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Volkswagen donation to expand US forest by 1,500 acres

The $1.25 million donation will expand the forest near the company's Chattanooga plant. Nonprofits, schools, and public agencies will also get a cut.

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — 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.

RELATED: Volkswagen expanding electric vehicle production at Chattanooga plant

Volkswagen broke ground Wednesday on an $800 million (727 million euro) 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.

RELATED: Volkswagen bets big on electric. Will consumers buy in?