Report from the Field

The Growing Role of Corporations in Species Protection

By: John H. Young and Christina R. Soto

Approximately 25% of private property in the United States is owned by corporations. With development and habitat fragmentation resulting in loss of habitat for many species, the opportunity to engage corporate landholders in proactive management of their lands cannot be overlooked. Habitat enhancement efforts that protect and possibly increase populations of endangered and threatened species not only benefit listed as well as unlisted species but also benefit the corporations-by increasing employee awareness of environmental issues, reducing costs, and linking the corporations to the surrounding community.

The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a nonprofit organization established in 1988, is a joint effort by conservation and corporate communities to enhance private lands for the benefit of wildlife and plants. More than100 corporate members are managing 327,000 acres at 410 locations worldwide. These efforts are often collaborative, with neighboring corporations or local groups working together to develop viable strategies for proactive land management. WHC hopes that these efforts will result in changed attitudes of corporations and other private landowners' views of endangered and threatened species. The following case studies illustrate how three different companies have developed land management approaches that benefit endangered or threatened animal or plant species.

Protecting Habitat of Threatened Species

Baltimore Gas & Electric's (BGE) Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant (CCNPP) in Lusby, Maryland, is located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and provides about 1,700 acres of habitat for wildlife. Habitats range from hardwood forest and marshland to the sheer cliffs and beachfront on the Chesapeake that provide habitat for the threatened Puritan tiger and Northeast beach tiger beetles (Cicindela puritana and Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis).

Habitat management efforts began at CCNPP in 1982 when a long-term management program for the woodland was developed in cooperation with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Early efforts involved a forest management plan that included both fire control and techniques for improving plant diversity. Assessment of the existing habitat resulted in the discovery of a bald eagle nest. A buffer has been established that restricts access around the nesting site during the breeding season. The nest is now monitored by CCNPP in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

With WHC's help, CCNPP expanded its habitat enhancement program, and in May, 1993 the site entered into a partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to protect the Puritan tiger beetle and Northeast beach tiger beetle habitat. These beetles are federally threatened species that require steep, eroding banks void of vegetation and disturbance. To protect and monitor the beetles, TNC and BGE conduct an annual census of the beetle populations at the Calvert Cliffs site, restrict public access to the cliffs and beachfront, and an provide educational sign about the beetles and their cliff habitat on the CCNPP nature trail. BGE's efforts have not only helped protect the beetles' habitat, thus helping beetle populations, but have also raised public awareness of the species and its plight.

Protecting Species Before Listing

The Unimin Corporation's Emmett Facility, in Emmett, Idaho, is a 510-acre mining and processing facility located approximately 25 miles northwest of Boise. The property contains the Aase's onion (Allium aaseae), endemic to the lower foothills of the Boise Front, which ranges from Boise to Emmett. The onion was designated as a federal Category 1 candidate for listing as an endangered species. Unimin recognized the onion's importance to the region and developed a management program to include population studies and plant relocation.

Unimin signed cooperative agreements in 1986 and 1987 with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to research the life history and habitat ecology of the species, and to conduct large scale surveys for Aase's onion. These studies have provided a valuable base line of information for future work on the species and have guided decisions made for the conservation of the species (Prentice, 1995).

Resources for a two year study of the extent and range of the Aase's onion on BLM and private land were provided by Unimin. New populations were found and each was mapped and rated according to population size and vigor. Six exceptional onion populations were named Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) by the BLM, an important step in the conservation of the species (Prentice, 1995).

The initial stages of Unimin's onion protection program included seed and bulb test plots to determine the success of germination, emergence, and survival. The most successful method was found to be hand planting the bulbs in suitable soils. Techniques such as planting bulbs in wire cages were also employed to protect bulbs from predation. As of fall of 1994, a total of 230 bulbs were planted. Long-term survival seems likely because bulb division has occurred in all of the plantings (Prentice, 1995).

Unimin's efforts revealed that onion populations are larger and more widespread than previously thought. The company has also successfully demonstrated that the species can be transplanted in reclaimed areas. Unimin is ensuring the plant's continued existence and providing the means by which the onion can be propagated, which may help keep the species off the endangered or threatened species list.

