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More Than $2.3 Million in Conservation Grants Announced by Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced that 64 community-led wetland, stream and coastal restoration projects across the nation have been awarded more than $2.3 million in grants. In addition, the grantees have committed an additional $4.8 million in local project support, creating a total investment of more than $7 million in projects that will restore wildlife habitat and urban waters and will engage thousands of volunteers, students and local residents in community-based environmental stewardship projects.

These grants are awarded through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, which began in 1999 as a partnership among NFWF, National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Since its inception, the program has supported more than 750 projects with more than $8.5 million in federal funds, $7 million in private and corporate contributions and $60 million in matching funds at the local level. Major funding for the 2015 Five Star and Urban Waters program is provided by EPA, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FedEx, Southern Company, Bank of America and PG &E.

"Some of our nation's most pressing conservation challenges can be found in the suburban and urban landscapes where most Americans live," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "The public- and private-sector partners who support the Five Star and Urban Waters program should take great pride in the fact that they are helping improve water quality, restore habitats and protect native species inside some of our nation's biggest cities. Program partners and grant recipients also play a leading role in helping children and adults across the country reconnect with nature and engage in innovative, successful conservation projects."

"The Urban Waters Federal Partnership reconnects urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts to improve our nation's water systems and promote their economic, environmental and social benefits" said EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Ken Kopocis.

"With a significant portion of our operations, people and facilities based in metropolitan centers, we highly value healthy urban spaces and appreciate the opportunity to invest in these restoration projects through financial contributions and team member volunteerism," said Mitch Jackson, vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability for FedEx Corp. "Through NFWF and the FedEx EarthSmart Outreach program, FedEx team members work directly with local nonprofits to improve the urban spaces where they live and work. We congratulate the community groups that were selected to receive grants as a part of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program."

"Urban forests provide countless benefits to Americans including keeping our cities cool, enhancing the quality of life of urban residents and increasing property values," said Robert Bonnie, USDA's Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. USDA is pleased to support urban forest restoration so important to community water quality and community health. .

"The success of the Five Star and Urban Waters program rests on the innovation and dedication of many organizations and partners to make lasting improvements in our local communities," said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Dr. Larry S. Monroe. "Southern Company's partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and others is supporting projects that enhance some of our most valuable local resources—our watersheds."

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched our Urban Wildlife Refuge Program four years ago because we believe the future of conservation depends on engaging people who have never before made natural resource stewardship a part of their everyday lives. That is especially true of the millions who live in America's biggest cities," said National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Cynthia Martinez. "These grants will make a huge difference in reaching new communities by creating local partnerships with the Service in neighborhoods across the country. The benefits will be felt for generations."

Another way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reaches new audiences in urban areas is through birds. Urban Bird Treaty cities bring together private citizens, federal, state, municipal agencies, and non-governmental organizations to conserve migratory birds through education programs, participation in citizen science, conservation and habitat improvement strategies, and reducing hazards to birds in urban/suburban areas. "The Urban Bird Treaty represents a significant step in our Service efforts to engage citizens in urban conservation planning that will have lasting impacts on birds, habitats, and people," said Jerome Ford, the Service's assistant director for migratory birds.

"Clean fresh water is a valuable asset to communities across the U.S.," said Bank of America's Global Environmental Executive Alex Liftman. "This partnership is protecting and enhancing critical waterways around the country -- and provides the opportunity for our employees to partner with colleagues, customers and neighbors to improve the communities where we live, work and play."

The Five Star and Urban Waters 2015 winners were selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 280 applications. Consideration for funding is based upon the educational and training opportunities for youth and the community at large as well as the ecological and other cultural and economic benefits to the community. These projects must also involve a high degree of partnership between local government agencies, elected officials, community groups, businesses, schools and environmental organizations for improving local water quality and restoring important fish and wildlife habitats. A full list of 2015 projects is available here.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation's wildlife and habitats. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions. NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges. Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.9 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) provides customers and businesses worldwide with a broad portfolio of transportation, e-commerce and business services. With annual revenues of $475 billion, the company offers integrated business applications through operating companies competing collectively and managed collaboratively, under the respected FedEx brand. Consistently ranked among the world's most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 32500,000 team members to remain "absolutely, positively" focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards and the needs of their customers and communities. For more information, visit http://news.fedex.com.

With more than 4.5 million customers and approximately 46,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE: SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast through its subsidiaries. A leading U.S. producer of clean, safe, reliable and affordable electricity, Southern Company owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications. Southern Company brands are known for energy innovation, excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are below the national average. Southern Company and its subsidiaries are leading the nation's nuclear renaissance through the construction of the first new nuclear units to be built in a generation of Americans and are demonstrating their commitment to energy innovation through the development of a state-of-the-art coal gasification plant. Southern Company has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Defense and G.I. Jobs magazine as a top military employer, listed by DiversityInc as a top company for Blacks and designated a 2014 Top Employer for Hispanics by Hispanic Network. The company received the Edison Award from the Edison Electric Institute for its leadership in new nuclear development, was named Electric Light & Power magazine's Utility of the Year for 2012 and is continually ranked among the top utilities in Fortune's annual World's Most Admired Electric and Gas Utility rankings. Visit our website at www.southerncompany.com.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at www.fws.gov/refuges.

The U.S. FWS Migratory Bird Program works to protect, restore, and conserve bird populations and their habitats for the benefit of future generation by: ensuring long-term ecological sustainability of all migratory bird populations, increasing socioeconomic benefits derived from birds, improving hunting and birdwatching and other outdoor bird-related experiences, and increasing awareness of the value of migratory birds and their habitats for their aesthetic, ecological, recreational and economic significance. Visit http://www.fws.gov/birds.

Bank of America's commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a strategic part of doing business globally. Our CSR efforts guide how we operate in a socially, economically, financially and environmentally responsible way around the world, to deliver for shareholders, customers, clients and employees. Our goal is to help create economically vibrant regions and communities through lending, investing and giving. By partnering with our stakeholders, we create value that empowers individuals and communities to thrive and contributes to the long-term success of our business. We have several core areas of focus for our CSR, including responsible business practices; environmental sustainability; strengthening local communities with a focus on housing, hunger and jobs; investing in global leadership development; and engaging through arts and culture. As part of these efforts, employee volunteers across the company contribute their time, passion and expertise to address issues in communities where they live and work. Learn more at www.bankofamerica.com/about.

The Forest Service mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forest and grasslands in 44 States and territories representing 30 percent of all federally owned lands. Working with partners, Forest Service programs restored or enhanced more than 6.1 million acres of public and private forest lands in FY 2014. Visit www.fs.fed.us.

CONTACT: Rob Blumenthal, NFWF, 202-857-0166



Source:National Fish and Wildlife Foundation