2,900 Acres Added to Tensas River Refuge (LA)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Entergy Corporation, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), and Environmental Synergy, Inc. (ESI) announced here today a 2,900-acre addition to the Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge. It is the first phase of a $15.7 million carbon sequestration initiative to acquire 11,000 acres and reforest 8,600 acres surrounding the refuge.

The announcement comes less than a month after the first confirmed sighting in more than 60 years of an Ivory-billed Woodpecker north of here on the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Central Arkansas. The last confirmed sighting in the 1940s of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker was on the Singer Tract near Tallulah. Part of this tract is included in the 2,900 acres added to Tensas River Refuge.

Entergy Corporation, TPL, and the Service are attempting to combine the science of sequestering (trapping) carbon from the atmosphere with land conservation. Entergy has invested $1.5 million to help acquire, reforest and manage the new 2,900-acre tract. Atlanta-based Environmental Synergy Inc. (ESI) helped to structure the project and provided the planting and carbon monitoring services to Entergy. Entergy will retain the right to report carbon sequestration credits which may result from their reforestation efforts.

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 sequestration is one way to control and stabilize carbon dioxide levels. Carbon sequestration is the long-term storage of carbon in the terrestrial biosphere, underground, or the oceans. Scientists have discovered that one acre of reforested bottomland hardwood forest of the lower Mississippi River floodplain can remove up to 400 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over 70 years.

Entergy’s reforestation at Tensas River Refuge is expected to result in 760,000 tons of sequestered carbon dioxide over the next 70 years. This equates to avoiding emissions from 85 million gallons of gasoline.

The Tensas River project is one of several carbon sequestration projects that are ongoing in the Lower Mississippi River Valley over the past six years. Since 1999, Entergy and other utility companies have reforested more than 65,000 acres, and more than 20,000 acres have been added to the National Wildlife Refuge System. More than $500,000 has been donated to the National Wildlife Refuge System to maintain these reforested lands.

Besides Entergy and TPL, funding to acquire the 2,900 acres has been provided through a number of different sources including the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund. Project partners will continue to raise funds from federal and private sources to complete the land acquisition goal. U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and U.S. Senator David Vitter and Congressman Rodney Alexander, a member of the House Appropriations Committee support this project as did former U.S. Senator John Breaux.

The Lower Mississippi floodplain forest is one of the country’s most threatened ecosystems. More than 17 million acres of forest have been lost since the early 1900s to timber harvesting and agricultural conversion.

Established in 1980, the 70,000-acre Tensas River National Wildlife Refuge is located in Madison, Tensas, and Franklin parishes. The refuge protects one of the largest continuous blocks of bottomland hardwood forest (55,000 acres) left in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. More than 72,000 visitors annually enjoy hiking nature trails, driving the auto tour route, observing or taking pictures of wildlife, hunting, and fishing.

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, 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 two 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 14,400 acres in Louisiana. For more information, visit TPL on the web at http://www.tpl.org.

Environmental Synergy, Inc. (ESI) is a private Atlanta-based company providing reforestation and carbon quantification services to corporate clients as a means to offset carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and promote sustainable forestry. Having implemented the largest carbon-related reforestation effort in the U.S. to date, ESI provides a turnkey program combining state-of-the-art carbon sequestration science and a commitment to restoring biodiversity in ecologically damaged ecosystems. For more information, visit ESI on the web at www.environmental-synergy.com.

NOTE: For photos, please go to http://www.fws.gov/southeast/