Norfolk Southern has made substantial progress on its Trees and Trains reforestation program, planting 2.4 million trees on 4,000 acres in four states in the ecologically important Mississippi Delta.
The Trees and Trains project is a five-year reforestation and carbon sequestration project to plant six million trees on 10,000 acres in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) with GreenTrees®, the leading reforestation program on private lands in the U.S. The $5.6 million project, in its third year, is the largest carbon reforestation project in the nation. Over time, the trees will generate 1.12 million tons of carbon-offset credits, significantly offsetting the railroad’s CO2 emissions.
Considered North America's “Amazon,” the MAV is the nation’s largest watershed and a vital habitat for numerous wildlife species. Forest once covered 25 million acres of the valley, but most of the land was converted to agricultural production, and today only four million acres of forest remain. Trees and Trains calls for creating a permanent forest. Under the program, landowners receive carbon payments for planting trees instead of crops on marginal or frequently flooded land.
GreenTrees Managing Partner Chandler Van Voorhis explains, “Landowners retain the use of their acreage and can earn additional income through recreational usage, conservation tax benefits, and timber sales. These agreements encourage long-term storage of carbon dioxide in the trees, roots, and soil on the land.”
In 2008, after 50 years of farming, landowner Bobby Petrus of Monroe, La., converted his 1,162 acres of farmland from cotton, corn, and beans to hardwood trees to lock in a steady income without the seasonal risks of traditional farming.
“The trees have provided us with a more reliable source of income than the crops we had planted in the past,” Petrus says. “Our family is very satisfied with the success. The growth and survival rate on the inter-planted cottonwoods and hardwoods has been astounding.”
“Trees and trains have a lot in common,” Van Voorhis says. “The essence of a train is the efficient movement of goods across the landscape. Trees represent the most efficient distribution of ecological services and goods. Both are long-term assets that require heavy upfront capital to build. Together, trees and trains symbolize how conservation capitalism will be delivered.”
Blair Wimbush, NS vice president real estate and corporate sustainability officer, says Trees and Trains is a model for how NS plans to invest in conservation initiatives to mitigate the railroad's environmental impacts.
“While restoring former woodlands, we’re generating long-term benefits for multiple stakeholders, including residents of the communities we serve, customers, employees, farmers and family landowners, as well as Norfolk Southern.”
Trees and Trains is one of several initiatives Norfolk Southern has under way as part of its woodlands sustainability projects. NS also is supporting research by The Longleaf Alliance to restore longleaf pine forest ecosystems in the South, and American Chestnut Foundation, which is working to reestablish American chestnut trees to their native range through planting initiatives at former coal mine sites.
Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) is one of the nation’s premier transportation companies. Its Norfolk Southern Railway Company subsidiary operates approximately 20,000 route miles in 22 states and the District of Columbia, serves every major container port in the eastern United States, and provides efficient connections to other rail carriers. Norfolk Southern operates the most extensive intermodal network in the East and is a major transporter of coal, automotive, and industrial products.
Norfolk Southern contacts:
Chandler Van Voorhis