal Morris. “We are grateful to The Conservation Fund and the other partners for their hard work on making this happen.”

The protection of these lands as part of the national forest were also made possible with funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Imperiled Bat Conservation Fund, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and private contributions provided through the Tennessee chapter of The Nature Conservancy, from The Tucker Foundation and the Lyndhurst Foundation. The Nature Conservancy was an acquisition partner with The Conservation Fund in this initiative.

“The Appalachian forests of the eastern U.S., including the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, are globally recognized as a climate change-resilient landscape that will provide refuge and life-sustaining ecosystem services for people and nature now and for years to come.  The Nature Conservancy is honored to play a land acquisition role side-by-side with The Conservation Fund to implement Volkswagen of America’s ongoing initiative,” said Terry Cook, State Director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. 

Tennessee’s U.S. Congressional delegation representing Monroe, Cocke and Polk counties where the lands have been added to the national forest—U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty, U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann (TN-3), and U.S. Representative Diana Harshbarger (TN-1)—supported the use of federal LWCF funding for this conservation effort.

“Thank you to Volkswagen for investing in the Volunteer State. The recent partnership program demonstrates a renewed commitment to the areas surrounding the state-of-the-art assembly facility in Chattanooga,” said U.S. Senator Blackburn. “I look forward to the next stage of Volkswagen’s involvement across Tennessee.”  

“I applaud The Conservation Fund and Volkswagen of America for their hard work and commitment to protecting thousands of acres of pristine wilderness within the Cherokee National Forest. The 1,500 acres added to the Cherokee National Forest will increase recreation opportunities for Tennesseans, strengthen Tennessee’s State Wildlife Action Plan, and preserve our state’s natural heritage for generations to come,” said U.S. Representative Chuck Fleischmann.

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than 8.5 million acres of land.

About Volkswagen of America 
Volkswagen of America, Inc. is an operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America, which is a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG. Headquartered in Herndon, Virginia, Volkswagen Group of America’s operations in the United States include research and development, parts and vehicle processing, parts distribution centers, sales, marketing and service offices, financial service centers, and a state-of-the-art assembly facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Volkswagen Group is one of the world's largest producers of passenger cars and Europe's largest automaker. Volkswagen sells the Arteon, Atlas, Atlas Cross Sport, Golf, Golf GTI, ID.4, Jetta, Jetta GLI, Passat, and Tiguan vehicles through more than 600 independent U.S. dealers. Visit Volkswagen online at www.vw.com or media.vw.com to learn more.

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org 
Mike Tolbert | Volkswagen of America | 571-471-1484 | mike.tolbert@vw.com
Nicole Redding | Volkswagen of America | 571-471-9257 | nicole.redding@vw.com