Southern Company continues its commitment to honor natural resource conservation projects. On Wednesday, with the National Fish and Wildlife Federation (NFWF) and other partners, Southern Company awarded $2.3 million in grants to 64 organizations across the nation through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program.
The 2015 program funding directly supports 12 habitat-restoration projects within the Southern Company system service territory, helping to restore more than 83 acres and 750 feet of streambank in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.
"Southern Company has a history of developing innovative partnerships to make a meaningful difference in the communities we are privileged to serve," said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Dr. Larry S. Monroe. "This partnership leverages and expands public and private resources to deliver the value of a consistent commitment to environmental stewardship."
Nationally, 64 grants are being awarded through a public-private partnership that includes NFWF, the National Association of Counties, the Wildlife Habitat Council, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, FedEx, the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Company and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Urban Refuges Program, along with additional support by PG&E and Bank of America.
The Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration program emphasizes results-based collaboration with diverse partners, including environmental groups, public agencies, non-governmental organizations, landowners, schools, businesses and others. The program also provides financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, forest, streamside and coastal habitat restoration.
Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed more than $2.2 million to more than 100 Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $11.1 million. Altogether, these efforts are restoring nearly 1,200 acres of wetlands and more than 126,000 square feet of riparian buffer in the Southeast.
"Some of our nation's most pressing conservation challenges can be found in the suburban and urban landscapes where most Americans live," said NFWF Executive Director and CEO Jeff Trandahl. "The public- and private-sector partners who support the Five Star and Urban Waters program should take great pride in the fact that they are helping improve water quality, restore habitats and protect native species inside some of our nation's biggest cities. Program partners and grant recipients also play a leading role in helping children and adults across the country reconnect with nature and engage in innovative, successful conservation projects."
Grant recipients were selected based on criteria including critical habitat restoration, partnerships established with local government agencies and businesses, and their ability to provide educational and training opportunities for youth and the community at large.
The following organizations have been awarded Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration grants to implement wetland, riparian and coastal conservation initiatives:
The Davis Arboretum at Auburn University (AU) and partners will add three restorative features and educational signage to the headwaters of a tributary of Town Creek at the AU Garden of Memory and the Donald E. Davis Arboretum. The project will restore a headwater wetland, remove invasive species on a combined 2.25 acres and restore 4.6 acres to improve wetland function at the headwaters and reduce sediment loading, turbidity and nutrient enrichment in Town Creek and its receiving waters. Outreach activities will engage and educate watershed residents, students and visitors on water quantity, water quality and related topics. Partners include AU, Alabama Clean Water Partnership, Alabama Water Watch and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.
The Red Mountain Park Fund and partners will restore riparian habitat on 15 acres at Red Mountain Park, one of the largest urban green spaces in the state, including two tributary streams and an ephemeral wetland. The project will restore three vital habitats on the mountain, establish a long-term volunteer base, and promote a home restoration initiative led by partnering organizations. Over 2,000 visitors and volunteers will be engaged through a community-based approach that teaches replicable skills and promotes awareness of Birmingham's watersheds. Partners include Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Girl Scout Troop 93, the City of Birmingham, Birmingham Southern College, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Samford University.
The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) will engage 3,000 K-12 students in Okaloosa and Walton school districts through its hands-on science education programs, Grasses in Classes and Dunes in Schools. After receiving educational lessons throughout the school year, students will replant 1.2 acres of salt marsh habitat and restore 1.3 acres of dune habitat. Students in both programs will produce educational tools that will reach at least 310,000 citizens. Partners include Okaloosa County Schools, Walton County Schools, the Dugas Family Foundation, Northwest Florida Water Management District and Live Oak Production Company.
The Atlanta Audubon Society (AAS) and partners will create two bird-friendly communities along urban tributaries of the Chattahoochee River watershed at Blue Heron Nature Preserve and the confluence of the north and south forks of Peachtree Creek. AAS will remove invasive species and re-plant native species on 5 acres of bird habitat and conduct regular inventory of birds to create baseline data to inform conservation decisions. At least 80 community members will be involved in volunteer work and over 500 people will be educated on topics including migratory birds and their habitats through guided nature walks, citizen science events and a youth training program. Partners include Blue Heron Nature Preserve, South Fork Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Audubon Society.
