NFWF’s Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund Awards $835,000 in Grants to Advance Forest and Freshwater Habitat Restoration

Four projects will restore and enhance more than 15,000 acres of forest and grassland habitats, benefitting bird, fish and mussel species

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $835,000 in grants to restore, enhance and protect shortleaf pine, oak and riparian forests, grasslands and in-stream habitats in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. The grants will leverage $9.8 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of more than $10.6 million.

The grants were awarded through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund (CPSF), a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards Partnership and Altria Group.

The projects supported by the four grants announced today will restore shortleaf pine and oak forests and grasslands to benefit birds, including northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse and golden-winged warbler. They will also restore aquatic habitats to benefit freshwater fish such as the blackside dace, as well as freshwater mollusks such as the Cumberland elktoe. These projects will improve habitat by treating invasive species such as hemlock woolly adelgid and by repairing streambanks to reduce sedimentation and improve in-stream habitat conditions. Additionally, projects will provide private landowners with both technical and financial assistance to help implement conservation practices on private lands.

“The Cumberland Plateau, with its varied landscape, supports an impressive array of species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The four grants announced today will support projects that restore forest, grassland and aquatic habitats, which are all vital to sustaining the biodiversity of this region.”

“NRCS is pleased to support these habitat restoration projects through our partnership with NFWF,” said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. “These conservation projects will benefit many species of aquatic life and birds, including northern bobwhite, ruffed grouse and golden-winged warbler.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proud to support conservation efforts in the species-rich region of the Cumberland Plateau,” said Leopoldo Miranda-Castro, the Service’s regional director for the South Atlantic-Gulf and Mississippi Basin Regions. “Restoration efforts in this area not only support several listed species but also many at-risk species that can only be found in the Plateau and also help to keep forests and lands working for our partners in conservation.”

Extending from northwest Alabama to eastern Kentucky, the Cumberland Plateau features complex geology, landforms, large forest blocks and cold-water streams that create an immense diversity of habitats. The region’s vast forests—considered the longest expanse of hardwood-forested plateau in the world—provide important habitat for numerous forest birds, as well as black bear and other mammals. The plateau is recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot for amphibians and supports a tremendous assortment of fish and freshwater mollusk species.

The region was once dominated by shortleaf pine, oak and grassland communities, but these habitats have declined over the past several decades due to conversion of forest-types, fire suppression, disease and pest infestations, as well as land development and changes in agricultural practices. These changes in forest and land-use types and conditions contributed to the decline of multiple wildlife species including birds such as northern bobwhite, golden-winged warbler and prairie warbler, which rely on open-canopy woodlands and early-successional and grassland habitats. At the same time, sedimentation and runoff from development and the modification of streams threaten the region’s many freshwater species including freshwater fish such as the Cumberland arrow darter.

“The health of forest ecosystems is critically important for mitigating climate change, protecting water quality, clean air and biodiversity, and benefiting the estimated 1.6 billion people worldwide who depend directly on forests for their livelihoods,” said International Paper Chief Sustainability Officer Sophie Beckham. “The Cumberland Plateau is home to vital ecosystems, and we are honored to support these projects that restore and enhance the health of the forests, grasslands and in-stream habitats found here.”

Since 2013, the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund has invested more than $8.4 million in grants that will establish and enhance shortleaf pine, oak and riparian forests and improve stream habitat to benefit the birds and wildlife that rely on these ecosystems.

A complete list of the 2021 grants made through the Cumberland Plateau Stewardship Fund is available here.           



About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation's fish, wildlife, plants, and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 5,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $6.8 billion. Learn more at

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service

Since 1935, the Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped America’s private landowners and managers conserve their soil, water, and other natural resources. NRCS provides technical assistance based on sound science and offers financial assistance for many conservation activities.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About International Paper

International Paper (NYSE: IP) is a leading global producer of renewable fiber-based packaging, pulp and paper products with manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa and Russia. We produce corrugated packaging products that protect and promote goods, and enable world-wide commerce; pulp for diapers, tissue and other personal hygiene products that promote health and wellness; and papers that facilitate education and communication. We are headquartered in Memphis, Tenn., employ approximately 48,000 colleagues and serve more than 25,000 customers in 150 countries. Net sales for 2020 were $21 billion. For more information about International Paper, our products and global citizenship efforts, please visit See how we’re building a better future for people, the planet, and our company at

About Altria Group

Altria Group is a Fortune 200 company located in Richmond Va. Altria’s tobacco companies include some of the most enduring names in American business including Philip Morris USA, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, the maker of Copenhagen and Skoal. Altria complements its total tobacco platform with ownership of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, a collection of distinctive wine estates, and significant equity investment in Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer.


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