Ecosystem-Based Efforts

Amoco Chemical Company's Cooper River Plant, located on approximately 6,000 acres along South Carolina's Cooper River, has been instrumental in developing a cooperative project for WHC's "Waterways for Wildlife" program. The project started in 1989 when Amoco and DuPont Company simultaneously implemented habitat enhancement programs at their respective sites, which straddle the river. Although each program was independently certified by WHC, the area seemed ideal for a voluntary, broader-based habitat management program for the Cooper River. Bayer Corporation also contributed to the Waterways program when they implemented a wildlife habitat enhancement project on the river not far from the Amoco and DuPont sites. Plantation owners also saw a need for cooperative action to protect the local ecosystem when Hurricane Hugo devastated the Lowcountry forests. With WHC's staff support and Amoco's leadership, the project expanded into a cooperative program that now includes more than 50 private landowners, local businesses, conservation groups, and government agencies.

In its own environmental efforts, Amoco has worked to protect the threatened least tern (Sterna antillarum) by preserving the tern's habitat. The least tern, once nearly hunted to extinction for its plumes, has experienced drastic population declines in the latter half of the twentieth century because of coastal development. Least terns traditionally nested on sandy beaches, but as development has increased along the coastline of South Carolina and other states, the terns have been forced to seek alternative nesting sites such as dredge spoils and rooftops (Mead, 1994).

In 1990, a small colony of least terns began nesting on gravel dikes between wastewater treatment ponds at the Amoco facility. Through the volunteer efforts of Amoco employees, the 7500 square-foot site has been enhanced for least tern nesting by adding additional sand and pebbles, installing small ponds for drinking and cooling, erecting a predator-control fence, and building shelters to provide shade. If nests are found outside of the designated area, the nest location is marked and roped off until all the eggs have hatched. During the nesting season, all nests are inspected on a monthly basis to monitor nesting success. Afterwards, the area is cleaned and prepared for the following year's nesting season (Mead, 1994).

Both Amoco and the terns gain something from these efforts. Nesting pairs of terns have increased from four to twenty, and the 1993 season saw 35 fledglings. Amoco employees have learned about conservation and wildlife management, and employee morale has increased. Through newspaper articles, field trips, and school presentations, Amoco has reached out to the community, working to increase environmental awareness and illustrate that industry and wildlife can be compatible (Mead, 1994).


Companies have unique opportunities to create large-scale models and reproducible examples of proactive management for threatened and endangered species for other corporations and private landowners to follow. BGE, Unimin and Amoco illustrate how corporations, in conjunction with the WHC's Wildlife at Work program, can expand programs beyond endangered and threatened species management to include other species as well.

Engaging corporations and private landowners in management of endangered and threatened species requires a number of attitude changes. Many people view the presence of endangered and threatened species on their land as a threat to their rights as private property owners. However, the three companies highlighted in this article demonstrate that corporate landholders are willing to act in favor of endangered species and can have a positive impact on the management and protection of natural resources.

Literature Cited

Kelly, J., and M. Hodge. 1996. The role of corporations in ensuring biodiversity. Wildlife Habitat Council. Silver Spring, MD. 25pp.

Mead, D. 1994. Amoco and least terns: A corporation's efforts to enhance habitat for wildlife. Wildlife Habitat Council. Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Prentice, C. 1995. Summary of conservation efforts supported by Unimin Corporation for Allium aaseae Ownbey Aase's Onion at Unimin Sand Mine Freezeout Hill near Emmett, Idaho. 15pp.

John H. Young is Director of the Wildlife Habitat Council's Great Lakes Regional Office and Coordinator for the St. Clair River Project, a WHC Waterways for Wildlife program. He can be reached at 2000 Second Ave., Room 1020, WCB, Detroit, MI 48226. Christina R. Soto is writer/editor in the Communications Department of WHC at 1010 Wayne Avenue, Suite 920, Silver Spring, MD 20910.

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