Walmart’s Acres for America Program Aims to Protect an Additional 113,500+ Acres of Wildlife Habitat Through New Grants
NFWF announces six new grants to help secure vital wildlife habitat and expand recreational opportunities for local communities, adding to more than 1.6 million acres conserved to date
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 10, 2020) – The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the award of $3.1 million in grants through Walmart’s Acres for America program to six land conservation projects aimed at permanently protecting more than 113,500 acres of vital wildlife habitat.
“Healthy societies, resilient economies, and thriving businesses rely on nature to provide food, products and services,” says Hunter Hart, Vice President, Realty, Walmart U.S. “Over the past 16 years, Walmart’s Acres for America program has helped conserve more than 1.6 million acres, protecting critical wildlife habit and offering local communities Walmart serves every day increased public access to enjoy the outdoors.”
This year marks the first Acres for America grants within the states of Ohio and Virginia, in addition to grants in California, Hawaii, Maine, and Tennessee. These six grants will help protect essential fish and wildlife habitat, safeguard vital migration routes, support local economies, and provide access to outdoor public recreation opportunities.
For example, Ohio’s Department of Wildlife Resources is purchasing more than 40,000 acres of forests, lakes, and meadows in the southeast part of the state. The Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area will provide opportunities for Ohioans and visitors to hike, hunt, fish, and enjoy the state’s diverse wildlife forever.
"The Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area is such a special place," said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Director Mary Mertz. "Not only is this the largest contiguous recreation area in Ohio, it’s also perhaps the most majestic. I’m so glad we are able to ensure it will remain a protected place for Ohioans to enjoy for generations to come."
Acres for America began in 2005 when Walmart made an initial 10-year, $35 million commitment to purchase and preserve an acre of wildlife habitat in the United States for every acre of land developed by the company. The program’s remarkable success led to a 10-year renewal and has now protected more than 1.6 million acres across 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to date. Over the past 16 years, Acres for America has funded 100 projects and has leveraged Walmart’s $56 million investment with matching contributions that have generated a total conservation impact of more than $1 billion.
“The goals of this remarkable program are so important - to conserve lands and wildlife habitat of national significance, and to benefit local communities and local economies,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “The six projects awarded grants through Walmart’s Acres for America program this year will ensure that current and future generations of Americans, from Maine to Hawaii, will enjoy the opportunity to encounter native wildlife where they live -- an experience that is truly priceless.”
The grants awarded in 2020 leverage an additional $103.7 million in matching contributions from grantees and their project partners for a total conservation impact of $106.8 million, supporting the following projects:
- The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife will acquire 40,596 acres of land for inclusion into the Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area. This property offers a variety of recreation opportunities for locals and tourists, including hunting, trapping, fishing, and wildlife viewing. Preventing fragmentation and applying proper management over these lands will provide priority habitat for threatened and at-risk grassland bird species such as the grasshopper sparrow, bobolink, sedge wren, and state-endangered northern harrier; as well as habitat for woodland species such as the federally listed northern long-eared bat. (Grant amount $535,000)
- The California Rangeland Trust will place a conservation easement on 9,418 acres of rangeland in the Gabilan Mountain Range to eliminate the potential for subdivision, development, and cropland intensification. This active cattle ranch located just outside of Salinas, California is adjacent to numerous protected areas, which together will provide more than 27,600 acres of uninterrupted migration corridor and conserve habitat for at least seven special-status animals and three special-status plants. The project will help to maintain water quality in the Salinas River Watershed and will support agricultural productivity through improved grazing practices. In addition, the project will encourage tule elk distribution and support public hunting opportunities. (Grant amount $376,000)
- The Trust for Public Land is working with the State of Hawaii and local community and conservation organizations to acquire the 13,129-acre Koa Forest for addition into the Hilo Forest Reserve. This forest is the largest area of old growth koa, Hawaii’s most ecologically valuable and iconic native timber tree, prized for furniture, instruments, and traditional canoes. The property includes 61 miles of streams and countless waterfalls that cascade for 4 miles and ultimately connect to the ocean, providing fresh water for people, agriculture, and the marine environment, as well as scenic views enjoyed by residents and visitors. Permanently protecting this forested watershed will allow proper management and recreational access to previously inaccessible areas of the reserve, encourage sustainable forestry, aid the recovery of 28 listed endangered or threatened species, and prevent subdivision and development threats. (Grant amount $500,000)
- The Appalachian Mountain Club will purchase and permanently conserve a 26,740-acre parcel of working forestland known as the Pleasant River Headwaters Forest in Maine’s 100-Mile Wilderness landscape. These former industrial timberlands will be restored to a more ecologically natural and mature condition, providing habitat benefits for wildlife and promoting the growth of higher value timber products for the local economy through sustainable forestry operations. Securing permanent conservation of these lands will allow Atlantic salmon to return to the headwater streams of the Pleasant River watershed, restore a renowned native brook trout habitat, provide public outdoor recreational opportunities, and prevent future development. The Conservation Fund was a key partner in the acquisition through their Working Forest Fund program. (Grant amount $500,000)
- The Nature Conservancy and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency will conserve at least 15,000 acres in Tennessee for public recreation, sustainable forestry and wildlife habitat management in the Central Appalachians. The property is home to headwater streams, providing habitat to multiple high-priority aquatic and terrestrial species and ecosystems, while also creating critical habitat linkage between adjacent conservation properties. These lands generate revenues for the local economy via sustainable forestry management and also support a robust outdoor recreation economy connecting people to nature through hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, birding, and camping. (Grant amount $620,000)
- The Conservation Fund and Virginia’s Department of Wildlife Resources will protect a total of 8,654 acres of upland forest along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Protection of this property will contribute to a larger landscape-scale conservation effort by expanding and strengthening the connectivity between 133,000 acres of already protected lands. The property encompasses a matrix of upland forest habitat critical to resident and migratory birds in the Atlantic Flyway, including black rail, American kestrel, osprey, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and merlin. This project will mitigate for the future loss of the Eastern Shore’s coastal marsh due to sea-level rise and provide protected migratory bird stopover sites up and down the Eastern Shore. In addition, this land will be open for public recreation for the first time, boosting conservation tourism in the area. (Grant amount $600,000)
About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) works with the public and private sectors to sustain, restore and enhance the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats for current and future generations. Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF has grown to become the nation’s largest private conservation grant-maker, funding more than 18,600 projects and generating a total conservation impact of $6.1 billion. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.
Rob Blumenthal, 202-857-0166, email@example.com