Dec 14, 2011

Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced a total of 18 environmental stewardship grants to continue the partnership's mission of conserving natural resources and habitats in the Southeast.

The grants include:

· Ten new grants through the Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy environmental stewardship programs

· Additional funding for a current grantee to expand its efforts

· Continuation of three existing grants

· A contribution to two projects within the Private Landowner Technical Assistance Program, a partnership between theU.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and NFWF

· Support for two projects within the NFWF Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife program, which was established from BP's share of net revenue from the sale of oil recovered from the Deepwater Horizon spill site.

Since 2002, Southern Company and NFWF have provided more than $13.8 million through 108 Power of Flight and Longleaf Legacy grants. In addition, grant recipients have contributed more than $57.2 million in matching funds, resulting in an on-the-ground conservation impact of more than $71 million since the programs' inception.

Through these two programs, more than 830,000 acres of longleaf pine and other critical habitat on public and private lands will be restored, enhancing bird populations across the Southeast.

"For nearly a decade, our environmental stewardship programs have helped restore and protect vital natural resources by drawing on the power of partnerships," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company chief environmental officer. "With these latest grants, we seek to strengthen existing relationships, build new ones and together continue the important work of habitat and wildlife conservation in the Southeast."

"Our ongoing partnerships with Southern Company exemplify the benefits that accrue from innovative environmental stewardship," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "These investments are showing positive results in the Southeast for native wildlife, lands and waters - some of our most precious natural resources."

Power of Flight, which focuses on conserving bird species of the Southeast, and Longleaf Legacy, a program for the longleaf pine ecosystem, are two of the three major components of Southern Company's environmental stewardship partnership with NFWF. In addition, Five Star Restoration supports projects to protect and restore riparian (land-bordering waterways), in-stream, coastal and wetland habitats.

The new Power of Flight grant recipients are:

· The Longleaf Alliance Inc. - to build on the success of the 15-year Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership (GCPEP) by increasing management and restoration of critical bird habitat across the GCPEP landscape. GCPEP will conduct prescribed burning, mechanical treatment, invasive species control and ecological monitoring on more than 45,000 acres of public and private lands benefitting rare bird species. Additional prescribed fire experts will be trained through 10 National Wildfire Coordinating Group-level fire training classes.

· National Wild Turkey Federation - to expand the red-cockaded woodpecker (RCW) population on the Oakmulgee Ranger District of the Talladega National Forest in Alabama. This project will restore 1,200 acres of underutilized habitat in the South Sandy Watershed into good quality foraging habitat. This project's focus area currently supports only one of the 49 active RCW clusters in the South Sandy Watershed (total population on Oakmulgee is 100). It is anticipated that this project will provide habitat to support four to five RCW clusters in the area.

· Operation Migration USA Inc. - to utilizeultralight aircraft to guide young whooping cranes along a seven-state, 1,285-mile migration route each fall from Wisconsin to Florida. Ten generations of whooping cranes have been successfully taught this migratory route. The current population consists of 105 cranes, 44 of which were reintroduced to the population through a previous Power of Flight grant. This project will continue assisted migrations for at least the next three years from a new base of operations at the White River Marsh State Wildlife Area in Green Lake County, Wis. The goal is to add 45 new birds to create a self-sustaining population of whooping cranes.

· University of Georgia- to use State Botanical Garden-managed areas as demonstration sites for the public, promoting the conservation of high priority bird species of the southern United States. This project will remove invasive Chinese privet from 15 acres of highly degraded floodplain forest and establish canebrakes; develop Piedmont prairie habitat in a power line right-of-way using prescribed fire and horticultural enrichment with native grasses and forbs; implement several programmatic goals of Georgia's State Wildlife Action Plan that promote conservation of high quality bird habitat; and conduct public outreach to create awareness of techniques for the protection and recovery of priority bird species.

· U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service- to complement a larger effort to repair 18 water control structures within a nine-mile diversion canal, with the goal of ensuring freshwater delivery to Savannah National Wildlife Refuge wetlands. The project area consists of 338 acres managed for waterfowl. Once restoration is complete, the Refuge will be able to return the wetlands to a management rotation. As the Refuge gains a greater degree of water control, restoration projects like this will enable the Refuge to continue to provide quality habitat for wetland-dependent wildlife.

And continuing support is being provided under a Power of Flight grant to Milliken Forestry Company to accelerate translocation efforts for the red-cockaded woodpecker. This is a continuation of a grant formerly made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 for activities across the Southeast.

The new Longleaf Legacy grant recipients are:

· The Nature Conservancy - to leverage an existing partnership with the Army to create a landscape-scale initiative with multiple stakeholders including Fort Benning and the surrounding area in west Georgia. The project will involve land protection, restoration and management of the longleaf pine ecosystem, eventually protecting 30,000 acres; promotion of public acceptance of longleaf protection and management strategies; development of scientific expertise to guide land protection, restoration and management; and creation of a model landscape for implementing the America's Longleaf Conservation Plan.

