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International Paper, preservation group cut forestry deal

The world’s largest paper company said Tuesday it has reached agreement with a longtime antagonist, the Asheville-based Dogwood Alliance, to protect forests in the Southeast.

International Paper, headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., and Dogwood will map forests to identify endangered tracts or those with high conservation value to help the company avoid sourcing timber from those areas. Mapping of forests near IP’s Riegelwood mill, near Wilmington, will begin this year.

The two also will work together to keep native hardwood forests from being converted to pine plantations.

“Engaging with our critics is an important part of our process of continuous improvement,” IP’s vice president of sustainability, Teri Shanahan, said in a release. “We look forward to working with Dogwood because it’s clear that, although we approach it from markedly different perspectives, they are as passionate about the forests as we are.”

Until now, IP had collaborated on sustainable forestry practices with other conservation interests but not with Dogwood. The group focuses on protecting forests in the South and for years has targeted the paper industry.

IP recently joined a World Wildlife Fund initiative to ensure forest products come from well-managed forests, and announced a $7.5 million project with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore forests in the coastal Carolinas, Cumberland Plateau and Texas-Arkansas piney woods.

The company also increased its purchases of sustainably raised fiber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Those steps “opened the door for transitioning our formerly adversarial relationship to one of collaboration,” Dogwood executive director Danna Smith said in the release. “We are pleased to work with IP on these initiatives that, when combined with our collaborative effort, set a leadership standard within the Southern forest industry.”

Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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