NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Bridgestone Americas Inc. is donating 5,763 acres it owns on the Cumberland Plateau in central Tennessee to The Nature Conservancy.
The donation, expected to be complete by June, will be the largest land donation in the history of The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, Bridgestone said. The property is located in White County, approximately 80 miles east of Nashville.
The property — to be known as the Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain — will protect and enhance biologically significant habitat for a range of endangered plant and animal species, Bridgestone said, and will connect to adjoining protected forests, including the 10,000-acre Bridgestone/Firestone Centennial Wilderness previously gifted by Bridgestone to the state of Tennessee.
Ownership of the land traces to Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., which began acquiring and consolidating property in the Cumberland Plateau area in the 1960s with the intention of developing it into a company retreat or resort. The Chestnut Mountain property is part of nearly 16,000 acres owned by Firestone.
In 1998, Firestone — by then part of Bridgestone Corp. — donated 4,000 acres of land to the state of Tennessee and two years later donated 6,000 more acres as part of its centennial celebrations.
"At Bridgestone, we have a corporate social responsibility philosophy called 'Our Way to Serve,' in which we are not only committed to making our communities where we work stronger, but are equally dedicated to our environmental commitment to ensure a healthy environment for generations to come," said Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer and executive vice president for Bridgestone Americas.
"The Bridgestone Nature Reserve at Chestnut Mountain is a beautiful part of Tennessee and home to some of the most biodiverse forests in the United States. We are proud to partner with The Nature Conservancy, which shares a mutual goal of restoring and managing this fragile forest to the benefit of us all."
Protecting this property also maximizes the potential for mitigating climate change through the land's ability to capture carbon, Bridgestone said. The 5,763 acres are more than sufficient remove the carbon dioxide from the air to offset the carbon footprint of the Bridgestone Tower, the company's corporate headquarters in downtown Nashville, for years to come.
"Protecting and maximizing forests is beyond a business strategy, it's a part of the very fabric of our organization," Terry Cook, state director for The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee, said.
"The Nature Conservancy works on nature-based solutions to combat climate change. Research by The Nature Conservancy and others has shown that we have underestimated the power of nature to help in this global challenge," he said. "Avoiding forest loss is one of the most effective nature-based climate solutions. In addition, protecting forests also provides cleaner air, increased biodiversity and sources of clean water."
Mr. Cook lauded Bridgestone for its commitment to the environment, saying the company is setting an example for how local, regional and national corporations can protect the planet in collaboration with the environmental community.
The reserve's most notable natural feature, Chestnut Mountain, is the highest peak in White County, Tenn., with an elevation of approximately 2,000 feet. The area is home to rare species, such as the peregrine falcon, Eastern slender glass lizard and barking tree frog, along with rare plants like the Cumberland rosemary and Michigan lily.
TDEC Deputy Commissioner Brock Hill said, "We look forward to working with our partners at The Nature Conservancy to preserve and protect Tennessee's land as well as provide public access to the beauty and grandeur of this Upper Cumberland site."