2,000 Acres to be Added to Tensas River NWR (LA)

Today, Entergy Corporation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Department of Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the addition of 2,208 acres of land to Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in Tallulah, Louisiana as part of a unique partnership to conserve and reforest lands in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. The partnership is the latest effort to combine the science of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere with land conservation, and is expected to play a key role in protecting the threatened floodplain of the Lower Mississippi River.

Through the partnership, the Service will purchase the first 2,208 acres of land from the Trust for Public Land, which purchased the property from Chicago Mill and Lumber Company in February 2004. Entergy has invested over $1 million to partially fund the purchase of this tract of land, to reforest the property with native bottomland hardwood trees and to compensate the Service for maintaining the new forest for the next 70 years. As part of the partnership, Entergy will retain the right to report carbon sequestration credits that will result from their reforestation efforts.

The land conservation announced today is the first phase of a multi-year, $15.7 million initiative to protect the entire Chicago Mill property. Once complete, the project will add approximately 11,000 acres to the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge, and reforest more than 8,600 of those acres.

“Building innovative partnerships with local communities, businesses, and private landowners is one of the most effect ways we can conserve and restore vital habitat such as Louisiana’s bottomland hardwood forests,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior J. Steven Griles. “Carbon sequestration partnerships allow us to acquire additional lands for the National Wildlife Refuge System and protect the species and habitats of the Lower Mississippi River Valley.”

Carbon dioxide is a principal greenhouse gas. Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased over the past 60 years, leading scientists and policy experts to find ways to control and stabilize carbon dioxide levels to avoid potential adverse impacts from climate change. Carbon dioxide emissions can be controlled through improved technologies at the source of emissions, as well as through the use of low-carbon fuels, and carbon sequestration.

Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, underground, or the oceans. Scientists have found that one acre of reforested bottomland hardwood forest of the Lower Mississippi River floodplain can take up 400 tons of carbon over 70 years. Entergy’s reforestation initiative of the Tensas project will result in 600,000 tons of sequestered carbon dioxide over the next 70 years. This equates to removing 200 cars off the road for one year, or avoiding emissions from 61 million gallons of gasoline.

This innovative approach has made it possible for conservationists and utility companies to partner over the last five years to acquire and then reforest agricultural lands. Since 1999, thanks to Entergy and other utility companies, more than 65,000 acres have been reforested in the Lower Mississippi River Valley, and more than 20,000 acres have been added to the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than $500,000 has also been donated to the National Wildlife Refuge System to maintain these reforested lands.

“As a conservation tool, carbon sequestration gives us the opportunity to address critical issues relating to the atmosphere while at the same time saving and restoring wildlife habitat. Additionally, the public/private partnership accomplishes this at a savings to the American taxpayer.” said Don Morrow, Trust for Public Land’s project manager.

“Entergy is very proud of the public/private partnership we have formed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Trust for Public Land in working to expand and enhance the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Louisiana. This project not only fits in perfectly with Entergy’s Greenhouse Gas Stabilization Commitment, but also helps restore a critical habitat for the threatened Louisiana black bear, as well as making improvements to land that is highly valued by the communities we serve,” said Mark Savoff, Entergy’s Executive Vice President of Operations.

To date, funding for this project has come from a number of different sources, including the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, and the Entergy Corporation. Project proponents will continue to raise needed funds from federal and private sources to complete the acquisition.

The strong support of the Louisiana Congressional delegation has been instrumental in the funding effort. U.S. Senators John Breaux and Mary Landrieu, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and U.S. Representative Rodney Alexander support this project.

The lands added to Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge are ecologically significant because they will connect two distinct units within the Refuge. This will provide an important wildlife corridor for the threatened Louisiana Black bear, rare forest breeding birds, waterfowl, and other wildlife.

The Lower Mississippi River floodplain forest is one of the country’s most threatened ecosystems. Encompassing portions of Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, the floodplain has lost more than 17 million acres of forestland since the early 1900s due primarily to timber harvest and conversion to agriculture.

Tensas River NWR was established in 1980 and encompasses 67,000 acres in northeast Louisiana along the upper Tensas River basin. The refuge protects one of the largest continuous blocks of bottomland hardwood forest left in the Lower Mississippi River Valley.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 544 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 63 Fish and Wildlife Management offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Entergy Corporation is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production, retail distribution operations, energy marketing and trading, and gas transportation. Entergy owns and operates power plants with about 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.6 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Entergy has annual revenues of over $9 billion and approximately 14,000 employees. For more information, please visit Entergy’s Web site at www.entergy.com

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. TPL has protected more than 1.9 million acres across the country. With funding from the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program, the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, TPL has helped to protect over 14,000 acres in Louisiana.