WHC awards Marathon for conservation efforts

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 24, 2008

GARYVILLE—Employees at Marathon Petroleum Company LLC’s Garyville Refinery received international recognition for their contributions to wildlife habitat conservation at the Wildlife Habitat Council’s (WHC) 20th Annual Symposium, 20/20 Vision: Celebrating the Past, Looking to the Future. Marathon Petroleum Company LLC demonstrates its commitment to environmental stewardship and increasing native biodiversity by achieving habitat recertification at the Garyville Refinery.

“This year, our 20th Anniversary, WHC celebrates two decades of solid leadership and on-the-ground achievements by our members in wildlife habitat preservation and conservation education,” said Robert Johnson, WHC President. “WHC members are continuing to lead the way to further define and demonstrate how corporations can use their lands to preserve our biodiversity, while preparing new generations through conservation education to understand how to be better leaders and managers for tomorrow’s sustainable businesses and communities. Congratulations to Marathon Petroleum Company LLC for their volunteer-based efforts to preserve the biodiversity of their community and the world, and to connect people to nature.”

The Garyville refinery encompasses approximately 3,275 acres, of which 35 acres are owned by others, 90 acres are used as batture (an elevated riverbed), 265 acres as rights-of-way, 925 acres for refinery operations, 600 for agricultural puroses, and 1,360 acres of forested wetlands or other unused properties. A tract of 450 acquired in 1999 acres provides additional habitat opportunities. This land includes forested wetlands, agricultural lands, open water, riparian zones, swamplands, scrub shrub grass lands and open areas. The habitat diversity makes it well suited for wildlife habitat enhancement projects. The forested tract is bordered on the east and west by drainage canals that manage storm water flows while providing additional habitat to local wildlife populations. A bottomland hardwood forest and swamp, as well as 75 acres associated with an out of production crawfish farm, further distinguish the new property as a unique ecosystem that supports a great diversity of wildlife species. Species such as the American alligator, white tail deer, nutria, foxes, and swamp rabbit have been sighted at the Garyville refinery.

Throughout the property, nest boxes are strategically installed in areas with high amounts of avian activity. Six purple martin house and fifteen wood duck boxes, protected by predator guards, are in place and maintained by an employee wildlife team. Due to the success of the established boxes, the team will erect additional wood duck boxes in the habitat area. The wood duck boxes make up for the lack of suitable cavity nesting habitat in the area. The planting of nearly six acres of wildflower and pollinator gardens attracted a variety of species to the site. Due to a severe drought, some areas require re-establishment and the introduction of more diverse plantings.

The wildlife team plans to install various feeders to provide additional food sources for species such as hummingbirds, songbirds, butterflies and other insects. Ecosystem evaluations are conducted to identify species and determine locations where improvements would increase the biological diversity and health of the particular ecosystem. Projects, such as planting additional native trees and shrubs and enhancing forest edges with smaller vegetation, will not only benefit wildlife but will provide a more aesthetically pleasing area for employees and visitors to the site.

In 2002, the Louisiana Wildlife Federation recognized the refinery as the 2001 Corporate Conservationist of the Year. In 2002, Garyville became the first and only oil refinery in the U.S. to be accepted as a member of the EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track, a program designed to recognize and encourage top environmental performers.

Garyville Refinery was one of 214 sites recognized at the 2008 Symposium for creating a Wildlife at WorkSM program. In addition, 97 Corporate Lands for LearningSM programs reach thousands of learners from schools and scout groups to master gardeners and university researchers. Since 1990, WHC has certified 489 programs worldwide. The certification program recognizes outstanding wildlife habitat management and environmental education efforts at corporate sites, and offers third-party validation of the benefits of such programs. Certification requirements are strict and require that sites apply for periodic renewal.