National Forest Carbon Program Brings Big Boost to Louisiana Refuges

January 14, 2010

mallard ducks in flight

Mallards in flight. Photo by Don DeBold/Flickr

Alexandria, LA — Two central Louisiana national wildlife refuges are getting a big boost toward their habitat restoration goals with the donation of more than 245,000 native trees this month. Private support for the initiative comes from a mix of donations from corporations, foundations and individual donors to The Conservation Fund’s voluntary carbon offset program, Go Zero®.

Together with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Environmental Synergy Inc. (ESI), the partners are restoring 814 acres of native oak and cypress trees at Grand Cote and Lake Ophelia near Marksville, Louisiana. As the forests mature, they are expected to trap an estimated 260,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere.

Go Zero works with companies and individuals to help reduce and then offset the carbon footprint of everyday activities, such as the CO2 emissions resulting from an in-town or cross-country move with U-Haul, a flight purchased from Travelocity.com, a package shipped from Gaiam.com, or the electricity it takes to power a Dell notebook for three years. Customer donations help plant native trees in protected parks and wildlife refuges that will capture and store carbon over time, while also creating forest habitats that are critical to birds, fish, bears and other wildlife.

More than 287,000 U-Haul customers have elected to offset their emissions by donating over $1 million to Go Zero. “By leveraging our human, technical, financial and business resources, U-Haul and our customers have attempted to make a real difference in protecting the environment,” said John “J.T.” Taylor, president of Phoenix-based U-Haul International, Inc. “U-Haul customers should be applauded for their support of The Conservation Fund and these two Louisiana refuges, and for positively impacting the communities where we live.”

The refuges will also benefit from customer donations made via Dell’s “Plant a Tree for Me” program. “Providing a great customer experience starts with delivering great value and continues with working to protect the environment throughout the life of our systems,” said Mark Newton, lead environmental strategist for Dell. “The ‘Plant a Tree for Me’ program lets us partner with our customers, The Conservation Fund and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to make a positive difference for our planet.”

Colorado-based Gaiam, a lifestyle company, has collaborated with the Fund’s Go Zero program since 2006 by offering its customers the opportunity to zero out the carbon footprint associated with shipping their purchase. Gaiam was the first company in the U.S. to offer such a program. “The Conservation Fund’s Go Zero program is a great fit for Gaiam and its customers particularly because it focuses on planting a mix of native tree species to restore high-priority conservation lands,” said Gaiam’s Chris Fisher, director of customer experience. “Once those lands are restored, they belong to everybody – even future generations.”

After decades of farming, much of the land within Grand Cote and Lake Ophelia refuges was too degraded to support a natural ecosystem. Although both areas were identified by the USFWS as high priorities for restoration when the refuges were established in 1989, public funding necessary to restore the forests has never been available. 

“Loss of forest habitat is a huge challenge for ducks, songbirds and even the Louisiana black bear,” said Cindy Dohner, southeast regional director for USFWS. “The Go Zero program is providing tremendous benefits to wildlife and people. The Service relies on partnerships like these to restore ecosystems and enable wildlife to return and flourish once again.”

Each fall, hundreds of thousands of migrating birds descend upon Lake Ophelia and Grand Cote to escape the North’s freezing temperatures, plump up on quality grub and select their mates for spring breeding. Many find shelter within the parks and wildlife refuges of central Louisiana. However, over the past century, Louisiana’s once lush forests and waterways have been cleared, dammed, leveed and drastically altered, leaving fewer habitats for our partners in flight.

“Every day, we hear about the impacts of deforestation in the Amazon or Indonesia,” said The Conservation Fund’s Louisiana state director, Ray Herndon, “but it’s happening in the Gulf Coast area too. Migratory bird populations have lost more than 24 million acres of bottomland hardwood forest habitat over the last century along the Red River and lower Mississippi River valleys. Habitat destruction is more pronounced here than in any other area of the United States.”

Loss of native, forested habitat is especially hard on migratory birds. Waterfowl, songbirds and shorebirds all use forested, moist soil and open-water wetland habitats for nesting, foraging and taking cover from predators. To help keep the bird buffets stocked along the Mississippi Flyway, Go Zero partners with leading companies committed to making a difference for the global climate, America’s forests and their wildlife communities.

Environmental Synergy Inc. (ESI), an Atlanta-based developer of forest carbon projects, will manage the planting and carbon monitoring plans, using on-site measurements over time. USFWS will manage the land and the forests as they grow. The 814-acre project will be validated against the standards of the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance.


Heroes of Go Zero include: Hundreds of thousands of dedicated individuals, Accenture Supply Chain Academy, Americas Lodging Investment Summit, Bella Figura Letterpress Invitations, Carfax, Inc., City of Austin, Conde Nast Publications, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Dell Computer Corporation, Delta Air Lines, Inc., e-Blue Horizons, LLC, Florida Center for Environmental Studies, Gaiam, Inc., Indianapolis Colts NFL, Land Rover Portland, Lee County Board of County Commissioners, L’Oreal USA, Inc., McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, LLC, Michigan International Speedway, Molinaro Koger, NBC Universal, New Jersey Natural Gas, Organic, Inc., Philadelphia Eagles, Premiere TV, Inc., Reverb Inc., SEAT Planners Incorporated, Sesco Lighting, Sustainable Forestry Initiative, Inc., The North Face, Training Resources Group LLC, Travelocity, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U-Haul International, Inc., University of Delaware, Vans, Way Basics, William McDonough & Partners, P.L.C., World Class Charters, Inc.


About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

Press Release Contacts

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org

About USFWS

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. In the past decade, the Service and its partners have added 32,000 acres to seven refuges and reforested or restored approximately 80,000 acres on more than 40 refuges in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov and www.fws.gov/southeast.