Southern Company is committed to the people and communities we serve. Prudent use of natural resources is vital to meeting the needs of our customers, and we strive to conserve and protect those resources for future generations.
Our commitment is demonstrated by our environmental stewardship activities, our partnerships with organizations to conserve and protect wildlife and their natural habitats while serving our customers and maintaining compliance with applicable environmental regulations.
We work at all levels, from employee-led, grassroots campaigns to corporate-sponsored programs and projects to advance our conservation leadership.
The Longleaf Stewardship Fund helps restore the South's stately longleaf pine ecosystem, with the added benefit of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The program operates through a partnership between Southern Company – the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and others.
Longleaf pine forests once carpeted 90 million acres of the southern U.S. but declined to less than three percent of the area. That decline has been halted and reversed due to the longleaf restoration activities of dozens of partner organizations. Longleaf pines now occupy more than five percent of their original range. Longleaf ecosystems contain a stunning diversity of plants - nearly 600 species, half of which are considered rare. Restoring this ecosystem is a top priority for government agencies, conservation groups and the public. Millions of people enjoy hunting, fishing, birding and hiking in longleaf forests.
NFWF's Longleaf Stewardship Fund is a public-private partnership that includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southern Company, International Paper’s Forestland Stewards partnership, Altria Group, American Forest Foundation’s Southern Woods for At-Risk Wildlife Initiative and Louis Bacon’s Orton Foundation which is an affiliate of The Moore Charitable Foundation. The fund supports restoration of the longleaf pine ecosystem through implementation of the Range-Wide Conservation Plan for Longleaf Pine.
The Longleaf Stewardship Fund builds on the success of Southern Company’s Longleaf Legacy Program – a signature partnership with NFWF – which for eight years invested more than $8.7 million into projects to restore over 87,000 acres of longleaf pine forest and the native species that rely on it. Since 2012, the Longleaf Stewardship Fund has invested nearly $20 million in projects that will restore more than 123,000 acres, improve more than 1.2 million additional acres of longleaf pine forest, in Southern Company's southeastern service territory. This benefits the native species that rely on those forests, including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker and indigo snake and threatened gopher tortoise.
Bats for the Future Fund
Bats for the Future Fund (BFF) is a partnership between Southern Company and its subsidiaries, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Shell Oil Company to protect and preserve wildlife in the areas we serve and operate.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) has been blamed for the deaths of more than six million bats over the past decade. Bats are key players in the delicate North American ecosystem, devouring pests that can destroy crops like corn. Some studies estimate bats save the U.S. corn industry some $1 billion a year and $3 billion a year for the entire agriculture industry. WNS is a fungus that attacks hibernating bats and, in some areas of the U.S., has wiped out nearly the entire bat population.
Launched in 2017, the partnership has awarded six grants to organizations that will test of a variety of WNS treatments. Those treatments include a vaccine, a probiotic “cocktail,” anti-fungal disinfectants and ultraviolet light treatments. Initial BFF investments from all contributors total $1.36 million.
Power of Flight is a partnership among Southern Company, our four electric-utility subsidiaries - Alabama Power, Georgia Power, Gulf Power and Mississippi Power - and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Launched in 2003, the goal of the partnership is to conserve birds characteristic of the Southeast through strategic habitat restoration, species management and community engagement. We contribute $300,000 annually to Power of Flight, which is leveraged by additional funds from NFWF as well as grantee match.
These funds are directed through three NFWF conservation initiatives:
- Longleaf Stewardship Fund
- Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program
- Atlantic Flyway Shorebirds Initiative
Since 2003, the partnership has awarded 89 grants to 49 different conservation organizations and agencies and, providing over $8 million; with matching funds and a total on-the-ground impact of nearly $23 million. This has resulted in direct and indirect impacts that include:
- More than 478,000 acres restored or enhanced
- Red-cockaded woodpecker population growth of 188 percent
- Grassland species benefitting from improved longleaf habitat
- Protection of critical coastal shorebird populations
- Conservation education messages to more than 1.5 million people
The red-cockaded woodpecker is an essential part of the longleaf pine ecosystem in the southeastern U.S. Until recently, the red-cockaded woodpecker was in decline, primarily due to the loss of these mature longleaf forests, where the bird lives. Thanks to the support of the Power of Flight program, this keystone species could potentially be down-listed from "endangered" to "threatened" in the near future.
