Building on an industry-leading commitment to protect and preserve wildlife, Southern Company, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and other public and private partners, today announced the new Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program (GCCGP).
The program will propel the work of 29 grant recipients across the United States - five of which are within the Southern Company service territory - that will specifically focus on helping to restore and protect nearly 100 miles and 500 acres of coastal bird populations through monitoring, enhancing important habitat and implementing best management practices.
"Joining the Gulf Coast Conservation Grants Program is another way Southern Company is continuing to support vital wildlife recovery work," said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Dr. Larry S. Monroe. "Our Power of Flight program has a history of supporting critical bird species in the Southeast, and this new initiative furthers our work to protect the coastal birds that are such an essential part of Gulf Coast ecosystems and communities."
This initial round of grants supports GCCGP's broader work to enhance coastal watersheds and bolster priority fish and wildlife populations from Texas to Florida. Southern Company will focus on restoring and maintaining the ecology of coastal bird species spanning Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
Since 2003, Southern Company's and NFWF's Power of Flight program has restored more than 20,000 acres of high-priority habitat for bird species, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, northern bobwhite, coastal birds and others. This effort has been made possible by the support of more than 80 grants totaling more than $21.1 million, including matching funds.
"The grants we announce today represent significant conservation and leveraging opportunities that will result in meaningful outcomes for the Gulf of Mexico," said NFWF Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. "I am extremely pleased that this new program will serve to complement the important work being accomplished across the Gulf and further the benefits to the species and communities that rely on its critical ecosystems."
The GCCGP recipients were selected based on criteria including a focus on strategic conservation projects within coastal areas in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, advancement of innovative restoration concepts and engagement among youth and veterans.
The following organizations have been awarded GCCGP grants to enhance coastal watersheds of the Gulf Coast and bolster priority wildlife populations in Southern Company's service territory:
Alabama Wildlife Federation will use capacity building, expanded partnerships, technical assistance and outreach to increase landowner engagement and on-the-ground stewardship implementation 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 at sites in Alabama and Mississippi to monitor and restore beach-nesting bird populations and habitats. The project will use standardized monitoring methods and best management practices and will supervise local volunteer site stewards to implement comprehensive shorebird management.
Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences will create a Florida shorebird recovery business plan built upon the work of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Conservation Business Strategy and the American Oystercatcher Recovery Business Plan. The project will strive to recover four imperiled species in the state: the American oystercatcher, snowy plover, black skimmer and least tern.
The Nature Conservancy will support two new conservation corps and a veterans conservation corps pilot demonstration to undertake projects that restore and protect natural resources. The project 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 & Forestry will implement experimental vehicle speed reduction measures and provide shelters for snowy plover chicks in order to increase the population of beach-nesting birds on Gulf Islands National Seashore, which is currently limited by poor reproductive success related to predators and mortality from vehicular collisions.