UT Researchers Naturalize Grounds At Saturn Plant (310)

SPRING HILL, Tenn. — University of Tennessee researchers have planted more than 400 trees on the 2,500-acre Saturn Corp. grounds this spring as part of a plan to lessen the carmaker’s impact on the environment.

 Dr. Jack Ranney, an environmental scientist for UT’s Energy, Environment and Resources Center, said the Saturn Land-Use Project will beautify and improve the environment, encourage biodiversity, reduce grounds maintenance costs, and promote good environmental stewardship.

The general idea is to improve the looks of the grounds, improve environmental habitat and save money at the same time,” Ranney said.

 Researchers from UT’s environment center and the department of ornamental horticulture and landscape design planted native species such as red cedar, oak, maple, walnut and hackberry, Ranney said. The project will help control non-native pest shrubs such as honeysuckle and privet which hamper biodiversity, he said. Baseline surveys are being conducted on wildlife and vegetation at the site to measure how biodiversity changes over time, he said.

 William Miller, Saturn’s manager of environmental affairs, said the project could trim the company’s $500,000 annual grounds maintenance bill and create buffers around ponds and streams to help control storm runoff and contain accidental spills.

 Saturn decided to get involved in this for two obvious reasons: it is good for the environment, but it is also makes good business sense,” Miller said.

 The project will gradually transform areas around the plant into natural habitat that requires no general maintenance or mowing, but retains a landscaped look, Ranney said.

 Our challenge is to make the transition to a natural landscape and still have some semblance of a neat, well-planned look,” Ranney said. We will have to work gradually and incrementally to create more environmentally-sound grounds maintenance options without destroying the manicured look that is important to the business and its workers.”

 Saturn is funding the project at $100,000 yearly for up to three years, Ranney said.

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 Contact: Dr. Jack Ranney (423-974-3939)