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Walmart's 'Acres for America' Awards $3.6 Million for Conservation
New York Ag Connection - 11/07/2019

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Wednesday announced that Walmart's Acres for America program, the leading public-private land conservation partnership in the United States, has awarded $3.6 million in grants to conserve important landscapes for fish, wildlife and people across 70,300 acres in Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Washington and, for the first time, Iowa and Kansas.

Since its inception in 2005, Acres for America has supported communities in their efforts to protect the natural places that matter to them while also sustaining and enhancing this country's amazing wildlife resources. Through this year's grants, vital wildlife habitat will be permanently protected, from the Pacific Northwest to the Rocky Mountains, desert Southwest, Great Plains, and forests of the East Coast -- adding seven new projects to the roster of properties that Acres for America has helped to conserve since 2005.

"Since the Acres for America program was launched in 2005, conservation and sustainability has become a driving force at Walmart," said John Clarke, vice president of realty operations for Walmart. "I am so pleased that our leadership at the time had the foresight to establish and nurture this program into becoming what it is today -- the most important public-private land conservation partnership in the United States. The 1.5 million acres that this program has helped to protect benefit the communities we serve and will help ensure our nation's native species thrive for generations to come."

The seven grants awarded Wednesday through Acres for America will leverage an additional $70.2 million in matching contributions, pushing the total conservation impact for the 2019 grant slate to more than $73.8 million.

"Walmart's leadership in helping communities protect some of our nation's most awe-inspiring natural landscapes shows how much the company values conservation and demonstrates its commitment to the well-being of the communities it serves," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "The Acres for America program has directly contributed to the permanent protection of nearly 1.5 million acres across the United States, an area comparable in size to Everglades National Park -- a truly remarkable achievement."

"The Fisher's Peak project represents an amazing opportunity to design a landscape-scale conservation effort in a way that balances wildlife habitat protection, new outdoor recreation access and rural economic prosperity," said Wade Shelton, senior project manager with The Trust for Public Land. "We are thrilled to partner with Walmart's Acres for America program and with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation on this project, which will result in the creation of Colorado's next state park."

"Public-private partnerships such as Acres for America are absolutely essential to effective landscape-scale conservation efforts," said Glenn Lamb, executive director, Columbia Land Trust. "We value NFWF's leadership and Walmart's commitment to conserving these important places where wildlife and communities will thrive--now and into the future."

The grants awarded in 2019 will support the following projects:

- The Trust for Public Land and partners will permanently conserve a 19,200-acre mountain property located just south of Trinidad, Colorado, which will become Colorado's newest State Park. Fisher's Peak property will achieve landscape-level conservation by linking intact habitat between the Eastern Plains of Colorado and the Western Slopes of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Reaching 9633-feet, Fishers Peak is the nation's highest peak east of Interstate 25, serving a vital role for the ecological, economic, and the cultural identity of Trinidad and surrounding communities. (Grant amount $650,000)

- Iowa Department of Natural Resources will protect an 834-acre tract of untilled prairie and oak woodland in the Loess Hills of western Iowa just outside Sioux City. The Loess Hills landscape provides habitat for grassland and savanna woodland species, including the grasshopper sparrow, dickcissel, cerulean warbler, prairie rattlesnakes, regal fritillary, and Dakota skipper, as well as stop-over habitat for migratory birds. This acquisition will become a State Wildlife Area within a 10,000 acre conservation area, and ensure that wildlife populations and their habitats are properly managed, and also create opportunities for public hunting, trapping, and wildlife observation. (Grant amount $270,000)

- Ranchland Trust of Kansas will partner with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, state and local partners to place a perpetual conservation easement on 9,250-acres of grasslands on the Ballet Ranch located in the Red Hills of Kansas. The project will ensure suitable habitat for species of concern such as cave-dwelling bats, lesser prairie-chicken, plains minnow, longnose snake, and numerous grassland-obligate and migratory birds, while sustaining local economic viability as a working cattle ranch. (Grant amount $650,000)

- The Trust for Public Land will work with the Bureau of Land Management to acquire the 8,914-acre Canon Ciruela property in eastern New Mexico as an addition to the Sabinoso Wilderness. Comprised of high-elevated mesas and deep canyons, Canon Ciruela provides habitat for elk, deer, bear, mountain lion, wild turkey, long-billed curlew, plains leopard frogs, and other wildlife. The project will result in more than 30,000 acres of protected wilderness and serve as a refuge for wildlife and people to enjoy. (Grant amount $450,000)

- The Nature Conservancy will establish a freshwater preserve at Follensby Pond, located in the heart of New York's Adirondack Park. This effort will protect 14,700 acres adjacent to the 275,000 acre High Peaks Wilderness Area, the 3rd largest in the northeastern US. The Follensby Pond property includes a 1,000 acre lake and old growth forests while securing recreational access to more than 10.5 miles of the popular Northern Forest Canoe Trail. The property also contains the spot that the Transcendentalist Movement was launched in 1858. (Grant amount $650,000)

- The Trust for Public Land will work with Klamath Trails Alliance, Klamath County, and other federal, state and local partners to acquire the 7,500-acre Spence Mountain property in southern Oregon. Located on the shore of Upper Klamath Lake, Spence Mountain is a complex ecological zone, containing critical fish and wildlife habitat that will now be protected from subdivision and fragmentation; including shoreline habitat for threatened and endangered species of fish, winter range for black tail deer, and bird habitat for species traveling along the Pacific Flyway. (Grant amount $435,000)

- Columbia Land Trust, in partnership with the Yakama Nation and federal and state agencies, will complete the acquisition of the 9,900-acre Mount Adams-Klickitat Canyon Forest. This award represents the culmination of 25 years of effort to protect and restore the Wild & Scenic Klickitat River and its watershed in Washington State. The canyon will connect federal and tribal protected habitat with thousands of acres of state and private conservation lands; protecting critical habitat for 36 federally and state-listed wildlife species and facilitating wildlife movement across a vast landscape. (Grant amount $500,000)

Acres for America began in 2005, when Walmart made an initial 10-year, $35 million commitment to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the United States for every acre of land developed by the company. The program's remarkable success at surpassing that initial goal led to a 10-year renewal to continue its extraordinary work for another decade. To date, the Acres for America program has protected nearly 1.5 million acres across 40 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. Over 15 years, Acres for America has leveraged Walmart's $52 million investment with more than $774 million in matching contributions, for a total conservation impact of more than $826 million.

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