Coalition Calls on UK to Stop Burning Southern US Forests for Electricity
Hunters, students and conservationists meet with British Consulate and then take to the streets of Atlanta advocating for endangered southern forests
Atlanta, GA – Today, a diverse coalition of conservationists, student groups and outdoorsmen from across the Southeast held a rally outside of the British Consulate in Atlanta, GA calling on the U.K. to stop burning Southern US forests for electricity. The U.K. is the world’s largest importer of wood pellets from the region, some of which are harvested from endangered wetlands, shipped to Europe and burned to generate electricity as a replacement for coal. Last year, wood pellet exports from southern ports increased more than 70 percent.
The group, led by Asheville, NC-based Dogwood Alliance, met with the UK Consul General Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford, a top ranking British official whose role is to promote UK-US trade and investment, conduct public diplomacy on key issues and build scientific co-operation. Members of the coalition stressed how European renewable energy regulations, intended to reduce the environmental impact of energy production, are actually driving widespread destruction of Endangered Forests and wetlands along the Eastern seaboard and across the US Gulf Coast.
In 2009, the European Commission enacted legislation that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels and increase renewable energy consumption by 20 percent. Loopholes in this law are the principle driver behind the explosion of the wood pellet industry around the world.
“The Southern United States is blessed with one of the most biologically diverse forest systems on the planet,” said Adam Macon, Campaign Director for Dogwood Alliance. “While we strongly support Europe’s efforts to reduce its environmental footprint, their current misguided polices are destroying irreplaceable ecosystems and doing much more damage than the intended good.”
Historically, wood pellets were produced from the byproducts of the timber industry – branches, sawdust and other residues. Due to the massive demand created by the EU regulations, wood pellet producers are now clear cutting forests and processing whole trees to feed the growing demand for biomass energy across Europe. Recently, the UK’s own Department of Energy and Climate Change released a report stating that the use of whole trees, larger than 4 inches in diameter, created no carbon benefits and actually in many scenarios produce up to 4 times more carbon pollution than burning coal.
“European policymakers should heed the advice of its own energy experts and adopt policies that prevent further destruction of our southern forests.” said Rita Frost an organizer with Dogwood Alliance. “Southerners have a deep rooted connection to nature and are becoming outraged when they learn that their rich cultural heritage is being clearcut, shipped to Europe and burned. We stand united in sending a clear message to Europe that “Our Forests Aren’t Fuel.”
A common misconception is that forestry in the South is strictly regulated. In reality, 90% of forestry conducted in the region is on private land with few restrictions and very little regulation. Practices such as large-scale clearcutting, logging of endangered forests, wetland logging, and the conversion of natural forests to plantations are mostly unregulated and are often practiced in sensitive habitats with little protection for wildlife.
The Southeast is a dynamic geographical region that supports at least half of the waterfowl wintering in the Atlantic Flyway, and wetlands across the region serve as year-round habitat for wood ducks and mottled ducks. Specific wetland habitats important to waterfowl within the region include managed coastal wetlands, floodplain forests along river systems, freshwater marshes, coastal bays, and estuaries. The destruction of the critical wetlands and bottomland forests puts communities at risk from the effects of climate change and is also having a negative impact on wildlife such as waterfowl that depend on these habitats.
“As a young boy, my father would take me duck hunting and it was during those days in the duck blind that I developed a deep appreciation for the outdoors. I also learned about the responsibility of serving as a steward of these resources to ensure that future generations are able to share similar experiences.” said Bob Freeman, an avid duck hunter and small business owner. “When I learned that critical waterfowl habitat along the Atlantic Flyway and Mississippi Flyway were being harvested to power Europe, I knew it was my responsibility to speak up on behalf of outdoorsmen to ensure the collective voices of conservationists are heard. There are several waterfowl organizations that are raising millions of dollars to protect these critical habitats, unfortunately those efforts are being outpaced by the demand created by misguided European policies.”
The “Our Forests Aren’t Fuel” campaign is actively engaged across the South, engaging businesses, outdoorsmen, conservationists, elected leaders and citizens being impacted by the wood pellet industry. The coalition is in active discussions with policy makers in Europe and with diplomats in Washington, DC and Atlanta, GA to make sure they understand the real impacts their policies are having on the forests of the region. The coalition is committed to working with European policy makers to ensure their renewable energy policies actually meet their desired goals without compromising the future of forests across the globe.
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About Dogwood Alliance
Dogwood Alliance is increasing protection for millions of acres of Southern forests by transforming the way corporations, landowners and communities value them for their climate, wildlife and water benefits. Dogwood Alliance has revolutionized the environmental practices of some of the world’s largest corporations. For more information on the organization please visit www.dogwoodalliance.org