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The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announce the Acquisition of 6,000 Acres for Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge
Louisiana Wildlife, Sportsmen To Benefit From Wal-Mart Acres for America Program


 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2005

Contacts:
Kyla Hastie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 404-679-7125
Jenna Thompson,
The Conservation Fund, 703-908-580

 

Alexandria, LAThe Conservation Fund and a coalition of public and private partners announced today the acquisition of more than 6,000 acres for the Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge as part of an ongoing effort to restore bottomland hardwood forests in the Mississippi River Delta. Located in central Louisiana, the newly acquired lands will permanently safeguard important wildlife habitat and enhance public recreation opportunities for hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

With a capstone grant from Acres for America, a conservation program announced today by Wal-Mart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Conservation Fund completed the $2 million fundraising campaign to acquire the forestland. Partner support includes American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, the Louisiana congressional delegation, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Conservation Fund plans to donate the property to the Service, adding to the 15,000 acres already owned by the Service.

"This is a gift by Wal-Mart to the American people,” said Matt Hogan, acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Wal-Mart's innovative conservation program, Acres for America, will soon be the model for corporate America. We are honored to have Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana selected as one of the first projects funded under this new program."

Renowned for its winged migrations, the Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge spans one of the most important and vulnerable wetlands within the Mississippi River Delta. Its dense hardwood forests and abundant lakes serve as a haven for migratory waterfowl, white tailed deer, and the American alligator.

“Thanks to the extraordinary support of Wal-Mart, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and North American Wetlands Conservation Council, we are protecting a globally important ecosystem,” said The Conservation Fund’s president, Larry Selzer. “This public-private partnership demonstrates a new brand of environmentalism that brings together unusual partners and leverages new conservation capital to achieve extraordinary results.”

For the past four years, AEP has owned and reforested 10,000 acres of land within the boundary of the refuge - much of which was operated under a cooperative management agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. AEP invested approximately $2.5 million to plant 3 million bottomland hardwood trees within the refuge. The company will continue to own approximately 4,000 acres in the area. AEP’s Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) subsidiary, based in Shreveport, LA since 1912, serves 169,000 customers in Northwest Louisiana.

“We are thrilled to have played a role in restoring this land to its original state and helping U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service expand the Catahoula National Wildlife Reserve to provide enhanced forest habitat for migratory birds, among other species. At the same time, we’ve created a large carbon sink that will capture and hold more than 5 million tons of CO2 over the next 70 years,” said Michael G. Morris, AEP chairman, president and CEO.

The acquisition was made possible with a $1 million donation from Wal-Mart’s new Acres for America program, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and a $1 million federal grant awarded under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA).

“The spectacular addition to the Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge is an incredible gift to the people and wildlife of Louisiana,” said Sam D. Hamilton, the Service’s Southeast regional director. “This grant enables the Service to protect world-class wetlands and restore magnificent forestland in one of the most environmentally significant regions of the world.”

The acquisition is the second phase of a broader initiative to acquire and reforest bottomland hardwood forests within the Mississippi River Delta. In collaboration with AEP, and with support from the Louisiana congressional delegation, the Fund has already acquired 8,500 acres for the Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge and supported the reforestation of 12,000 acres with native trees.

“We in Louisiana take great pride in our wonderful and unique outdoors," U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu said. "The Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge is a perfect example of why. I was proud to work with The Conservation Fund and the Fish and Wildlife Service so that we could preserve more of this very special place. Because of their efforts, and the generosity of American Electric Power and others, Catahoula's forest and wildlife will be able to be enjoyed and appreciated by many more generations to come. I am grateful to all the partners for their commitment to preserving Louisiana and saving America's Wetland."

“On behalf of current and future generations of outdoor enthusiasts across America, I salute AEP, the Louisiana congressional delegation, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for their commitment to conservation,” said Selzer.

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 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, and operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores national significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat, 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 fish and wildlife agencies.

In Louisiana and across the nation, The Conservation Fund is forging partnerships to protect wildlife habitat and enhance public recreation opportunities. Since its establishment in 1985, the Fund has protected more than 4 million acres of America's most important outdoor heritage, including nearly one million acres for the national wildlife refuge system. For the fourth year in a row, The Conservation Fund was named the nation’s top-rated environmental nonprofit by the American Institute of Philanthropy. With a 1 percent fundraising cost, the lowest of all environmental groups in the country, and a program allocation of 96 percent, the Fund is unmatched for its efficiency and effectiveness.

Please visit these websites for more information:

Acres for America program: www.nfwf.org or www.walmartfacts.com.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, www.fws.gov
The Conservation Fund, www.conservationfund.org


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://southeast.fws.gov/ or http://www.fws.gov/.



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