Release: The Nature Conservancy Exposed for Promoting Industrial Logging and Wood Products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Tuesday, April 5, 2022
Media contact: Carina Daniels, [email protected], 510-847-1617

New exposé condemns The Nature Conservancy for falsely promoting industrial logging and wood products as climate solutions 

Biggest US conservation group cut off dialogue with renowned scientists, forest protection, and environmental justice groups, who are now going public with their story

Washington, DC – A coalition of scientists, faith and environmental justice leaders, and forest defenders has released The Nature Conspiracy, a tell-all exposé calling out The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for falsely promoting wood production and logging as climate solutions. The coalition decided to produce the exposé after The Nature Conservancy repeatedly dismissed concerns about the destruction it’s helping to cause.

“The Nature Conservancy – the biggest, richest, and most influential environmental organization in the country – has been working with the logging and wood products industries and lobbying governments at all levels to increase logging and expand markets for wood products, often calling these efforts ‘natural climate solutions,’” said the Reverend Leo Woodberry, executive director of the New Alpha Community Development Corporation and prominent leader in the environmental justice movement.

Woodberry said,

“When my colleagues and I presented The Nature Conservancy with evidence that wood production and industrial logging is destroying our forests, making climate change worse, and making rural communities – particularly communities of color – more susceptible to flooding, wildfires, water contamination, and pollution, they weren’t interested in talking about how we can work together to fix this. As the climate crisis worsens, we need The Nature Conservancy to stop promoting false solutions.”

The exposé details why 158 faith, climate, justice, and forest protection organizations representing 3.5 million members signed an open letter to the CEO, Jennifer Morris.

The letter calls on TNC to stop promoting wood products and logging, to help catalyze a bold effort to protect forests and support environmental justice communities. The letter states: “TNC programs are promoting false climate solutions that center the financial interests of large lumber, pulp/paper, biomass/wood-pellet, and other corporations that perpetuate carbon emissions, biodiversity loss, pollution and environmental injustice.“

In a series of articles, The Nature Conspiracy exposé refers to scientific evidence, public statements, and expert interviews to document:

  • Evidence that wood markets and logging are making climate change worse
  • How letting forests grow is vital to solving the climate crisis and protecting communities from extreme weather events such as flooding and wildfires
  • Cases where wood production is emitting harmful pollution, disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color
  • How TNC works with some of the worst players in the forestry industry to promote the expansion of wood production and logging via government measures such as the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“We cannot sit back and remain silent while TNC enables an industry that is doing so much damage to climate, biodiversity, and environmental justice communities,” said Danna Smith, executive director of Dogwood Alliance. “We need swift and courageous action to protect forests and our most vulnerable communities if we are going to meet the grave crises we are facing at this moment.”

When trees are logged, most of the carbon they store is released.

Every year, US logging releases about 723 million tons of carbon dioxide — equivalent to burning more than 3.7 billion pounds of coal.

Logging slashes forests’ ability to absorb and accumulate massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere. It also destroys habitats for plants and animals, including endangered species. It damages services local communities depend on, including natural flood control and water purification.

“The latest IPCC report findings confirmed the growing body of scientific evidence that it is essential to maintain the ecological integrity of our forests and all natural systems to protect and restore biodiversity and avoid the worst consequences of climate change,” said William Moomaw, PhD, emeritus professor of international environmental policy at Tufts University, and a lead author of five IPCC reports.

“As a scientist, I call on The Nature Conservancy to stop undermining these climate and biodiversity goals.”

In The Nature Conspiracy, residents of environmental justice communities in the rural South report that the growing wood-pellet industry is damaging their health and their quality of life.

These plants, which tend to be built near low income communities of color, turn trees into tiny pellets – a form of biomass – that are shipped to Europe and Asia and burned to generate electricity. The exposé also documents how TNC has aligned with two of the biggest players in the wood pellet market – Enviva and Drax – in a collaborative that seeks to influence government policy.

“While The Nature Conservancy is helping drive federal subsidies to expand wood markets, companies like Enviva and Drax are ramping up wood pellet production and environmental justice communities across the South are paying the price with their health,” said Kathy Egland, founder of Mississippi’s Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate, and Health Organization. She chairs the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee of NAACP, which recently passed a resolution opposing the biomass and wood pellet industry’s expansion across the South.

In the West, The Nature Conservancy promotes logging as a way to reduce wildfire risk to communities, despite the fact that the largest study comparing fire in protected forests to fire where logging is permitted found that “forests with the highest levels of protection from logging tend to burn least severely.”

“All logging companies have to do is say the magic words ‘fuel reduction’ and they can cut down the most fire-resistant large, old trees; they can clearcut mature forests; or they can call it ‘commercial thinning’ and kill 80% of the trees in a forest,” said Chad Hanson, PhD, of the John Muir Project. “It’s commercial logging for profit, just with a different label,” he said.

TNC’s fingerprints are all over the enormous 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which calls for logging an additional 30 million acres of national forests and other public lands owned by the American people, $400 million in support for expanding wood markets (such as biomass), and nearly $2 billion for wildland fire reduction and restoration work.

Many of those dollars will fund industrial logging on private and public lands and that some scientists warn won’t actually reduce the fire risk to communities.

The magazine’s Calendar of Controversy shows that this isn’t the first time The Nature Conservancy has been confronted by top scientists, environmental groups, and others. For example, in 2020, Bloomberg Green reported that The Nature Conservancy sold carbon offsets that didn’t really offset any carbon, accepting money from corporations to protect forest land that had already been protected.

The coalition hopes that its open letter and The Nature Conspiracy exposé can catalyze funders, policymakers, and the public to recognize the problems of industrial logging and prioritize protecting forests. They hope public pressure encourages The Nature Conservancy to change its ways and use its abundant resources and influence to protect our forests, our communities, and our planet.


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