BURBANK, Calif. — The Walt Disney Company announced today a $7 million investment in forest projects that will build on its long history of conservation and environmental stewardship. The projects will protect forests in the Amazon, the Congo and the United States safeguarding ecosystems that benefit climate and quality of life on the planet.
The investment is being made in partnership with leading non-governmental organizations Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and The Conservation Fund that, like Disney, put great emphasis on science and technical excellence.
Forest protection is one of the most effective ways to combat climate change, improve the livelihood of local communities and protect threatened wildlife. Healthy forests provide food, shelter and income to millions of people around the world. The projects supported by Disney will also benefit species ranging from gorillas in Africa to North American songbirds.
Support for these projects, using a variety of conservation strategies including avoided deforestation, reforestation, and improved forest management, supplement Disney’s companywide efforts to combat climate change by reducing fossil fuel use and switching to cleaner forms of energy.
“Disney has always been a conservation leader,” said Disney President and CEO Robert A. Iger. “Now, more than ever, it’s essential to take swift action to preserve our most vulnerable natural environments for future generations and to be innovative in achieving that goal.”
Forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Each year, 50,000 square miles of forest disappear around the world, equal to the size of Pennsylvania. The burning and clearing of tropical forests is responsible for nearly 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas pollution – or more than all the world’s cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships combined.
In partnership with Conservation International, Disney is providing $4 million to the Tayna and Kisimba-Ikobo Community Reserves in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and the Alto Mayo conservation project in Peru. The project areas are located respectively in the Congo Basin and the Amazon, two of the world’s most important tropical forest regions.
The protection of these forests will not only reduce carbon emissions, but secure vital watersheds and habitat for a wide-variety of plants and animals, many of them threatened or endangered. These include the gorilla and okapi in the Congo and the Andean spectacled bear and yellow-tailed woolly monkey in Peru.
The majority of Disney’s funds will go towards financing community management of the forests within the project areas and expanding sustainable livelihood practices among local villages. They will also be used to complete project design, conduct forest carbon analysis and finance verification of emissions avoided through successful implementation of the projects.
These projects will decrease carbon emissions by improving forest protection through reducing logging and the impact of slash and burn agriculture. Area communities, which are working with Conservation International and its local partners to design and implement the projects, will benefit economically by preserving the environment.
“This commitment by Disney represents the largest single corporate contribution ever made to reduce emissions from deforestation and will help build confidence in these activities that generate such compelling climate, local community and biodiversity benefits,” said Peter Seligmann, CEO and Chairman of Conservation International. “In addition, as climate talks gain momentum in the US and abroad, Disney’s leadership points the way to the key role tropical forest conservation must play in emerging climate change policies.”
In partnership with The Nature Conservancy, Disney is providing more than $2 million to support the development of an innovative reforestation project in the Lower Mississippi Valley. The Nature Conservancy will work with private landowners in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas to plant trees and restore up to 2,000 acres of former forest land. Restoring these native hardwood forests not only provide carbon benefits but will expand the local habitat of migrating songbirds and the black bear. In addition to planting trees, conservation easements will be purchased on the lands to ensure the forests are permanently protected.
This forest restoration program is considered a pilot project that could be significantly expanded in scale in future years.
“Protecting forests is one of our most powerful tools in the fight against climate change,” said Mark Tercek, President and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “This innovative project will give private landowners the support they need to join the global fight against climate change and restore local habitats for the betterment of both people and nature. We are proud to partner with Disney to protect critical habitat and ensure these incredible forests will be around for generations to come.”
Disney also will invest $1 million in The Conservation Fund’s sustainable forestry work along California’s North Coast. The Conservation Fund owns and sustainably manages two redwood forests in Mendocino County in an effort to demonstrate that improved forest management, supported by selective harvests and verified carbon offset sales, can benefit both the economy and the environment. Over the past five years, the Fund’s work has bolstered the local economy and begun to revive watersheds that are home to Coho salmon, steelhead trout, spotted owl and other wildlife.
“Across America, forests are shrinking; 35 acres here, 500 there,” said Lawrence Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “The decline is so incremental, it masks a crisis. In partnership with leading companies such as Disney, we are pioneering new approaches to forest conservation and climate change. We’re proud to collaborate with Disney on this critical effort.”
Disney’s forest preservation investment is part of the company’s plan, announced last March, to meet aggressive 3 to 5 year goals to reduce emissions, waste, electricity and water use, and to limit its impact on ecosystems.
Building on 20 years of work by Disney’s environmental affairs department, the targets were formulated by an Environmental Council of senior executives from across the company. Charged with developing and implementing sustainable strategies for Disney’s impact on the environment, as well as ways to use the company’s media reach to encourage positive action, the Council has taken a measured, scientific approach in analyzing the company’s operations and crafting strategic objectives.
In addition to the investment announced today, Disney has over the last year committed to planting close to 3 million trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest and in the fire-ravaged areas in the mountains surrounding greater Los Angeles through contributions from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund and local donations.