It is estimated that America loses 3 million acres of open space every year. That’s 3 million acres of forests, streams, grasslands, coast lines and other critical wildlife habitats disappearing annually.

In 2005, Walmart recognized we had a big opportunity to help conserve land and critical wildlife habitats for future generations. The company, in partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), created Acres for America, a commitment to donate $35 million over 10 years to permanently conserve one acre of land for every acre we had developed and would develop during the next 10 years.

The original goal was to conserve 138,000 acres. Today, through the Acres program, we have helped protect 630,000 acres and connect more than 6.7 million acres of protected land – an area larger than Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware combined.  Walmart is thrilled to be part of this program.

Jennifer J. May-Brust

Jennifer J. May-Brust

Beginning in 2012, Acres for America will provide grants to help conserve urban ecosystems. Initially, five projects in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C., will receive $100,000 each to help reestablish important wildlife habitats.  We are equally excited to participate in this expansion of the program.

The urban projects include the cleanup of a polluted stream in Washington, D.C., restoration of historic marshland in Chicago and New York, fight non-native grasses in an ecological reserve in Los Angeles and restore the shoreline along The New York Botanical Garden Lower Portage Trail.

These five projects reinforce the mission of Acres for America to find and protect wildlife habitat – no matter where it is. These projects exemplify NFWF’s strategic approach to conservation. Another example is the Upper Mississippi Forest Conservation Easement project in Minnesota. A grant is helping preserve 60,000 acres of forest, including wetlands, streams and lakeshore habitat, but is also providing people access to the land for hiking, fishing and berry picking, and supporting a sustainable forestry operation that more than 3,000 families depend on.

Acres for America is about more than just safeguarding large tracts of land. NFWF also looks for ways to connect those tracts, helping preserve animal migration routes. My favorite example is “The Path of the Pronghorn” in Wyoming (the second longest mammal migration route still functioning in the Western Hemisphere). The grant from the Acres program ensures the antelope have safe access to the migration routes they’ve been using for generations, which also happen to cross a heavily traveled highway.  The “fixes” put in place through Acres funding protect both the pronghorn and the people who travel this highway.  Another benefit – this land is home to 75 animal species deemed in need of protection in Wyoming.  Clearly, a win-win-win.

The Acres for America program has far exceeded everyone’s expectations for what could be accomplished – but we aren’t done yet. We know we can help preserve thousands more acres in rural, suburban and urban areas of this country. We also invite other companies to get involved with NFWF and the Acres for America program to help conserve and protect these important lands for future generations to enjoy.

Editor: Photo (click to expand) is of Shasta Big Springs Ranch in California, an Acres for America Project (all photos courtesy of Walmart.)

Jamison Ranch in California's Sierra Valley, an Acres for America project

Jamison Ranch in California's Sierra Valley, an Acres for America project

Saddle Mountain Arizona, another Walmart-Acres for America venture

Saddle Mountain Arizona, another Walmart-Acres for America venture

About The Author

Jennifer J. May-Brust

Jennifer joined Wal-Mart in May 2004 as an Assistant General Counsel supporting our Realty Division. In March 2006, Jennifer was promoted to the position of Sr. Director of Realty Compliance and established the Realty Compliance Department. Jennifer was promoted to Vice President of Realty Supplier Management and Compliance in September 2006. Prior to joining Wal-Mart, Jennifer was Associate General Counsel for Colonial Pipeline Company in Atlanta, GA, as well as Associate General Counsel, Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Assistant Corporate Secretary for TransMontaigne, Inc. in Denver, CO.