Community Watershed Restoration
Since 1999, Southern Company has partnered with communities, conservation organizations and natural resource agencies to improve local water quality and fish habitat through debris removal, stream buffers or reefs; provide outdoor classrooms and ecotourism through park, riverfront, wetland and coastal area enhancements; and engage citizens in on-the-ground restoration.
Southern Comapny supports river, stream and wetland restoration through two initiatives: Renew our Rivers and Five Star Urban Waters Restoration Program.
Since 2000, our subsidiaries have led Renew Our Rivers, a national award-winning campaign to remove debris from rivers and other waterways originated by an Alabama Power employee. This grassroots volunteer program has grown into community watershed cleanups on river systems and other waterways in four southeastern states. To date, more than 110,000 Renew Our Rivers volunteers have removed approximately 15 million pounds of trash and debris.
To date, more than 101,000 Renew Our Rivers volunteers have removed approximately 14.2 million pounds of trash and debris from waterways in the four states.
The Renew Our Rivers program has won over 20 prestigious awards, including:
- Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission Litter Prevention/Cleanup Award - Alabama Power
- Keep Mississippi Beautiful - Business Category
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Gulf Guardian Award - Second Place
- EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Award - Business Category
- Mississippi Wildlife Federation Corporate Conservationist of the Year
- Keep America Beautiful - Education in Litter Prevention
Five Star and Urban Waters
In 2006, Southern Company and its subsidiaries became the Southern region lead corporate sponsor (AL, FL, GA, MS) for the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program and have recently expanded to support communities beyond the southeast. This grant program supports community-based wetland, riparian and coastal habitat restoration nationwide and includes the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Wildlife Habitat Council, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other corporate sponsors.
The hallmark of this program is that it helps build community natural resources stewardship through education, outreach and hands-on community involvement and education. Projects are represented by diverse public-private partnerships that include at least five participants, i.e., "Five Stars," from various governments, businesses, schools, youth, environmental and citizen organizations.
Since 2006, Southern Company has invested nearly $2.8 million in 118 projects to 57 organizations which, combined with partner and grantee matching funds, have totaled nearly $13.4 million to restore or improve nearly 1,300 acres and more than 137,000 feet of streamside buffer across the Southeast. To date, nearly 400 community partner organizations have benefitted through the restoration, education conservation training and networking opportunities provided by this program.
Hydroelectricity forged Southern Company's beginnings a century ago. With the formation of new lakes, the ideals of guardianship for the land grew to be part of our culture as a company. We practice conservation and promote biodiversity on our own land and in partnership with others through our stewardship programs. Beyond the intrinsic value of biodiversity, a balanced and healthy ecosystem is integral to our commitment to provide clean, safe, reliable, and affordable energy to our customers.
The Southern Company system is the largest non-government provider of recreation facilities in Alabama and Georgia. We opened nearly 38,000 acres of land for public use that are now operated by state conservation and natural resources agencies as Wildlife Management Areas. In managing lakes, shorelines, and natural areas, we balance generation, environmental and economic factors.
Lakes and Recreation
Some 31 lakes lie behind our hydroelectric plants, which provide renewable power, flood control, irrigation, drinking water, fish and wildlife habitats and recreation on more than 200,000 acres of lakes and 5,000 miles of shoreline in Alabama and Georgia. Shorelines also bolster local economies serving boaters, fishermen, homeowners, hotels and parks.
In addition to recreational activities like swimming, fishing and boating on the lakes themselves, picturesque nearby areas have hiking trails, picnic areas and campgrounds — many of which are accessible to people with physical disabilities. For information, news and maps about recreation, fish species and hydroelectric plants at each of our lakes, visit Alabama Power lakes and Georgia Power lakes.
As hydroelectric plant licenses come up for renewal, we conduct an extensive process that addresses power generation, natural resources, recreation and aesthetics at the sites. The relicensing process engages federal, state and local resource agencies, non-governmental organizations, citizens' groups, Native American tribes and other stakeholders.
