Gulf Power is celebrating the five-year renewal of the conservation partnership between Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). For over 15 years, the partnership has funded more than 300 projects restoring, sustaining or enhancing more than 1.7 million acres of wildlife habitat in the Southeast.

Through this partnership, Gulf Power has supported nearly 100 conservation projects funded with $5.8 million across Northwest Florida.

Lora Smith, herpetologist, Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center of Georgia, released Gale into her new home in gopher tortoise hole at The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs & Ravines Preserve on July 17. Gale was one of 12 endangered indigo snakes reintroduced into the habitat last year, a habitat restored with support from Gulf Power.

This investment has benefited thousands of acres of conservation and countless species in the Gulf Power service area. Among the projects: shoreline stabilization on Bayou Grande in Pensacola; native longleaf pine forest restoration from Perdido River to Blackwater River State Forest and east through Apalachicola; recovery efforts of the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and indigo snake; and coastal and wetland restoration in South Walton County and elsewhere.

“Our work with Southern Company exemplifies the public-private partnership model we employ to generate measurable results for wildlife and habitats across the country,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “This enduring partnership — one of the Foundation’s longest-running — reflects Southern Company’s strong commitment to the conservation of natural resources in the local communities it serves.”

Over the past 15 years, NFWF has leveraged Southern Company’s contributions to generate more than $126 million for on-the-ground conservation impact.

Gulf Power supported a grant to help Keep Pensacola Beautiful build this shoreline-stabilization reef in Bayou Grande.

“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.”

Many conservation professionals credit Southern Company with being the first major private funder to invest in longleaf restoration work, helping catalyze the historic public-private partnership known as America’s Longleaf Restoration Initiative.

Vernon Compton, director of the Gulf Coastal Ecosystem Partnership, stands in a restored longleaf pine forest in Santa Rosa County.

Vernon Compton, director of the Gulf Coastal Plain Ecosystem Partnership, said the Longleaf Stewardship Fund grants the group of private and public landowners has received are critical to restoring the longleaf pine ecosystem in Northwest Florida, which once dominated in the Southeast. This year’s grant of $300,000 will restore 333 acres of longleaf pine and improve an additional 55,350 acres of existing longleaf habitat, mostly in the Blackwater River State Forest in Santa Rosa County. The grant also funds a gopher tortoise project on Eglin Air Force Base reservation aimed at preventing it from becoming listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“This partnership with NFWF is very important to the restoration effort and a critical component of the many success we’re seeing on the ground across the longleaf pine range and habitat improvement,” Compton said. “Thanks to habitat restoration on these sites, they are ready for the keystone species like the gopher tortoise to be reintroduced.”

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.