Acres for America Announces Grant Recipients for 2015

​Grants in six states will conserve critical habitats, support communities

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (November 18, 2015) – The Acres for America program, one of the most effective public-private partnerships in the history of U.S. conservation efforts, today announced newly funded projects in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Montana and West Virginia. The 2015 grants total about $3 million and will leverage an additional $24 million, for a total conservation investment of more than $27 million.

The 2015 grants announced today will fund efforts to secure land for the reintroduction of elk in West Virginia, and to conserve important wildlife habitats on ranch lands in Montana and Colorado, as well as tracts of forest in Georgia, Arkansas and Massachusetts. In total, these projects will conserve wildlife habitat across more than 118,000 acres.

“Walmart is excited to enter our second decade in collaboration with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation,” said John Clarke, vice president of Walmart store planning. “This year’s grantees are excellent additions to the projects that have led Acres for America to conserve more than 1 million acres across the United States and Puerto Rico.”

These six grants in six states are part of the Acres for America program established a decade ago by Walmart, in collaboration with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), to conserve lands of national significance, protect critical fish and wildlife habitat, and benefit people and local economies. On Nov. 17, Walmart and NFWF announced a 10-year, $35 million renewal of the program; the grants announced today are the first awarded under that renewal.

Acres for America began in 2005, when Walmart made its first commitment of $35 million to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the United States for every acre of land developed by the company — approximately 100,000 acres as of today. The program has far surpassed that 10-year goal, with more than 1 million acres protected — an area comparable in size to Grand Canyon National Park. In just one decade, the Acres for America program has conserved more than 10 acres of vital habitat for every acre of land Walmart has developed since its founding in 1962. With the renewal of the program, Walmart and NFWF are committed to doubling this impact.

Through conservation easements and land acquisitions in areas connecting already-protected lands such as national forests and state wildlife management areas, Acres for America has leveraged conservation investments to benefit wildlife habitats and migration corridors over a much larger area — more than 10 million acres. Through its first 10 years, the competitive grant program leveraged Walmart’s initial $35 million investment to generate more than $352 million in matching contributions, for a total conservation impact of approximately $387 million.

“As we embark on a new, decade-long commitment to conservation between NFWF and Walmart, this slate embodies what this effort can accomplish,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The acres that these six grants will protect contain some of the best habitat in the country and will help maintain recreational, forestry and ranching economies.”

The new Acres for America projects are:

Logan Timberlands: Acquiring Land for Elk Reintroduction (West Virginia)
Grantee: The Conservation Fund
NFWF Award Amount: $250,000
Matching Funds: $7,250,000
Total Project: $7,500,000

The purchase of 32,396 acres of working forestland in southern West Virginia’s coal counties will serve as core habitat for elk reintroduction. The project will provide an innovative new use of conservation, forestry, and wildlife management to help diversify economic opportunities in the region. In addition to expanding prime habitat for elk and facilitating elk reintroduction, the protection of these lands in partnership with the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will permanently conserve more than 10,000 acres of currently leased Wildlife Management Area lands and enhance connectivity with other WMA lands, as well as increase public access and tourism, support working forests and forestry based jobs.

Protecting Wildlife Habitat and Corridors in the High Divide (Montana)
Grantee: The Nature Conservancy
NFWF Award Amount: $250,000
Matching Funds: $6,600,000
Total Project: $6,850,000

Just south of Dillon, Montana, in the heart of the High Divide lies a 32,447-acre ranch. The Nature Conservancy’s plan to place a conservation easement on this property will connect interspersed public lands to create 75,000 acres of intact wildlife habitat.  In this landscape dominated by sagebrush covered hillsides with Douglas-fir and aspen forests at higher elevations, this project will protect critical habitat and migratory corridors for a rich variety of wildlife, including grizzly bears, greater sage-grouse, wolverine and mule deer. The easement will also protect public access to the neighboring public lands in a heavily used recreational area. 

JE Canyon Ranch (Colorado)
Grantee: The Nature Conservancy
NFWF Award Amount: $500,000
Matching Funds: $2,500,000
Total Project: $3,000,000

In the heart of eastern Colorado’s shortgrass prairies lies 48,230 acres of red rock canyons, mesas, pinyon-juniper forest, and hidden seeps and springs. The Nature Conservancy will place a conservation easement on the JE Canyon Ranch, one of Colorado’s largest cattle ranches. The property consists of 55 miles of sandstone canyons, including the 700-foot deep main canyon of the Purgatoire River. In addition to providing some of Colorado’s most diverse and highest quality habitat for over 850 plant and animals species, JE Canyon Ranch provides critical habitat for the state’s largest population of bighorn sheep.

Beaver Lake Forest Conservation (Arkansas)
Grantee: The Nature Conservancy
NFWF Award Amount: $1,310,170
Matching Funds: $754,600
Total Project: $2,064,770

In Benton County, Arkansas, the acquisition of forestland along Beaver Lake will protect one of the most biologically diverse areas in the state from the threat of future development. At 410 contiguous acres, this property is one of the last remaining large tracts of undeveloped private land along Beaver Lake. In addition to harboring over 550 plant species, of which 26 are of state conservation concern and five are globally rare, this site supports the health of Northwest Arkansas’ principal water supply by preventing sediment runoff into the lake. Public access opportunities will also be enhanced from this tract connecting several thousand acres of surrounding conserved lands.

Sprewell Bluff (Georgia)
Grantee: Georgia Department of Natural Resources
NFWF Award Amount: $500,000
Matching Funds: $4,238,000
Total Project: $4,738,000

This 3,200-acre tract of rugged mountain land along Pine Mountain Georgia contains examples of three internationally recognized rare natural community types: Hog Plum Glades, Longleaf Pine Heath Bluff and Montane Longleaf Pine. With more than 2 miles of frontage along the Flint River, this property is key to linking Sprewell Bluff State Park to the neighboring Wildlife Management Area and to thousands of acres of private land where Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources assists landowners with management and restoration of longleaf pine ecosystems.

Northfield Forest (Massachusetts)
Grantee: The Trust for Public Land
NFWF Award Amount:  $250,000
Matching Funds: $2,627,000
Total Project: $2,877,000

Located in the heart of the Connecticut River Valley, the 1,650-acre Northfield Forest contains working forests, significant wildlife habitat, abundant recreational resources, and serves as a major source of drinking water for local communities. The property, which was aggregated over 100 years by the Northfield Mount Hermon School, is one of the largest unprotected tracts in Massachusetts, and will be incorporated into a larger 25,000-acre network of connected conservation land. Northfield Forest’s natural resources are remarkably intact thanks to a century of sustainable, low-impact management. Furthermore, the property is strategic for its location within the Connecticut River watershed, a region that is nationally recognized for its significant habitat, abundant recreational resources, and value as a north-south climate adaptation corridor.

For additional information about the Acres for America Program, please click here.

For a complete list of all grants made through the Acres for America Program from 2005 to 2014, please click here.

For a short video about the Acres for American Program, please click here.

About Walmart

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About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

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