Urban wildlife conservation is a growing branch of conservation ecology with good reason. Due to increase in human encroachment on forest lands, more and more people are encroaching on natural habitat. In addition, many lakes and rivers near cities are severely polluted and in desperate need of restoration. It is important to protect these areas not only to improve their beauty and the health of residents, but also to protect biodiversity.
Acres for America is a CSR program developed by the company in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). It is a 10 year, $35 million commitment to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the United States for every acre of land developed by Walmart. The program has helped conserve more than 630,000 acres in its first five years. They have donated $500,000 and it is the first time the program has helped reestablish critical wildlife habitats in urban areas.
“We are excited to have an opportunity to help revitalize priority wildlife habitats in urban areas and bring the Acres for America program to life for our associates and customers,” said Jennifer May-Brust, Walmart vice president of realty. “Walmart is serving more and more urban customers, and this is a natural extension of what we’ve been doing in rural and suburban communities for years.”
There are several programs that have been earmarked for the funds:
- Anacostia Watershed Restoration (Washington, D.C.): This project will install a bioretention facility, or rain garden, to treat polluted storm water runoff entering Nash Run, a tributary of the Anacostia River. The Anacostia River is among the most polluted in the country, and this project is a priority for the Anacostia Watershed Restoration Partnership.
- Hegewisch Marsh Restoration (Chicago): Hegewisch Marsh includes four ecosystems: wet savannah, wet prairie, forested wetland, and marsh. It is a nesting site for the endangered common moorhen and home to 12 state-endangered bird species. The project will restore 30 acres of marshland.
- Bolsa Chica Enhancement Project (Los Angeles): This project will support restoration and habitat enhancement efforts at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve for the endangered southern tarplant, an annual herb native to California.
- Jamaica Bay Salt Marsh Restoration (New York): A 26-square-mile urban ecosystem off the Brooklyn and Queens shoreline, Jamaica Bay is the largest tidal wetlands complex in New York City, part of the National Park Service Gateway National Recreation Area and a key stopover point along the Atlantic Flyway for migratory birds.
- The New York Botanical Garden Lower Portage Trail (New York): Restoring the Lower Portage Trail will help improve the ecological health of the Bronx River and create better recreational amenities for garden visitors and community residents.
States like Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming and Washington, D.C already have lands protected and restored under the Acres for America program. The program aims to be one of the largest public-private partnerships in the U.S. and the first time a company has directly tied its land-use footprint to land conservation.
Not only is this ambitious CSR, it is definitely addressing the need of the hour by bringing conservation closer to home and into cities where people can see the obvious benefits of a healthy ecosystem.