Jeff Cole, Gulf Power Stewardship coordinator, points out migratory birds to Scott Jordan (center) and Brandon Smith (left) during a bird-watching field trip to Fort Toulouse in Alabama to learn how habitat conservation grant dollars are supporting the dwindling population of migratory birds.

Gulf Power’s Environmental Affairs Stewardship members and other employees from across Southern Company joined regional and national conservation industry

leaders last week for the 14th Annual Stewardship Partners meeting in Montgomery, Alabama.

Co-hosted by Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, it brought together nearly 200 participants representing more than 60 public and private organizations and agencies, all of whom are working on common conservation goals in the

Gulf Power and the other energy operating companies have joined Southern Company in partnership with the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation to provide $28.6 million in grants for these and other conservation projects across our service territory and the Southeast.

Along with grantees and their partners’ matching contributions, investments have resulted in an on-the-ground conservation impact of nearly $114 million, translating into more than 1.5 million acres of critical habitat restored and enhanced.

Scott Jordan, Gulf Power Land Management specialist; Brandon Smith, Gulf Power Environmental Affairs specialist; and Jeff Cole, Gulf Power Stewardship coordinator, (from L-R) man a Gulf Power Stewardship table at the Partners Meeting in Montgomery, Alabama.

Gulf Power’s Environmental Affairs team attends the meeting to meet conservation leaders throughout the nation and put together projects that improve the environment, not only on Gulf Power-owned lands and waterways but also across the company’s service territory.

“Everyone that attends the meeting shares a common goal of having a passion for the environment and sharing best practices as well as needs,” said Kimberly Blair, Gulf Power spokesperson. “The benefit for this process is that it helps bring partners together to leverage funding and create working partnerships that provide the most positive impact on the environment.”

The meeting is designed for experts in their fields – a mixture of policymakers, decision-makers and field personnel who rarely have the opportunity to assemble together – to meet face-to-face and help solve conservation challenges by sharing ideas.

“The meeting is organized to create the conditions to promote out-of-the-box thinking, continual learning and to promote networking and collaboration,” Blair said. “More than one agency has said this is one of the top two most important and productive meetings they attend each year.”

Each of the energy operating companies take turns hosting the annual event. This year was Alabama Power’s turn. Mississippi Power will host it in 2018 and Gulf Power is scheduled to host it in 2019.

Goals of the meeting include building a conservation network with shared conservation goals and enhanced strategic relationships; fostering a more open, effective dialogue on environmental issues relevant to the Southeast; increasing communication, education and knowledge sharing; expanding public/private partnership cooperation and enhancing the partnership programs’ effectiveness.

Gulf Power employees who attend the meeting say they look forward each year to the opportunity for networking with peers from Southern Company utility companies who have the same land management objectives, as well as opportunities to network and knowledge-share with industry leaders and professionals.

Gulf Power and Southern Company’s focus on natural resource stewardship is integral to their identity. It’s part of the companies’ DNA to be good stewards and community partners.

“The goals and strategies shared at this event many times align with the values and strategies of Gulf Power,” Blair said. “The variety of attendees proves to be a productive blend of federal, state and local agencies that Gulf Power interacts with during its daily operations. The friendly atmosphere of the meeting lends itself to a constructive conversation with these organizations.”

Gulf Power conservation partners pointed out they’re gaining valuable benefits from the meeting.

“This conference continues to be one of the most useful, relevant and important weeks for me professionally,” said Tiffany Woods, National Wildlife Federation program director. “During the 2016 conference, the networking opportunities led to a new collaboration, and this year provided similar opportunities for such future partnerships. I was incredibly impressed with this year’s conference, as the opportunities to make meaningful connections with partners was abundant and well-though out.”

 

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