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Disney Co. spending $7M on conservation projects

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Seeking to help fight climate change, the Walt Disney Co. says it will spend $7 million in partnership with three conservation groups to protect tens of thousands of acres of forests lands in the Congo basin, the Amazon basin and in two regions of the United States.

The projects announced Tuesday are designed to work with local communities to either plant trees or set aside forest lands for protection against logging.

In partnership with Conservation International, Disney is providing $4 million for forest protection projects at two reserves in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and for a forest program in the Amazon basin area of Peru.

The company also said it will work with the Nature Conservancy and provide $2 million for tree planting on 2,000 acres of former forest lands in the lower Mississippi Valley, and $1 million for the Conservation Fund’s forest protection project along California’s North Coast.

Peter Seligmann, chairman of Conservation International, said the Disney commitment “represents the largest single corporate contribution ever made to reduce (greenhouse) emissions from deforestation.”

The project in the Congo is expected to prevent 3 million tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere over 20 years, and the project in Peru to protect 740,000 acres of pristine forests is expected to prevent the release of 900,000 tons of carbon dioxide over its five-year life, according to the conservation group.

The Nature Conservancy will work with private landowners to plant trees in 2,000 acres of former forest land in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. The group said that restoring native hardwood forest would not only help reduce carbon emissions but expand local habitat for migrating songbirds and the black bear.

“Protecting forests is one of our most powerful tools in the fight against climate change,” said Mark Tercek, president the Nature Conservancy.

By planting trees, or not harvesting standing timber, carbon dioxide — the leading greenhouse gas — will continue to be absorbed and not be released into the atmosphere.

“Across America forests are shrinking,” said Lawrence Selzer, president of the Conservation Fund. The group said the $1 million its project will receive will help develop new forestry management practices in the Redwood forests of Mendocino County in northern California. While it will allow selective logging, it also will increase the ability of the forest to sequester carbon.

Disney’s forest preservation is part of a company plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eventually become “carbon neutral,” meaning emissions the company generates are offset with various carbon sequestration projects.

The idea of creating such so-called emission offsets — both U.S. and globally — is a key part of climate legislation now being debated in Congress. An Environmental Protection Agency analysis recently said the cost of cutting greenhouse gases under the Senate climate bill would nearly double if no such offsets are utilized.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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