For Immediate Release
December 14, 1999

Contact: Tom MacKenzie 404/679-7291

Reforestation Partnership with Illinova Corporation will bring 50 Million Trees to the Lower Mississippi River Valley

Creates Largest Private Restoration Program in North America

Vicksburg Mississippi - Fresh from "collaring" a threatened Louisiana black bear, President Teddy Roosevelt's great-grandson, Theodore Roosevelt IV, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced the largest private reforestation effort in the nation.

Illinova Corporation, an energy services company headquartered in Illinois, will give the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation $13.7 million to reforest more than 100,000 acres in the Lower Mississippi River Valley over the next 5 years.

"The magnitude of this historic gift is overwhelming," said Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It means that all of the present reforestation needs on national wildlife refuges and other public lands in the Lower Mississippi Valley are taken care of, and at no expense to the taxpayer. It's a great day for conservation."

Illinova will provide the funding to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which will work with Environmental Synergy, Inc. to reforest 20,000 acres per year for the next 5 years in five states, including Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The completed project will produce 100,000 acres of reforested bottomland hardwoods with 50 million new trees. The reestablishment of the bottomland hardwood forest will create quality habitat for migratory waterfowl, black bears, and neotropical birds. The 13 refuges will be planted with native hardwoods that will enhance natural biodiversity.

"There are a multitude of benefits to reestablishing this critical habitat, and we at Illinova are pleased to play a role in making it possible," said Richard Eimer, Vice President for Illinova. "And since trees naturally extract and store carbon, it also represents a recognizable, positive, and proactive approach to environmental concerns for the increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We encourage our counterparts around the country to consider partnerships like this for their environmental efforts."

"This is a fantastic day for wildlife and for the American people," said Theodore Roosevelt IV, an investment banker who is also active in several conservation efforts, including being the Chairman of the League of Conservation Voters and on the governing council of the Wilderness Society. "The combination of forward-thinking corporations, conservation-minded agencies, and smart, innovative environmental groups and individuals has led us to the point where we can give something back to nature. It's a great Christmas present for the United States."

The Illinois-based power company is one of several groups that received recognition and awards from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their support of reforestation efforts for the Mississippi Valley. "Illinova's investment is a model for the kind of innovative partnerships between corporations and federal agencies that the Foundation actively seeks to promote," said Alex Echols, Acting Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The Service also recognized the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for its matching grant of $50,000 to support the reforestation on Upper Ouachita and Overflow National Wildlife Refuges. In addition, the Foundation has facilitated corporate partnerships that have led to reforestation on substantial acreage of public lands in the Lower Mississippi Valley, which has helped migratory birds and the threatened Louisiana black bear.

Utilitree Carbon Company, a consortium of more than 40 utility companies, was recognized for its sponsorship of more than 2,400 acres of reforestation on marginal farmland on four national wildlife refuges in the Lower Mississippi River Ecosystem as part of its Global Climate Challenge Program. This effort, as well as Illinova's reforestation commitment, will also be important in reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere through carbon sequestration. In addition, both the Utilitree and Illinova projects will significantly improve biodiversity on the refuges. Carbon sequestration is the conversion of carbon dioxide gas into plant material.

Environmental Synergy Inc. was awarded for its sponsorship of combined biodiversity enhancement and carbon sequestration projects through reforestation on public lands in the Lower Mississippi Valley. This commitment will improve wildlife habitat and create significant benefits to water resources.

Hamilton pointed out that one of oldest partnerships is with American Forest Products and their Global "Releaf" Program, which has contributed more than $400,000 worth of seedlings and special funding that have allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service to initiate reforestation on many national wildlife refuges and public lands in the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

The awards were announced at the historic Old Courthouse in Vicksburg, MS, Dec. 13, 1999, following a series of environmental awareness events with Theodore Roosevelt IV, including capture and collaring of a threatened Louisiana black bear at Tensas National Wildlife Refuge that morning. Roosevelt will also retrace several areas of his great grandfather's famous bear hunts in 1902 and 1907 that resulted in the creation of the "Teddy Bear," an American icon.

Background:

  • The original bottomland hardwoods were cleared for agricultural use in the early 1980s.
  • Decreased agricultural prices and the frequent flooding led to abandonment of the lands. These lands are now national wildlife refuges of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but funding is inadequate to restore the bottomland hardwoods.
  • Mississippi River Watershed drains 41 percent of the continental United States. Lower Mississippi River Valley:
    • Riparian corridor 600 miles long and up to 100 miles wide.
    • 22 million acres of forest floodplain
    • Migratory bird habitat of hemispheric significance.
    • 5 million acres of coastal wetlands.
    • Most productive freshwater and estuarine fisheries in North America.
    • Important agricultural production area for cotton, rice, and aquaculture.
    • $9 Billion dollar flood damage reduction and navigation infrastructure.

     

Locations of reforestation at national wildlife refuges in five states:

Cache River NWR, AR Tensas NWR, LA
Felsenthal NWR, AR Lake Ophelia NWR, LA
Holla Bend NWR, AR St. Catherine Creek NWR, MS

Cypress Creek Refuge, IL

Mississippi Wetland Management District, MS

North Louisiana Refuges, LA Yazoo NWR, MS
Bayou Cocodrie NWR, LA Reelfoot NWR, TN
Catahoula NWR, LA

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fish and wildlife management assistance offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

Release #: R99-095

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