Thursday, May 28, 2009

Southern Company, Environmental Partners Award Eight Wetland Restoration Grants Through Five Star Program

/PRNewswire/ -- Southern Company (NYSE:SO) , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, National Association of Counties and Wildlife Habitat Council today announced that eight new wetland, riparian and coastal conservation grants have been awarded in the Southeast through the Five Star Restoration Program.

This year, Southern Company provided $198,928 in grants and, combined with partner matching funds, a total of nearly $580,000 to restore more than 81 wetland acres and 12,500 feet of riparian buffer across 8 projects in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi. Since 2006, Southern Company has contributed $820,210 through 41 grants, which will result in an on-the-ground conservation impact of $2.7 million to restore more than 10,000 acres of wetlands and nearly 46,000 feet of riparian buffer in the Southeast.

"EPA's Five Star Restoration Grants support community-based projects, including environmental education and training to restore wetlands, streams and coasts," said Stan Meiburg, EPA Acting Regional Administrator. "Over time, these grassroots efforts make a significant contribution to our environmental landscape and to the understanding of the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems across the Southeast."

The Five Star Restoration Program is a national initiative providing financial and technical support to wetland, riparian and coastal habitat restoration projects. It brings together diverse partnerships of citizen groups, corporations, students, landowners, youth conservations corps, and local, state and federal government agencies to foster local natural resource stewardship through education, outreach and training activities. In 2006, Southern Company pledged $1.2 million over five years to fund community-based, wetland and streamside restoration across its four-state service territory. Additionally, Southern Company collaborates with the program partners to select the projects each year.

"Southern Company is committed to protecting and enhancing the wetlands in the Southern region through the Five Star Restoration program," said Chris Hobson, senior vice president of research and environmental affairs for Southern Company. "This is the fourth year of our five year corporate sponsorship and we're proud of the progress made thus far to promote healthy wetlands which provide critical habitats for many waterfowl, reptiles, mammals, fish, plants and more."

The following organizations in Georgia have been awarded Five Star grants in 2009:

-- Conasauga River Alliance - to restore 1.5 acres of the heavily silted
Colvard Spring, improving vital habitat for the Georgia-listed
Coldwater darter. The site will provide a potential safe-guard area
for Tennessee yellow-eyed grass, a federal endangered wetland plant of
the Limestone Ridge and Valley Province. The project will serve as a
demonstration workshop for county, landowner, and resource managers.
Partners include: Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Tennessee
Aquarium Aquatic Research Institute; Badger Farm Bed and Breakfast;
Murray County Public Works; and Limestone Valley RC&D Council.

-- Elachee Nature Science Center - to restore 30 acres of the floodplains
of the upper Walnut Creek Watershed by controlling Microstegium and
other invasive plants, and planting 5 acres of native plants
propagated from sources in the park which will provide important
wildlife habitat to the Georgia Piedmont. The project will educate
local students, teachers and the public about the impacts of exotic
invasive species and engage private citizens in controlling invasives
on their properties. Partners include: Gainesville/Hall County
Cooperative Weed Management; Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission;
Georgia Exotic Pest Plant; Hall County Master Gardeners; Smithgall
Woodland Garden; and Gainesville State College.

-- Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance - to restore 11.1 acres of
wetlands and riparian zones in northwest Georgia to help protect and
recover populations of three rare plant species: Tennessee
yellow-eyed grass, Georgia alder and Virginia spirea. This project
will also educate and engage students, teachers and the public through
training, participation, educational lesson plans and conservation
display gardens. Partners include: Atlanta Botanical Garden; Georgia
Department of Natural Resources; Georgia Power; Georgia Department of
Transportation; and USDA Forest Service.

-- Garden Hills Elementary School - to restore 300 feet of riparian
buffer along a small urban stream in Atlanta that can serve as an
outdoor classroom for students to learn about watersheds and wildlife
protection. This project will remove invasive plants and re-vegetate
with native plants. Interpretive educational signs will be posted at
the site for the community to explain the importance of native plants
to watersheds and wildlife. Partners include: Atlanta Public Schools;
Hands On Atlanta; Boy Scouts; Georgia Native Plant Society; Fernbank
Museum; and others.

The goal of EPA's Wetlands program is to motivate and inspire the Nation to value, protect and restore the ecological integrity of its wetlands and aquatic ecosystems. The Wetlands Program accomplishes this through co-leadership of the Clean Water Act's wetlands regulatory program, and by fostering effective wetlands management in strategic partnerships with states, tribes, local governments and other key partners. EPA's vision is for America to have abundant and healthy wetlands and aquatic ecosystems that sustain biologically diverse plant and animal life, improve water quality, protect communities from flooding and provide recreational opportunities.

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