Meet the Greencorps Team Working for Forest Protection in the Southeast

Dogwood Alliance is excited to announce the addition of 3 Greencorps organizers to our team! This month, John Qua, Rita Frost, and Katya English joined the Dogwood team to help stop the expansion of the biomass industry and to save our Southern forests. They will be working in key biomass export cities: Wilmington, Savannah, and Baton Rouge. They join our team at a crucial time as the biomass industry gears up to expand, threatening some of our most biodiverse wetland and bottomland hardwood coastal forests.

The three organizers will supplement the important work already being done by concerned community members in those regions, help raise awareness about this great threat to our Southern forests, and send a message to European policymakers that our forests aren’t fuel.

Equipped with Greencorps organizing training and on the ground experience, John, Rita, and Katya bring to the Our Forests Aren’t Fuel team knowledge of successful campaign work and a passion for Southern forests and environmental work.

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Dogwood Alliance staff members with the Greencorps Organizing Team.

Rita Frost spent the fall working on a campaign to divest Duke University’s $18 billion endowment from fossil fuels, and helped secure almost 100 professor sign-ons of support and 1,500 student petitions. Now, Rita is excited to be working for forest protection from Savannah, GA. “I’m part of this team today because I’m a southerner too. I’m from Texas and I remember exploring the swamp land in the Big Thicket forests with my brothers on vacation every summer as a kid. While I may not look like that girl with the bangs in her face and the mud on her cheeks anymore, I know there are many southern kids just like myself hoping to explore the beautiful hardwood forests and wetlands that y’all hold so closely to your hearts. We must keep these forests where they belong: in the hands of our children.” So far, Rita has loved getting to know the people of Savannah, especially the many committed environmentalists and students. One volunteer, Marlee, petitioned with Rita and a farmer’s market where they collected 85 petitions in 3 hours!

John Qua’s previous campaign was with Food and Water Watch in Texas, where he worked to commit Austin to a growing list of cities calling on Congress to stop the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms. John is excited to work on this campaign from Wilmington, NC because this issue, “not only affects some of the most valuable forests we have left in this country, but also life for residents here in Wilmington. With the construction of the port downtown, it’s been exciting to help educate the community on the issue of biomass and see the community work together to protect their neighborhood.” John’s had an eventful first couple of weeks, with a highlight being a county commissioners meeting about the city zoning exemptions for facilities at the port. Three residents of Sunset Park, one of the neighborhoods most affected by the port’s construction, came out to represent their community and voice their concerns. The resident’s passion to protect eachother and their community was an inspiration to John, and a reminder of the extent to which the biomass industry negatively impacts Southern communities.

Katya English spent the previous fall working on a campaign in Portland to pass a GMO labeling initiative on the Oregon ballot, which lost by just a small margin despite industry spending upwards of $22 million. In Baton Rouge, Katya says, “I am delighted to be working with the Dogwood Alliance on the Our Forests Aren’t Fuel campaign because protecting Southern forests is critical. Especially when they are being destroyed to make wood pellets used on the other side of the world. That’s bad for the local community, Louisiana’s environmental heritage, and the planet.” A big highlight so far has been getting out and talking to local people, and hearing why they care about this issue! People in Baton Rouge are ready to get organized and fight back against the destructive wood pellet industry.

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Greencorps organizers will be sending the messages of concerned community members to European policymakers, calling on them to Save Our Southern forests.

The Greencorps organizers are off to a flying start, and that’s just the first couple weeks! We’re thrilled to have them on the Dogwood team, and are grateful for their commitment to environmental and forest protection. Over the next few months, John, Katya, and Rita will be holding kick-off meetings, informational sessions, and will be working with volunteers to collect signatures for SOS postcards to be sent to EU policy makers urging them to Save Our Southern forests. Stay tuned for exciting updates from our campaign!

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