M28 | Sunday, February 24, 2013 |
Houston Chronicle | houstonchronicle.com and chron.com x x x
Nonprofits and corporations team up for the environment
Natural disaster, runoff and invasive plants destroy the ecosystem. Volunteers help repair the damage.
Volunteers participate in a Marsh Mania event at Clear Lake Forest Park. The effort is spearheaded by the Galveston Bay Foundation.
have paid off, and water quality has improved. “What was the Reeking Regatta is now the Buffalo Bayou Regatta,” Olson says about the annual canoe and kayak trek along the waterway. ConocoPhillips, EnerVest, ExxonMobil and Apache also have provided financial and volunteer support for Buffalo Bayou Partnership. And thousands of families enjoy environmental activities during KBR Kids Day on Buffalo Bayou, Olson says. “Corporate giving is tied to volunteering,” she says. “It’s integral. Corporations give money, but they want volunteers involved.”
By Kathy Huber
atural disasters can be tough on the Houston area’s environment. Hurricanes diminish marshes. Storms sweep litter and lawnfertilizer runoff into waterways. Invasive plants muscle out native vegetation, and drought devastates the city’s urban forest. But green-minded nonprofit organizations and corporations are working together to protect and restore the environment. The oil-and-gas industry is a major partner in this effort, donating dollars and providing volunteers for the cause. As a result, bayous and beaches are cleaner; marshes are being replanted. Green spaces are expanding, and lost trees are being replaced. “We are strong environmental stewards because it is the right thing to do and is part of our value system,” says Joni Baird, who oversees public and governmental affairs for Chevron’s Houston office. “By partnering with nonprofits, we can work together to solve issues of local concern.” Commerce-conservation partnerships have produced these successful projects: Pay it forward With each downpour, a tidal wave of trash gushes through Houston’s storm sewers into Buffalo Bayou and courses through the Ship Channel Turning Basin toward Galveston Bay. In its wake, a trail of aluminum cans, Styrofoam cups and other litter floats on the water and clings to bank-side vegetation. It’s a nasty, recurring sight. But for a decade, the nonprofit Buffalo Bayou Partnership has overseen an effort that’s
collected approximately 13,550 cubic yards, or 1,129 dump trucks, of yuck. A garbage-guzzling skimmer boat and the Shell-sponsored Clean and Green program’s foot patrol of community service workers do the dirty work. They remove garbage and plants such as giant ragweed, tallow and chinaberry. They also plant native vegetation to improve habitats and biodiversity along the bayou. “Shell partners with leading environmental organizations that promote sustainable communities and encourage healthy lifestyles among our employees and families,” says Frazier K. Wilson, vice president of Shell Oil Company Foundation and manager of social investment for Shell.
Chevron employees have helped plant more than 100,000 trees for Trees of Houston.
Partnership director Anne Olson says Shell donates $100,000 annually to Clean and Green, and the Port of Houston gives $50,000. “It’s been a very suc-
cessful program, and last year we expanded again. We can have it totally cleaned, then there’s heavy rain and another round of trash,” she says. But cleanup efforts
Muddy good deeds For 25 years, the Galveston Bay Foundation has focused on preserving and improving the bay’s natural resources. “It all takes volunteers and funding, and this is where corporate partners come in,” president Robert Stokes says. In 14 years, 7,000 volunteers have restored
Galveston Bay Foundation
200 wetland acres during the foundation’s Marsh Mania events. Hundreds more muddy volunteers plant grasses during Mini Marsh Mania projects. The foundation staff teaches volunteers how to plant Spartina alterniflora, the dominant marsh grass, which is donated by an NRG-owned nursery. Restoration is critical because more than 35,000 acres have been lost in 60 years, Stokes says. Subsidence is a major factor: Grass grows at a certain level, then drowns as the ground sinks. Restoration projects are built higher and are designed to last for 20 to 30 years, he says. The Shell-sponsored Bike Around the Bay is an educational 180-mile trip that gives participants a close-up opportunity to understand the bay, Stokes says. Shell volunteers also plant marsh grasses. Aramco Services supports the organization’s oyster gardening program, which focuses on restoring reefs destroyed during Hurricane Ike. Volunteers place reclaimed oysters in mesh bags then hang the bags from piers. Young oysters, called spat, attach to the bagged shells and develop. They are later moved to restoration sites. Thousands of Galveston Bay Foundation volunteers participate in the annual Trash Bash, a coordinated one-day cleanup along several area waterways. Healthy habitats Hermann Park is a 445-acre home to many attractions. The Hermann Park Conservancy depends heavily on volunteers who log 20,000 hours each year, executive
Trash pickup is part of the Buffalo Bayou Parnership’s Clean and Green program.
Buffalo Bayou Partnership
Volunteers continues on M29