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Plan to Plant More Than 150 Longleaf Pine Trees in Virginia Beach Key to Restoring Environmental History

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Dec. 12, 2017 – Efforts to restore a key piece of southeastern Virginia’s environmental and cultural heritage – the longleaf pine – will take root in Virginia Beach.

Virginia Natural Gas, Virginia Beach Department of Parks & Recreation and Virginia Department of Forestry will join The Nature Conservancy Dec. 14 to plant more than 150 longleaf pine trees at two city parks.

Groups of volunteers will roll up their sleeves to plant seedlings and tree plugs at Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area and Mt. Trashmore Park at 12:15 p.m. A public ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at the Lake Lawson/Lake Smith Natural Area.

The tree-planting project is part of the Conservancy’s ongoing efforts to restore the ecosystem that once flourished along southeastern Virginia and is regarded as the “pine that built Tidewater.”

“We are committed to supporting initiatives that protect and preserve the environment,” said Jim Kibler, president of Virginia Natural Gas. “That’s why we are working with our partners to restore to its former prominence this important piece of our history. Our hope is that the longleaf pine will grow and thrive here. With the help of our company and others, it will.”

In pre-colonial Virginia, the longleaf pine occupied more than 90 million acres stretching from the James River south along the coast to Florida and west to Texas. About 1.5 million acres stood in Virginia, the northern limit of the forest range, according to The Nature Conservancy.

Early settlers found many convenient uses that included using the trees for the frames and floors of colonial homes and businesses. Its long straight form sculpted ship masts and its pitch sealed the hulls of boats, becoming the backbone of the region’s early shipbuilding industry.  

By the late 1890s, the longleaf pine in Virginia was harvested to near extinction. By 2000, this resource occupied less than 3 percent of its original range in the Southeast, and fewer than 200 mature trees remained in Virginia, according to The Nature Conservancy.

“The Nature Conservancy is committed to seeing longleaf pine thrive once again in Virginia, and to restoring the unique ecosystem and rare species it supports,” said Bobby Clontz, land steward for The Nature Conservancy in Virginia. “The planting of these trees provides a great opportunity to educate visitors on the importance of this species, and shows how people can contribute to restoration efforts in the state. We’re thrilled to be a part of bringing such a wonderful piece of Virginia’s history, and hopefully it’s future, to Virginia Beach.”

Restoring the forests will take decades, but projects like this are just a beginning.

”Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation has an urban tree canopy goal of 45 percent by the year 2034 which was set in 2014 with the adoption of the City’s Urban Forest Management Plan,” said City Arborist Susan French. “We are committed to preserving and growing our urban tree canopy, especially with native species, and partnerships like these allow us to making progress toward those important goals and benchmarks.”

About Virginia Beach Department of Parks & Recreation
Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation strives to promote healthy lifestyles and protect the City’s coastal environment, as well as to ensure all residents – regardless of their physical, social and economic circumstances – can access Parks & Recreation programs. The department’s vision is a balanced, sustainable and value-focused system of parks, recreation and public spaces that create a sense of community. Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation is accredited by CAPRA, the certifying agency of the National Recreation and Park Association. For more information, visit VBgov.com/parks or call (757) 385-1100 (TTY: 757-711 Virginia Relay). Sign up for Parks & Rec email newsletters at VBgov.com/eNews. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/VBparksrec.

About Virginia Department of Forestry
The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians.  Headquartered in Charlottesville, the Agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide citizen service and public safety protection across the Commonwealth, which it’s been doing now for more than 100 years.  VDOF is an equal opportunity provider. With 16 million acres of forestland and nearly 108,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products and related industries, Virginia forests provide an overall economic output of more than $21.5 Billion annually.  

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy’s work in Virginia at nature.org/virginia and follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook

About Virginia Natural Gas
Virginia Natural Gas is one of seven natural gas distribution companies of Southern Company Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern Company (NYSE: SO). Virginia Natural Gas provides natural gas service to 293,000 customers in southeast Virginia.  Virginia Natural Gas has been recognized as one of the safest, most reliable and customer-focused natural gas service providers, and in 2016 was ranked second in customer satisfaction among mid-size utilities in the South and third nationally by J.D. Power and Associates. Also in 2016, Virginia Natural Gas was recognized as an Environmental Champion by Cogent™ Reports and as the Local Distribution Company of the Year by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy and the Virginia Oil and Gas Association. For more information, visit www.virginianaturalgas.com and connect with the company on Facebook (Facebook.com/VaNaturalGasCo) and Twitter (Twitter.com/VaNaturalGas).

About Southern Company Gas
Southern Company Gas is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company (NYSE:SO), America’s premier energy company.  Southern Company Gas serves approximately 4.6 million natural gas utility customers through its regulated distribution companies in seven states and more than 1 million retail customers through its companies that market natural gas and related home services. Other nonutility businesses include investments in interstate pipelines, asset management for natural gas wholesale customers and ownership and operation of natural gas storage facilities. For more information, visit Southern Company Gas at www.southerncompanygas.com.

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Media Contact:
Mekka Parish
o: 404.584.4165 | c: 404.387.8067 | msparish@southernco.com