News Release
Southeast Region


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The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero® program donates restoration of 814 acres at Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge


January 14, 2010



Stacy Shelton, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, 404-679-7290 (o); 678-575-7796 (c)
Vanessa Vaughan, The Conservation Fund, 703-908-5809


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Alexandria, LA — Two central Louisiana national wildlife refuges are getting a big boost toward their habitat restoration goals with the donation of more than 245,000 native trees this month. Private support for the initiative comes from a mix of donations from corporations, foundations and individual donors to The Conservation Fund’s voluntary carbon offset program, Go Zero®.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), together with Environmental Synergy Inc. (ESI) and their partners are restoring 814 acres of native oak and cypress trees at Grand Cote National Wildlife Refuge and Lake Ophelia National Wildlife Refuge near Marksville, Louisiana. As the forests mature, they are expected to trap an estimated 260,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere.

After decades of farming, much of the land within Grand Cote and Lake Ophelia refuges was too degraded to support a natural ecosystem. Both areas were identified by the USFWS as high priorities for restoration when the refuges were established in 1989, but public funding necessary to restore the forests has not been available.

“Loss of forest habitat is a huge challenge for ducks, songbirds and even the Louisiana black bear,” says Cindy Dohner, Southeast Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The Go Zero program is providing tremendous benefits to wildlife and people. The Service relies on partnerships like these to restore ecosystems and enable wildlife to return and flourish once again.”

Each fall, hundreds of thousands of migrating birds descend upon Lake Ophelia and Grand Cote to escape the North’s freezing temperatures, plump up on quality grub, and select their mates for spring breeding. Many find shelter within the parks and wildlife refuges of central Louisiana. However, over the past century, Louisiana’s once lush forests and waterways have been cleared, dammed, leveed and drastically altered, leaving fewer habitats.

“Every day, we hear about the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon or Indonesia,” said The Conservation Fund’s Louisiana state director, Ray Herndon, “but it’s happening in the Gulf Coast area too. Migratory bird populations have lost more than 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest habitat over the last century along the Red River and lower Mississippi River valleys. Habitat destruction is more pronounced here than in any other area of the United States.”

More than 287,000 U-Haul customers have elected to offset their emissions by donating more than $1 million to Go Zero. “By leveraging our human, technical, financial and business resources, U-Haul and our customers have attempted to make a real difference in protecting the environment,” said John "J.T." Taylor, president of Phoenix-based U-Haul International, Inc. “U-Haul customers should be applauded for their support of The Conservation Fund and these two Louisiana refuges, and for positively impacting the communities where we live.”

The refuges will also benefit from customer donations made via Dell's “Plant a Tree for Me” program. “Providing a great customer experience starts with delivering great value and continues with working to protect the environment throughout the life of our systems,” said Mark Newton, lead environmental strategist for Dell. “The 'Plant a Tree for Me' program lets us partner with our customers, The Conservation Fund and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to make a positive difference for our planet.”

Colorado-based Gaiam, a lifestyle company, has collaborated with the Fund’s Go Zero program since 2006 by offering its customers the opportunity to zero out the carbon footprint associated with shipping their purchase. Gaiam was the first company in the U.S. to offer such a program. “The Conservation Fund's Go Zero program is a great fit for Gaiam and its customers particularly because it focuses on planting a mix of native tree species to restore high-priority conservation lands," said Gaiam's Chris Fisher, Director of Customer Experience. "Once those lands are restored, they belong to everybody - even future generations."

Environmental Synergy Inc. (ESI), an Atlanta-based developer of forest carbon projects, will manage the planting and carbon monitoring plans, using on-site measurements over time. USFWS will manage the land and the forests as they grow. The 814-acre project will be validated against the standards of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.

Heroes of Go Zero include: Hundreds of thousands of dedicated individuals, Accenture Supply Chain Academy, Americas Lodging Investment Summit, Bella Figura Letterpress Invitations, Carfax, Inc., City of Austin, Conde Nast Publications, Dell Computer Corporation, Delta Air Lines, Inc., e-Blue Horizons, LLC, Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Gaiam, Inc., Indianapolis Colts NFL, Land Rover Portland, Lee County Board of County Commissioners, L'Oreal USA, Inc., McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, LLC, Michigan International Speedway, Molinaro Koger, NBC Universal, New Jersey Natural Gas, Organic, Inc., Philadelphia Eagles, Premiere TV, Inc., Reverb Inc., SEAT Planners Incorporated, Sesco Lighting, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., The North Face, Training Resources Group LLC, Travelocity, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U-Haul International, Inc., University of Delaware, Way Basics, William McDonough & Partners, P.L.C., World Class Charters, Inc.

About USFWS -- The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service has been involved with biological carbon sequestration since 1998. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit and

About The Conservation Fund -- The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy. With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. We're a top-ranked conservation organization, effective and efficient.


NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at Atlanta, GA 30345, Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286. Our national home page is at:


2010 News Releases.

Last updated: January 19, 2010