COLUMBUS, Ohio, July 13, 2006 – The American Electric Power Foundation today announced a $2 million donation to fund reforestation and conservation of approximately 22,500 acres of forestland in Guatemala. The donation is part of the AEP Foundation’s support of the Central America and Mexico Hurricane Relief Fund, a public-private partnership to encourage financial donations for reconstruction in Central America and Southern Mexico following the devastation of the 2005 hurricane season. The AEP Foundation is funded by American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) and AEP’s utility units.
The AEP Foundation’s $2 million donation has been earmarked to The Nature Conservancy to fund a reforestation and conservation program designed to help lessen the impact of future storms in the Sierra Madre region of Guatemala. Hurricane Stan impacted 1,100 communities and caused an estimated $450 million in damage in the Sierra Madre region.
“When we became aware of the devastation caused by last year’s hurricanes in Central America and Mexico, we felt it was very important to go beyond the assistance AEP provided in Mississippi and Louisiana to help an area whose government lacks the resources necessary for recovery and whose plight had received little attention,” said Michael G. Morris, chairman of the AEP Foundation and AEP’s chairman, president and chief executive officer.
“AEP has a long history of planting trees in the United States and helping to restore and protect areas of significant international biodiversity, including successful reforestation and conservation projects in Bolivia, Brazil and Belize. We’re pleased that the AEP Foundation is able to target its Central American hurricane relief support to a program focused on reforestation and helping restore this region’s natural hurricane defense mechanism. Restoring deforested areas and protecting existing forestlands in this region also will provide an additional global benefit by helping reduce carbon dioxide concentrations through the uptake of carbon by these trees,” Morris said.
The Sierra Madre project will reforest approximately 1,500 acres and seek agreements to conserve another 21,000 acres of private and public forestlands in the Lake Atitlan area of the Sierra Madre. The 2005 hurricane season was particularly damaging in the area because of severe deforestation in the surrounding mountains. Inadequate forest cover resulted in landslides and mudslides that buried villages, homes and crops. Reforestation of the 1,500 acres will help protect watersheds and landslide-prone areas and help reduce damage from future storms.
The project also includes programs to help link local economic needs with conservation of natural resources including developing partnerships to advise on land use, water use, agriculture, forest management and tourism to improve quality of life without negative impacts on local resources. For example, the program will help support increased development of shade-grown coffee. Shade-grown coffee provides a higher-value product for local farmers while maintaining forest biodiversity and providing nesting and feeding habitat for wildlife.
Additionally, the project will seek to leverage additional resources through a possible “debt for nature” swap program in which a percentage of the debt owed by the Guatemalan government will be earmarked for additional conservation investment in the region.
The Central America and Mexico Hurricane Relief Fund is a nationwide, public-private partnership to encourage private donations for reconstruction in Central America and Southern Mexico following the devastating storms of the 2005 hurricane season. For more information or to contribute to the fund, visit www.HurricaneAction.org
or call 800-638-8079.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.
American Electric Power is one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, delivering electricity to more than 5 million customers in 11 states. AEP ranks among the nation’s largest generators of electricity, owning nearly 36,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the U.S. AEP also owns the nation’s largest electricity transmission system, a nearly 39,000-mile network that includes more 765 kilovolt extra-high voltage transmission lines than all other U.S. transmission systems combined. AEP’s utility units operate as AEP Ohio, AEP Texas, Appalachian Power (in Virginia and West Virginia), AEP Appalachian Power (in Tennessee), Indiana Michigan Power, Kentucky Power, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, and Southwestern Electric Power Company (in Arkansas, Louisiana and east Texas). American Electric Power, based in Columbus, Ohio, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2006. The American Electric Power Foundation was formed in late 2005 as a private foundation to make contributions and grants to eligible charities.