Volkswagen donation to expand East TN forest by 1,500 acres

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FILE – In this Oct. 5, 2015 file photo the VW sign of Germany’s car company Volkswagen is displayed at the building of a company’s retailer in, Berlin, Germany. Diesels bought back by Volkswagen during its emissions-cheating scandal are trickling back into the marketplace after being brought up to emissions standards. Bargain hunters may be intrigued by the high fuel economy and refreshed warranties of these fun-to-drive used diesels. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — Volkswagen plans to donate $1.25 million to help expand Cherokee National Forest near the company’s Chattanooga plant and offer community grants.

On Thursday, The Conservation Fund announced a collaboration with Volkswagen to open three tracts near the plant for outdoor public recreation and to protect the habitat for the black bear and the Indiana bat.

Volkswagen is using $200,000 of the $1.25 million on community grants up to $50,000 each to help nonprofits, schools and public agencies improve water quality, increase outdoor recreation access and advance environmental education.

Volkswagen broke ground Wednesday on an $800 million expansion to make electric cars in Chattanooga.

The company has sought to transform itself after the 2015 diesel scandal, in which Volkswagen was caught using software to cheat on emissions testing.

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