COLUMBUS, Ohio, April 23, 2003 -
American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) today received a 2002 Regional Director’s Conservation Award from the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for its work to acquire, protect and reforest more than 10,000 acres of bottomland hardwood forest near Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in east central Louisiana. Diane Fitzgerald, AEP’s vice president - governmental and environmental affairs, accepted the award on behalf of the company at a ceremony in Atlanta.
AEP is one of five companies and six individuals to receive a 2002 Regional Director’s Conservation Award from the Southeast Region. The company received a similar award for the Catahoula Project in 2001.
In presenting the awards, Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, also recognized AEP’s involvement in the reforestation of hundreds of acres of marginal agricultural land in the Lower Mississippi Valley through UtiliTree, a consortium of utility companies led by Gary Kaster, AEP’s manager of eco-assets.
The 10,257 acres adjacent to the Catahoula NWR that was acquired and enhanced by AEP is part of a larger, 18,372-acre partnership of AEP, The Conservation Fund and USFWS called the Catahoula Reforestation Project. As part of the partnership, AEP has planted nearly 3 million hardwood trees, including various oaks, bald cypress and green ash to reforest land that had been cleared for farming. These trees will capture and convert more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide to biomass over the 70-year life of the project as well as provide habitat for migratory birds, turkey, white-tailed deer and other wildlife. AEP’s 10,257-acre portion of the project is managed by USFWS as part of the Catahoula NWR. USFWS owns the other 8,115 acres included in the project.
“As a public policy, we advocate the planting of trees and preservation of forests for carbon sequestration to help offset releases of carbon dioxide,” said Fitzgerald. “Without commercially proven technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-powered generation facilities, forest protection and restoration offer the most cost-effective means of mitigating greenhouse gas emissions in the near term. Restoration of hardwoods in this location also provides a significant benefit for wildlife as it restores natural habitats and maintains biodiversity.”
The Catahoula NWR was established in 1958 as a wintering area for migratory waterfowl. The refuge adjoins the state-owned 26,000-acre Catahoula Lake that has international importance for providing habitat to more than 400,000 waterfowl during peak times of the year. The lake is also home to thousands of wading and shore birds. The Catahoula Reforestation Project tripled the size of the refuge from its original 6,535 acres.
AEP is involved in two other carbon sequestration projects in South America. AEP and five partners are protecting 4 million acres of tropical forest in the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in northeast Bolivia. As part of the Guaraquecaba Climate Action Project, AEP and two partners are restoring and protecting another 20,000 acres of threatened Atlantic rainforest in southern Brazil. AEP also has planted more than 60 million trees over the past 50 years on company-owned land, much of which was previously mined.
American Electric Power owns and operates more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the United States and select international markets and is the largest electricity generator in the U.S. AEP is also one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, with almost 5 million customers linked to AEP’s 11-state electricity transmission and distribution grid. The company is based in Columbus, Ohio.