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AEP, Conservation Fund and Interior Acquire Delta Land, Begin Reforestation and Habitat Restoration


June 27, 2001

Tom Ayres, American Electric Power, 614 223 1973
Stephanie Hanna, Department of the Interior, 202 501 4633
Christine Fanning, The Conservation Fund, 703 908 5800
Christine Eustis, USFWS, mobile 404 909 0728 (office 404 679 7287)

WASHINGTON, D.C.American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) have joined forces to acquire, protect and restore a bottomland hardwood forest on 18,372 acres near Catahoula Lake in east central Louisiana, a major haven for migratory birds in the Mississippi delta.

The unique partnering relationship is fulfilling land conservation and habitat restoration projects and a new carbon sequestration program. Details of the Catahoula Reforestation Project were discussed at a news conference today attended by the Secretary of the Interior, the chief executive of AEP, the president of The Conservation Fund, U.S. Rep. John Cooksey of Louisiana (R-5th) and Sam D. Hamilton, USFWS Southeast Region director, Atlanta. Highlights of the partnering relationship include the following:

  • The Conservation Fund acquired 18,372 acres from Tensas Delta Land Co. The Conservation Fund, in turn, conveyed 10,257 acres to AEP for $3.2 million and 8,115 acres to the USFWS for $1.5 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, which provides federal funding for land acquisitions.
  • AEP will restore bottomland hardwood habitat by planting native trees on its property and a portion of the property owned by the USFWS.
  • The entire 18,372 acres will be managed by the USFWS as part of Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), one of 21 refuges in Louisiana, for the benefit of migratory birds, turkey, white-tailed deer and other wildlife.
“The Catahoula Lake region and the current Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge are among the most important wetland habitats for waterfowl in the world,” said Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. “The Department of the Interior and the Fish & Wildlife Service, on behalf of the American people, are thrilled to be part of this important acquisition that will greatly enlarge the size of the existing refuge.”

In the first phase of the Catahoula Reforestation Project, AEP planted a variety of bottomland hardwood trees on about 2,500 acres this spring. The plantings took place on land that had been cleared for farming some 30 years ago and is now fallow. Ultimately, some 3 million trees will be planted. The entire planting program is to be completed by the spring of 2002.

“In every partnership each party seeks to accomplish something,” AEP chairman E. Linn Draper Jr. said. “This three-way partnering relationship will accomplish goals of each of the parties. Obviously, the big picture goal for The Conservation Fund and the Fish & Wildlife Service is the restoration of natural habitat, which is forest. AEP, while supporting this larger goal, is directly interested in the carbon capture aspect of forests. We believe that large reforestation programs can offset a great deal of the carbon dioxide (CO2) released during the combustion of fossil fuels.”

Two hundred years ago the lower Mississippi valley was covered with some 24 million forested acres. Today, the same area has only 4.4 million acres of fragmented forest.

“The Mississippi delta is a vast watershed and landscape offering critical habitat for a diversity of resident and migratory wildlife,” said John Turner, president of The Conservation Fund. “This exciting partnership of business, government and the Fund represents a breakthrough in using voluntary and market-driven approaches to address air emissions and climate change as well as restore valuable wildlife habitat. The potential across America for this pioneer model is so great that today we are launching a new carbon sequestration program to encourage similar cooperation with corporations and public resource agencies. Tens of thousands of acres of habitat can be restored with the investment and leadership of the private sector.”

The Catahoula Reforestation Project will create a large carbon sink that will capture and hold (sequester) CO2, a major greenhouse gas. AEP will submit data on carbon sequestration annually to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Voluntary Reporting of Greenhouse Gases program, which was created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The program provides a national database in which companies, organizations and individuals can establish a record of emissions, reductions and sequestration achievements. For the years 1991-99 (data for 2000 is not available yet), AEP avoided or sequestered some 18 million tons of CO2. Over the 70-year life of the Catahoula Reforestation Project, it is estimated that more than 5 million tons of CO2 will be sequestered and converted to biomass. A third party, Environmental Synergy, Inc., of Atlanta, which is planting trees on the property, will verify actual carbon sequestration achievements. Plantings will include various oaks, bald cypress and green ash.

The land on which AEP is planting trees is adjacent to the USFWS’s Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge, a 6,535-acre natural area that was established in 1958 as a wintering area for migratory waterfowl.

The refuge, and 26,000-acre lake, provides Louisiana’s major inland wetland that is home to some 400,000 birds during peak times of the year. Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge is one of 535 refuges and thousands of wetland management districts encompassing about 94 million acres in all states and territories that make up the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). Refuges provide important habitat for wildlife and provide recreational opportunities for the public. The country will celebrate the centennial of the NWRS on March 14, 2003.

AEP is also involved in two carbon sequestration projects in South America. AEP and five partners are protecting 4 million acres of tropical forest in the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in northeast Bolivia. In the Guaraquecaba Climate Action Project, AEP and two partners are restoring and protecting 20,000 acres of threatened Atlantic rain forest in southern Brazil.

American Electric Power is a multinational energy company based in Columbus, Ohio. AEP owns and operates more than 38,000 megawatts of generating capacity, making it America’s largest generator of electricity. The company is also a leading wholesale energy marketer and trader, ranking second in the U.S. in electricity volume with a growing presence in natural gas. AEP provides retail electricity to more than 7 million customers worldwide and has holdings in the U.S. and select international markets. Wholly owned subsidiaries are involved in power engineering and construction services, energy management and telecommunications.

The Conservation Fund, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington, Va., acts to protect the nation’s legacy of land and water resources in partnership with other organizations, public agencies, foundations, corporations and individuals. Seeking innovative conservation solutions for the 21st century, the Fund works to integrate economic and environmental goals. Since its founding in 1985, the Fund has helped to safeguard wildlife habitat, greenways and historic sites totaling more than 3 million acres throughout the nation.

USFWS 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 public. In addition to managing the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, it operates 70 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource 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 fish and wildlife agencies.

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2001 News Releases

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