NEW ORLEANS –- CITGO Petroleum Corp. launched "CITGO Caring for Our Coast," a yearlong environmental conservation and restoration campaign in coastal regions.
The campaign, which kicked off Aug. 29 with an all-day wetland restoration project at the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, celebrates the resilience and recovery of a region devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita nearly a decade ago.
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL) and the Audubon Nature Institute partnered with CITGO for the kickoff event, during which hundreds of volunteers from both groups and more than 150 CITGO employees and friends donated 600 hours of labor to remove the invasive Chinese tallow tree from the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center's wetlands. The tree invaded the area after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina struck, choking out native species and slowing the natural restoration process.
"On Aug. 29, 2005, this region was united by tragedy and despair. Today, it is visited by hope and the promise of a better future," said Rafael Gomez, vice president of government and public affairs at CITGO. "We want to be a part of delivering on that promise and are proud to launch our initiative with CRCL and Audubon Nature Institute. This project is part of a yearlong campaign, which reflects our principles of improving the lives of people while also caring for the environment we all share."
Volunteer efforts to remove the tree will allow the center to plant native tree species, which will help spur regrowth of natural habitat and restore the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center as a beacon of education and recreation, according to the announcement.
"Audubon Nature Institute is very grateful to have the help of CITGO and CRCL to restore Audubon Louisiana Nature Center," said Audubon Nature Institute President and CEO Ron Forman. "Before Hurricane Katrina, the center was a cherished nature and education resource for all of New Orleans and the surrounding communities. Together, we are taking another positive step toward rebuilding the center and the unique wetland habitat it calls home."
The next "CITGO Caring for Our Coast" event will be the Lake Charles Coastal Recovery Project in Holly Beach, La., on Sept. 20. Volunteers will focus on planting dune grass to help naturally preserve the protective dunes at Holly Beach, which was destroyed by Hurricane Rita.
"CRCL is very excited to partner with CITGO to advance these volunteer events. We are happy to have a partner like CITGO with such a strong commitment to its communities," said Kimberly Davis Reyher, executive director for the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana. "Our coast is our future and partnerships such as this are vital to restoring the coast and preserving the unique culture of south Louisiana."
More information on the coastal recovery events in Louisiana is available at www.crcl.org. CITGO plans to hold other campaign events in Corpus Christi, Texas, later this fall.