Collaborative Partnerships: Wildlife
Long-term conservation and recovery efforts target imperiled species of coastal waterbirds and shorebirds across the Gulf Coast.
The Southern Company system participates in many environmental stewardship programs to protect wildlife, conserve natural resources and help ensure the communities we serve continue to be healthy, desirable places to live. Partnerships include funding, but Southern Company system employees also roll up their sleeves to pitch in.
Power of Flight
Power of Flight is a partnership among Southern Company, its 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 southern U.S. through strategic habitat restoration, species management and community engagement.
Southern Company contributes $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 that overlap the southeastern areas where Southern Company operates electric utilities: Longleaf Stewardship Fund, Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program and Atlantic Flyway Shorebirds Initiative. In addition to providing strategic alignment with comprehensive conservation strategies, this maximizes the conservation impact for target species, while increasing the leveraging of federal and other private resources.
The following Power of Flight funding priorities have been integrated into the Longleaf Stewardship Fund, Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program or Atlantic Flyway Shorebirds Initiative:
- Addressing conservation needs of bird species characteristic of the southern U.S., including red-cockaded woodpecker, northern bobwhite quail, whooping crane, coastal waterbirds and shorebirds, and other imperiled species
- Implementing actions that achieve specific species or regional habitat conservation plan goals
- Promoting collaborative relationships or enhancing existing partnerships
- Taking actions that result in direct and measurable conservation benefits
- Awarded 87 grants to 47 different conservation organizations and agencies
- In partnership with NFWF, provided over $8 million; with matching funds, total on-the-ground impact of more than $23 million
- More than 476,000 acres have been restored or enhanced*
- Supported red-cockaded woodpecker populations have grown 188 percent
- Grassland species benefitting from improved longleaf habitat
- Protecting critical coastal shorebird populations
- Disseminated conservation education messages to more than 1.5 million people*
*Figures are approximate and include completed and anticipated results, estimated for funded projects cumulatively through 2016. Education messages include displays and materials placed in nature centers and other facilities that received more than 1 million visitors annually.
2016 Grant Recipients
Two new Power of Flight grants were awarded in 2016 under the Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program:
- Operation Migration will conduct monitoring and outreach efforts in support of conserving the critically endangered whooping crane and building a self-sustaining population in the Southeast. Activities include tracking and monitoring young-of-year cranes following their release, as well as adult cranes in the population during north-south migration flights and spring nesting activities, and conducting web outreach to increase general awareness and provide migration progress updates.
- The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute will map the distribution, abundance, timing and habitat affiliations of birds during the spring and fall migrations around the Gulf Coast using weather radar and citizen-collected (eBird) data. Resulting maps will be used by conservation planners and policymakers as decision support tools to develop Gulf-wide conservation priorities for North America's migratory birds.
2015 Grant Recipients
Eight new Power of Flight grants were awarded in 2015.
Under the Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program:
- Alabama Wildlife Federation will use capacity building, expanded partnerships, technical assistance and outreach to increase landowner engagement and on-the-ground stewardship on private lands in Alabama Gulf Coast counties to expand habitats for shorebirds, waterbirds and waterfowl, as well as terrestrial birds and wildlife.
- Conservian will continue to work with partners in Alabama and Mississippi to monitor and restore beach-nesting bird populations and habitats. The project will use monitoring methods and best management practices and supervise local volunteer stewards to implement comprehensive shorebird management.
- Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences will create a Florida shorebird recovery business plan built on the work of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy and American Oystercatcher Recovery Business Plan. The project will strive to recover the imperiled American oystercatcher, snowy plover, black skimmer and least tern.
- The Nature Conservancy will support two new conservation corps and a veteran's conservation corps pilot demonstration to undertake projects that will improve long-term habitat health for native plants and animals and train young people to participate in the expanding Gulf restoration.
- State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry will implement experimental vehicle speed reduction measures and provide shelters for snowy plover chicks in order to increase beach-nesting bird population on Gulf Islands National Seashore, which is currently limited by poor reproductive success related to predators and vehicular collision mortality.
Under the Atlantic Flyway Shorebirds Initiative:
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources will support shorebird conservation efforts from Tybee Island to Cumberland Island, focusing on priority species including Red Knot, Whimbrel, American Oystercatcher and Wilson's Plover. This project will assist with predator control to address the emerging coyote depredation threat, shoreline change planning to examine inlet dynamics in light of potential future sea level changes and establish beach stewards at key foraging and breeding areas that are heavily used by beachgoers.
Under the Longleaf Stewardship Fund:
- The Alabama Forest Resources Center and partners will continue habitat management benefiting the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) on Enon and Sehoy plantations and adjacent properties. The project will also maintain habitats through regular prescribed burning and mid-story control, along with planting 100 acres of longleaf pine in gaps of dying shortleaf.
- The Longleaf Alliance and partners will monitor approximately 110 groups of RCWs for breeding activity, band nestlings of successful breeding pairs and translocate approximately 30 subadults from the pool of successful fledglings on the Apalachicola National Forest (ANF). The project will also collect cluster, cavity-tree and cavity-status data on multiple clusters on the ANF. These efforts provide critical status data on 275 of the approximately 559 active RCW clusters on the ANF, a significant contribution to the world's largest RCW population.