Dunwoody Nature Center and partners will reduce stream bank erosion along 350 linear feet of Wildcat Creek, restoring 3.9 acres and resulting in a living classroom for park visitors and program participants that will educate up to 25,000 people annually. The project will replace a failed weir and restore the downstream portion of the creek using natural channel design principles that reduce stress on stream banks. The design will also include a bankfull bench on both sides of the stream and a series of flood plain terraces that will serve as an amphitheater for the living classroom. Partners include the City of Dunwoody, Georgia Environmental Restoration Association, DeKalb County Master Gardeners and Spalding Garden Club.
Conservation Legacy and partners will restore 35 acres of floodplain wetlands to create a conservation and education venue for residents of western Georgia. Volunteers will remove invasive species and replant native, bird-attractant species to improve the sensitive wetland habitat and increase wildlife viewing opportunities. The project also will plant two spur trails totaling 1 mile to provide additional access to the area. Elementary school field trips, interpretive hikes and educational brochures and signage will provide outreach to park visitors and students. Partners include Friends of Chattahoochee Bend State Park, Coweta County Schools, Atlanta Audubon Society and Georgia Department of Natural Resources State Parks division.
Trees Atlanta and partners will restore 2 acres of forest and 750 linear feet of streambank on South Peachtree Creek within the Hahn Forest at Emory University. The project will remove invasive plants, replant native trees and improve the walking trail. The project also promotes public education through a school-assisted tree propagation project, volunteerism and a specialized tree walk. The project site represents a key connection point within the watershed and will link the efforts of many organizations and citizens who are heavily invested in improving this important Atlanta waterway. Partners include Emory University, South Fork Conservancy, Cascade Springs Forestry and Beech Hollow Farm.
Golden Triangle Resource Conservation and Development Council and partners will restore an acre at Fannie Askew Williams Park through invasive plant removal and native replantings to control erosion runoff and provide additional wildlife habitat. The project aims to re-engage the community about natural resources and pollution prevention and provide an outlet for self-exploration of nature. The project will engage 500 or more local citizens through volunteer workdays, river cleanups and Adopt-A-Stream trainings, along with self-guided interpretative panels along the ecological nature trail. Partners include Early County Road Department, Early County Elementary, Georgia Power and local Boy Scout troops.
The Chattahoochee Nature Center and partners will restore 4 acres of wetlands along the banks of the Chattahoochee River and create hands-on educational learning opportunities and programs for students aged kindergarten through college. In addition, the program will create testing plots to monitor and demonstrate best practices for safely and efficiently removing invasive species and replant over 2,500 native plants in an environmentally sensitive area. Educational signage will provide self-guided educational opportunities regarding the importance of proper wetlands management for water quality. Partners include Kennesaw State University, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, City of Roswell, Wilderness Inquiry and State Botanical Gardens.
The Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain and partners will restore approximately 2.3 acres of land as a community green space for scientific and educational activities at Weeks Bayou in Jackson County. Partners will remove debris and invasive species, construct a small observation deck for water quality sampling access, and assist with replanting native trees, shrubs and grasses to create an outdoor environmental classroom. In addition, volunteers will provide flyers to 25 local businesses and distribute 500 middle school educational packets. Partners include Mississippi State Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Gulf Coast Research Lab Marine Education Center, Ocean Springs School System and Chevron Pascagoula Refinery.
Jackson County Board of Supervisors and partners will develop and provide first-hand educational experiences to public and private land managers about practical tidal wetland mitigation methods and practices. The project also will provide opportunities to engage and interact with local, state and federal natural resource agency partners that together will direct large-scale marsh restoration. Outreach tools will include a printed manual highlighting the key elements of tidal marsh restoration and suggested means of monitoring success, as well as interpretive signage. Partners include Pascagoula River Audubon Center, City of Moss Point, The Nature Conservancy and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
The Crosby Arboretum Foundation and partners will construct a unique 900-square-foot quaking bog wetland exhibit at The Crosby Arboretum Interpretive Center in Picayune, Mississippi. The project site is located within a young wet flatwood that previously served as agricultural and forestry land and has been designated by the Arboretum's nationally award-winning master plan for pitcher plant bog restoration. Visitors will experience the feeling of a quaking bog through an ADA-accessible floating bridge that will be designed over the exhibit. Partners include Mississippi State University Extension Service, Mississippi Master Naturalists, Mississippi Native Plant Society and Mississippi Master Gardeners.