Since 2003, Gulf Power has supported nearly 100 conservation projects funded with $5.8 million across Northwest Florida that have benefited thousands of acres of conservation and countless species.
Projects include shoreline stabilization on Bayou Grande in Pensacola and native longleaf pine forest restoration from Perdido River to Blackwater River State Forest and east through Apalachicola. Grants have helped with the recovery efforts of the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and indigo snake, and has helped eradicate invasive species and support coastal and wetland restoration in South Walton County and elsewhere.
“Gulf Power’s support of environmental stewardship grants have kick-started or enhanced many community involved environmental education and restoration projects that otherwise might not have gotten off the ground,” Jeff Cole, Gulf Power Stewardship coordinator, said. “These local level and regional projects benefit the area we live in by enhancing recreational areas and improving air and water quality. It’s important to be a leader by being out investing and participating in the community in which we live, work and recreate.”
These investments have all been made possible through an important partnership with Gulf Power’s parent company, Southern Company, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), a 15-year partnership that’s being celebrated Wednesday, May 16, during a “Southern Company – NFWF Partners meeting” in Biloxi, Mississippi.
“Through a stringent vetting process, stewardship teams from Southern Company and its subsidiaries, including Gulf Power, work with the NFWF team to prioritize and focus investments to ensure the conservation outcomes are more impactful,” said Kimberly Blair, Gulf Power spokesperson. “Since our stewardship folks work closely with landowners, regulatory and conservation agencies and nonprofits, they understand how the projects submitted for grant dollars benefit environmental strategies at work in our service area and future conservation goals.”
Jay Jensen, director of NFWF’s Southern Regional Office, said NFWF approaches conservation through a rigorous business planning process that ensures that Southern Company’s and Gulf Power’s investments are going to result in real-world outcomes that move the conservation needle in a meaningful way.
“We bring together the best science combined with our vast experience with on-the-ground conservation in order to achieve specific outcomes over a 10-year period,” he said.
Long-term results hinge on partnerships, because no single entity has the resources or capacity to achieve conservation at a scale large enough to help species across the many and varied landscapes across the country.
“Agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are always looking for new, creative and voluntary ways to achieve positive conservation outcomes, and public-private partnerships are ideally situated to do just that,” Jensen said. “The types of investments being made in the recovery of species such as red-cockaded woodpeckers and gopher tortoises are a great example of this approach, and these kinds of investments are also helping them to keep species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act.”
A Gulf Power-supported Longleaf Stewardship Fund is currently adding much-needed dollars to an Eglin Air Force Base project aimed at preventing the gopher tortoise from being listed in 2023. Eglin’s conservation team is working with a number of public and private agencies, including U.S. Fish and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, along with a nonprofit Save Florida’s Gopher Tortoises, to rescue thousands of tortoises at risk of being buried alive beneath development in Central and South Florida and relocating them to 200,000 acres of conservation land on Eglin’s massive reservation.
“This helps the developer and the military’s national security preparedness mission, and it saves more than just the gopher tortoise,” said Blair. “More than 300 other species depend on gopher tortoises and their burrows, which provides shelter from fires and weather as well as habitat and food sources.”
Other success stories will be highlighted at this year’s Stewardship Partner’s meeting that is expected to attract over 170 attendees, including conservation groups and agencies who are putting the grant dollars to work.
The meeting, Jensen said, “Is remarkable community building in that it truly demonstrates what NFWF, Southern Company and its subsidiaries have been able to achieve by working together with a shared vision for the future of our nation’s amazing wildlife and the habitats they depend on for survival.”
Check out this map and zoom in on Northwest Florida for details on the NFWF grants.
Read more about Gulf Power’s environmental stewardship in “Our Promise.”