2014 Grant Recipients
Four new grants were awarded in 2014 to:
- Mississippi Land Trust- will apply fire on 7,760 acres of private lands to reintroduce fire to inactively managed pinelands and enhance bird habitat for multiple species of high conservation need. Targeted, localized prescribed burning campaigns will encourage the sustained use of prescribed burning by private landowners and ultimately seek to return fire to the landscape on a large scale. Partners include US Fish and Wildlife Service, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Mississippi Forestry Commission, National Wild Turkey Federation, Mississippi Prescribed Fire Council, and Mississippi State University Extension Service.
- College of William and Mary- will conduct a Red Knot resight program along the Atlantic Coast of Georgia in fall 2014 and spring 2015 to be paired with ongoing programs within the Delaware Bay. The data produced on the population utilizing Georgia in the spring and fall will be used to analyze ongoing questions regarding Red Knot habitat choice decision-making on the south Atlantic Coast. The project will also develop a partnership to address the management needs of the species. Partners include the Center for Conservation Biology, Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences, Georgia Department of Natural Resources Non-game Section, and US Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Dauphin Island Park & Beach Board- will preserve, restore, and properly manage 133 acres of critical birding habitat at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island by executing a comprehensive prescribed burn regimen and implementing an invasive species management strategy to enhance birding and wildlife habitat. In addition, highly visible educational signage and outreach and service opportunities will engage the public in conservation and natural resource issues. Partners include Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuaries, Alabama Forestry Commission, and The Nature Conservancy.
- Alabama Wildlife Federation (AWF)- will begin its second phase of a program that delivers technical assistance to landowners for the establishment or enhancement of native grasses. AWF will continue to maintain the 10 demonstration sites developed during the project's first phase and develop case studies and management bulletins to serve as educational tools for resource professionals, contractors and landowners. The project will establish 5,000 acres of native warm season grasses and support several bird species conservation initiatives in Alabama. Partners include US Fish and Wildlife Service, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Auburn University.
2013 Grant Recipients
The Power of Flight program is the largest public/private funding effort for bird conservation in the South. Four new grants were awarded in 2013 to:
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources - to create, maintain and restore longleaf forests and native fallow openings on 3,550 acres of Silver Lake Wildlife Management Area as part of an ongoing long-term project.
- Conservian, Inc. - to work closely with Alabama and Mississippi partners to monitor and restore beach-nesting bird populations and habitats and use local steward volunteers to expand field capacity.
- Milliken Forestry Company, Inc. - to monitor 200 red-cockaded woodpecker clusters in the Apalachicola National Forest over a four-year period. Project will translocate at least 30 red-cockaded woodpeckers from the forest to populations on private, state and federal lands throughout the Southeast to support the Southern Range Translocation Cooperative (SRTC), a group of public and private entities working to recover the species. Based on previous years of total SRTC available birds, this grant will support approximately 22% of the total annual SRTC allocation of birds.
- Operation Migration - to reintroduce whooping cranes to the Southeast, potentially adding 45 cranes toward the goal of achieving a self-sustaining population. They will use specially modified light aircraft to imprint and guide young-of-year Whooping cranes along a predetermined seven-state, 1,285-mile migration route each fall from Wisconsin to Florida, with the hope of leading a dozen juveniles next fall.
2012 Grant Recipients
The Power of Flight program is the largest public/private funding effort for bird conservation in the South. Three new grants in the Power of Flight program were awarded in 2012 to:
- National Wild Turkey Federation, Inc. - to conduct activities in Georgia to improve red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) foraging and nesting habitats including commercial thinning followed by mid-story control on 500 acres, non-native invasive species eradication on 300 acres, residual coppice treatment on 500 acres, creation and maintenance of 80 RCW nest cavity inserts, wildlife habitat rehabilitation, native grass restoration and gate replacement. This project will provide quality habitat to ensure successful population expansion, with RCW populations anticipated to increase by 5 percent on an annual basis.
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources - to research the most effective "site-specific" means of controlling predators on four main study areas on the Georgia coast. Project activities include assessing predator densities, implementing a predator control plan, documenting American Oystercatcher productivity response to control techniques and developing a predator density "trigger" that will allow resource managers to determine, before the nesting season begins, whether a trapping effort will be required.
- Alabama Forest Resources Center - to work toward the long-term goal of establishing a contiguous, viable population of 30 red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) groups by 2015 on the Enon and Sehoy plantations by providing RCW cavity inserts and conducting translocations, monitoring and other management techniques. Additional activities include planting 125,000 longleaf seedlings on 250 acres, surveying approximately 3,000 acres for American chaffseed and holding at least three landowner outreach group meetings.
Continuing grants were awarded to:
- Milliken Forestry Company, Inc. - to monitor 200 red-cockaded woodpecker clusters in the Apalachicola National Forest over a four-year period. Project will translocate 20 red-cockaded woodpeckers from the forest to populations on private, state and federal lands throughout the Southeast.
- Operation Migration - to reintroduce whooping cranes to the Southeast, potentially adding 45 cranes toward the goal of achieving a self-sustaining population. The project uses ultralight aircraft to guide young whooping cranes along a seven-state, 1,285-mile migration route each fall from Wisconsin to Florida.
Protecting the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
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 keynote species could potentially be down-listed from "endangered" to "threatened" in the near future.