From an ecological standpoint, we compile and release biological assessments for threatened and endangered species. The reports propose actions we take to support biodiversity by protecting species of concern—and in some instances, enhancing habitats—in the watershed of the proposed project.
Forests offer bountiful wildlife habitats, provide beautiful areas for outdoor recreation, and even create jobs. Our foresters and wildlife biologists manage more than 263,000 acres of forested land in Alabama, Georgia and Florida for timber production and to enhance habitat for game and non-game species.
Approximately 120,000 acres of our forestland is leased to hunting clubs or managed by states as Wildlife Management Areas and state parks, offering hunting, fishing, canoeing, bike riding, archery, camping, hiking and bird watching. Many areas have nature trails with interpretive signs about the forest. We also have three areas dedicated to handicap-only hunting.
Several federally listed, and many state-listed, threatened or endangered species inhabit the land we own, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and American bald eagle. Our foresters follow federal and state laws and guidelines to protect these species and their habitat and help states survey plant and animal species.
- Alabama Power manages roughly 1,500 acres of longleaf pine forest at Lake Mitchell for 12 active clusters of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker under a Safe Harbor agreement and RCW Management Plan.
- Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear signed a Safe Harbor agreement in 2007 with the Georgia DNR to manage approximately 1,800 acres at its two nuclear sites for red-cockaded woodpecker and other longleaf-dependent species, such as the gopher tortoise.
- Georgia Power along with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has agreed to create a refuge for displaced gopher tortoises on Company property in Burke County located near the Plant Vogtle Nuclear site.
- Gulf Power has entered into partnership with the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP) and is working to develop and implement a voluntary, cooperative stewardship strategy to sustain the long-term viability of native plants and animals, the integrity of ecosystems, the production of commodities and ecosystem services and the human communities that depend upon all of them.
Rights of Way
Southern Company system foresters and employee volunteers manage the land surrounding our power plants and along our transmission rights of way to conserve native plants and wildlife habitats. We manage more than 300,000 acres of rights of way, more than 60 percent through integrated vegetation management, a program that reduces the need for pesticides, promotes healthy ecosystems, and can increase natural species diversity.
The Southern Company system has opened more than 100,000 acres of rights of way to native vegetation suitable for wildlife.
The Special Management Area program in Georgia protects, conserves, and restores rare plant species found in our rights of way. The number of sites has increased to 30, where Georgia Power biologists work with the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Natural Heritage Program to conserve local plant species at 22 Georgia sites. Examples include the Georgia aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum), Mohr's Barbara button (Marshallia mohrii), Hairy rattleweed (Baptisia arachnifera), Smooth purple coneflower (Echinacea laevigata), and the Florida willow (Salix floridana), all of which are threatened or endangered at a federal or state level.
The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) helps landowners manage unused land for the benefit of wildlife. Employees of the Southern Company systems' three nuclear facilities, in conjunction with community members, local conservation groups, and government agencies, maintain certification with Wildlife Habitat Council through their Wildlife at Work program for nearly 5,400 acres of land. For details concerning the certified land management practices, employee participation projects, and community partnerships visit: Farley (PDF 3MB) | Hatch (PDF 1MB) | Vogtle (PDF 2MB)
National Wild Turkey Federation's Energy for Wildlife was established to help manage and improve wildlife habitat on rights of way and other property controlled by energy companies. Southern Company is a charter member of this organization and in 2006 was certified for managing its transmission rights of way in a manner that is environmentally responsible. In 2007, the foundation presented Southern Company the Energy for Wildlife Achievement Award.
Forestry for Wildlife Partnership Program promotes habitat diversity. Georgia Power is a charter member, maintaining certification since 1999. In partnership with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife Resources Division, our foresters, wildlife biologists, and others manage timber and wildlife habitats tract by tract—approximately 82,000 acres of land throughout Georgia. We've received the Forestry for Wildlife Partnership award from the DNR for managing our land to benefit wildlife. For details, visit Georgia Department of Natural Resources.