· The Orianne Society- to support an ongoing effort to restore longleaf on the Orianne Indigo Snake Preserve (OISP) and the surrounding area in south Georgia. The Orianne Society will prepare land for longleaf restoration on an estimated 6,500 acres per year for two years. Of that total acreage, 520 acres of the OISP will be replanted with longleaf pine and native groundcover, and the area will be maintained in perpetuity through prescribed burning and other land management practices.

· Florida Forest Service - to increase the acreage of healthy longleaf pine ecosystems in Florida by helping non-industrial private forest landowners make the long-term investment required to establish and maintain this valuable ecosystem. It is anticipated that 4,000 acres of private lands will be treated with a variety of longleaf ecosystem enhancements, including planting more than 1 million longleaf trees, applying prescribed fire, conducting mechanical underbrush reduction techniques, improving timber stands, establishing native understory vegetation and treating noxious invasive weed species in existing longleaf pine stands.

· Georgia Forestry Commission - to assist 300 Natural Resource Conservation Service-Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program contracts. Foresters will makes sure all phases of reforestation occur, including site preparation, tree planting (and seedling care) and post-planting treatments where needed. More than 21,000 acres of longleaf will be planted during this part of the project. Technical service also will be provided to landowners with existing longleaf pine or suitable sites for establishment. This service will be provided via forest stewardship plans, primarily through contracting with consulting foresters throughout the priority area. More than 10,000 acres of longleaf sites will be evaluated and specific management and reforestation technical advice will be provided.

· Mississippi Forestry Commission (MFC) - to restore approximately 179 acres of longleaf pine and associated wildlife habitat. MFC will conduct outreach to identify private landowners who want to restore longleaf on their property. Working with partners such as the Mississippi State University Extension, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and the U.S. Forest Service, MFC will inform landowners in the longleaf range about how managing longleaf pine and the complementing understory can provide both economic and wildlife habitat diversity value. Additional work will include assisting landowners with site preparation prescriptions and recommendations, identifying potential vendors to perform the work and assisting in planting and survival checks.

In addition, The Longleaf Alliance Inc. will receive additional funding for its current Longleaf Legacy grant to support restoration of longleaf pine on 340 acres of the Nokuse Plantation in Florida, a priority area for longleaf restoration within the GCPEP landscape.

And continuing support is being provided under Longleaf Legacy grants originally made in 2010 to The Nature Conservancy in Florida and the National Wildlife Federation in Alabama for longleaf pine restoration projects in those states.

The Private Landowner Technical Assistance Program supports field biologists and other habitat professionals working with NRCS field offices, providing technical assistance to private landowners to optimize wildlife conservation on private lands. Additional projects under this program supported by Longleaf Legacy include:

· Georgia Department of Natural Resources - to fund two DNR wildlife biologists located in NRCS offices in Albany and Fitzgerald, Ga. These biologists will provide technical guidance to landowners on the establishment and management of longleaf pine forests and associated native early succession ground cover. Habitat gains and representative avian response to these practices will be monitored on a sample of project sites.

· The Longleaf Alliance Inc.- to conduct landowner workshops and training programs for natural resource professionals, and employ two longleaf delivery specialists to target priority areas in Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. These specialists will work with NRCS to plant 1,200 acres of longleaf, apply prescribed burns on 1,800 acres, and treat 600 acres for invasive species. These efforts will contribute to the range-wide effort to restore the longleaf ecosystem.

Two grants supported by Power of Flight under the NFWF Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife program are:

· Conservian - to establish strong beach management and protection practices to restore beach-nesting bird populations and coastal habitats. This project will reduce coastal wildlife and habitat injuries by employing a combination of proven protective measures, guidance and education which will provide a demonstrable increase in coastal bird populations. Targeted species include Wilson's plover; snowy plover; American oystercatcher; black skimmer; and least, gull-billed, sandwich and royal terns.

· Conservian - to develop a comprehensive manual for management and conservation of beach-nesting shorebirds and seabirds along the Gulf Coast.

Additional information on Southern Company environmental stewardship, including fact sheets and details of previous grants, is available at .

With 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast. A leading U.S. producer of electricity, Southern Company is the parent firm of electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications companies. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Company was named the World's Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility by Fortune magazine in 2011, and is consistently listed among the top U.S. electric service providers in customer satisfaction by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Visit our website at .

A nonprofit established by Congress in 1984, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation sustains, restores and enhances the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Through leadership conservation investments with public and private partners, NFWF is dedicated to achieving maximum impact. Since its establishment, the Foundation has awarded more than 11,600 grants to more than 3,800 organizations in the United States and abroad and leveraged these grants into more than $2 billion for conservation. .

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