Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Southern Company Sponsoring Operation Migration USA; Unique Program Helps Conserve Whooping Cranes

PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- In a new alliance that extends efforts to restore bird populations in the Southeast, Southern Company is sponsoring Operation Migration USA, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of migratory species, including the Whooping crane.

The three-year grant to Operation Migration USA was made through the Power of Flight, a partnership between Southern Company and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to protect birds through habitat and species restoration and environmental education.

The support will help Operation Migration USA to increase the number of Whooping cranes it raises and leads south by ultralight aircraft from the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.

"Operation Migration, working in association with the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership, has been instrumental in saving the Whooping crane, which once was near extinction," said Chris Hobson, Southern Company senior vice president for research and environmental affairs. "We are pleased that this ongoing effort to ensure the Whooping crane's survival is now among the many outstanding bird conservation programs that are Power of Flight grantees."

Operation Migration hopes to increase the number of new Whooping cranes released annually to 24, with the goal of helping the flock reach a self-sustaining population level in four to five years.

"Operation Migration has a new route this year that will take our team of aviculturists and pilots leading Whooping cranes through Alabama and Georgia on our way to Florida. We are delighted to welcome Southern Company as a major sponsor. Southern Company's commitment of financial support will help ensure we can continue our important work with the endangered Whooping crane," said Joe Duff, Operation Migration USA co-founder and chief executive.

"We are extremely proud to be part of Operation Migration's critical work in restoring the Whooping crane population through our partnership with Southern Company," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. "This is a resounding example of how strong support and leadership from Southern Company and focused conservation investments through the Power of Flight program are achieving meaningful and significant benefits in the southeastern United States for wildlife and the habitats on which they depend."

The cranes for this project are hatched at the U.S. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland. They are taught to follow a specially designed ultralight aircraft before being shipped to Wisconsin at 50 days of age. Eventually, they follow a team of four ultralight aircraft on their first migration from Wisconsin to Florida.

Once the birds learn the migratory route they can return, on their own, the following spring. Each year a new generation is taught this route and released. Once this flock reaches 125 birds, including 25 breeding pairs, it can be considered self-sustaining.

This year, Operation Migration's ultralights will travel 1,285 miles through seven states, including three -- Alabama, Florida and Georgia -- that are served by Southern Company. The cranes are expected to begin their flight in mid October; their arrival date depends on the weather but the trip is expected to take at least 50 days. Progress reports on the flight are updated regularly and posted on Operation Migration USA's Web site at www.operationmigration.org/Field_Journal.html .

Since 2001, Operation Migration has played a leading role in the reintroduction of endangered Whooping cranes into eastern North America. During the 1940s only 15 birds survived in the world, although the species was not declared endangered until 1971. The primary reason for the birds' disappearance was the destruction of its natural habitat; however, thanks to conservation efforts, more than 500 whooping cranes survive today.

Operation Migration USA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of migratory species through innovative research, education and partnerships. Launched in 2001, the organization has played a leading role in the reintroduction of endangered Whooping cranes into eastern North America. Operation Migration is a founding partner of the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership (WCEP), the coalition of non-profit organizations and government agencies behind the project to safeguard the endangered Whooping crane from extinction. For more information, visit www.operationmigration.org .

A nonprofit established by Congress in 1984, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) sustains, restores and enhances the nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Through leadership conservation investments with public and private partners, NFWF is dedicated to achieving maximum conservation impact by developing and applying best practices and innovative methods for measurable outcomes. Since its establishment, NFWF has awarded over 10,000 grants to more than 3,500 organizations in the United States and abroad and leveraged - with its partners - more than $600 million into over $1.5 billion for conservation.

With nearly 4.4 million customers and more than 42,000 megawatts of generating capacity, Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO) is the premier energy company serving the Southeast, one of America's fastest-growing regions. A leading U.S. producer of 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 excellent customer service, high reliability and retail electric prices that are significantly below the national average. Southern Company has been listed the top ranking U.S. electric service provider in customer satisfaction for nine consecutive years by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). Visit our Web site at http://www.southerncompany.com/ .

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