Conservation News

Georgia’s Newest Forest Manager: IKEA

One of the companies behind the famous furniture and home goods brand is committing to keep a nearly 11,0000-acre slice of Georgia woods conserved and open for campers.

One of the companies behind IKEA’s ubiquitous stores has bought 10,840 acres of land in Georgia to protect it from development, the company has announced. 

In a press release published on January 14, Ingka Group, the corporation that owns and runs a majority of IKEA’s stores, announced that it purchased the land from The Conservation Fund, a Virginia-based non-profit organization that has worked to protect over 8 million acres since 1985.

The land, which is located near the Altamaha River Basin, will be managed by Ingka Investments, Ingka Group’s investment branch. The forest is home to a variety of plant and animal species, including the protected gopher tortoise and longleaf pine.

Gopher tortoises, the only species of tortoise in the Southeastern United States, were once “residents of the fire-dependent longleaf pine belt,” according to the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory, but have declined as a result of habitat loss and degradation. 

Longleaf pines can live as long as 300 years, and provide a habitat for more than 30 other endangered and threatened species, according to the National Wildlife Federation. The relatively slow-growing trees now cover less than 3 percent of the estimated 90 million acres they once spanned.

It’s important to note that Ingka doesn’t plan to leave the forest untouched: The company will allow sustainable logging, says Ann Simonelli, media relations director of TCF. However, as a condition of the purchase, Ingka Group committed to protecting the land from fragmentation, preserving the gopher tortoise’s habitat, and restoring the longleaf pine forest. It also plans to keep the forest open for campers, hunters, and other recreationists. 

Ingka Group currently oversees roughly 613,000 acres of land, of which about 136,000 are in the United States. The Forest Stewardship Council audits the company’s forest management to ensure it meets environmental and social standards. 

“In all our properties, we pay special attention to ensuring environmental protection, so we are happy to see that our efforts in working with responsible forest management are being seen and trusted,” Krister Mattsson, the managing director of Ingka Investments, said in a statement provided to Backpacker.

Ingka Group is one of a number of corporations that make up IKEA, which uses an estimated 1% of the world’s total lumber production to make its furniture. IKEA has pledged to become “climate positive” by using only renewable or recycled materials in its products, phasing out fossil fuels, and designing its products to be reused, refurbished, and recycled.