Dogwood Alliance Responds

I posted a blog last week about my interaction with the Dogwood Alliance at Bele Chere. I got an immediate reply from a Dogwood Alliance representative. It answered my questions and left no doubt that the cutting and destroying of swamp land was not being done in our National Forests.

So read the reply.

Reply from Dogwood Alliance

I am Haiz Oppenheimer, Campaign Organizer at Dogwood Alliance.  I received your message below about your experience at our table this weekend at Bele Chere, and I also read your blog post.  I am emailing you to answer some of your concerns.

First, I want to clarify, the people that you met at our booth were volunteers not staff.  At Dogwood we are a small non-profit (7 staff) and in order to make the biggest impact we can we rely on an awesome team of volunteers to help us with many aspects of our work, especially outreach.

While they are all talented and passionate people, it can take a while to come fully up to speed on all the details of the complex issues that we work on. So, while they were clear that the Green Swamp is being clearcut to produce KFC’s packaging, they may not understand the specific details of land ownership and management.

To answer your questions about land ownership and management in the Green Swamp, the 17,424 acres of the Green Swamp Preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy is but a small remnant of the native Green Swamp.

Today, the vast majority of the Green Swamp has been clearcut, ditched, drained, and converted from the native hardwoods and long-leaf pines to monoculture loblolly pine plantations.  Until recently virtually all of the Green Swamp was owned by International Paper. However, in 2006, IP sold off 5.1 million acres of US landholdings including all of the Green Swamp in order to take advantage of lucrative tax incentives.  Today, the Green Swamp is owned by RMS (Resource Management Service).  IP maintains an exclusive contract for all of the wood from the Green Swamp to supply their Riegelwood Mill where they manufacture among other products, KFC’s chicken buckets and other paper packaging.

At Dogwood Alliance our mission is protecting Southern forests.  One major strategy we employ is working with major customers of the paper industry to use their buying power to leverage demand away from paper produced at the expense of our beautiful native forests, in favor of sustainably produced paper products.  Over the years, through a combination of negotiation and persistent public pressure we have gotten major companies including Staples, Office Depot, Sony Home Entertainment, Johnson & Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, and McDonalds to adopt sustainable paper policies.  As a result, we have convinced Georgia-Pacific, Domtar, and Resolute Paper Products (formerly AbitibiBowater) to adopt fiber sourcing policies that have led to increased protection for millions of acres of endangered Southern forests. 

For more than 4 years now, we have been attempting to convince KFC to change their paper purchasing policies in order to protect, rather than destroy Southern forests.  Sadly, though they are well aware of the issue, the company still hasn’t budged.  Recently it came to light that KFC (and parent company Yum! Brands) is sourcing their packaging for the Chinese market from clearcut Indonesian rain forests that are the last habitat of endangered Sumatran tigers and orangutans.  So, while it may be IP and Asia Pulp and Paper who manufacture their buckets, KFC cannot avoid responsibility for the impacts of their packaging.  Here in North Carolina, KFC could play a big part in helping to convince IP and RMS to change the way they manage forests in the Green Swamp, and we think as corporate citizens of the South it is their responsibility to do so.  That’s why we will continue to educate citizens and get them involved in our Kentucky Fried Forests Campaign.

Thanks.  Feel free to email or call me with any more questions.

-Haiz Oppenheimer
Campaign Organizer
Dogwood Alliance

PS. Feel free to post this as a response on your blog.

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This was thorough reply and I felt it needed a blog post of its own.

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