ExxonMobil | Going for Gold: Preserving and Enhancing Biodiversity for 30+ Years

ExxonMobil

As one of Wildlife Habitat Council’s founding members, ExxonMobil has worked to establish wildlife habitat and conservation education initiatives on their lands since 1988. With WHC Conservation Certification programs in the U.S., Canada and Russia, ExxonMobil’s commitment to preserve and enhance biodiversity is a priority for the organization as they pledge to conduct business in a manner that is responsive to the environmental and economic needs of the communities in which they operate.

Verified through WHC Conservation Certification, ExxonMobil’s voluntary efforts to safeguard the environment and provide ecosystem services go above and beyond meeting WHC’s rigorous certification requirements. The company currently maintains 15 active Conservation Certification programs, 10 of which are designated as Gold- or Silver-Certified, signifying excellence in habitat management, species management and conservation education.

“The dedication of our volunteer employee teams and partners is what fuels the success of our conservation programs,” said Rich Woods, Senior Scientific Associate for ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences and the company’s WHC program manager. “With every new and existing project, our teams are ‘going for gold’ to ensure the programs provide maximum value for biodiversity, our employees and the surrounding communities.”

In this article, we take a look at two of ExxonMobil’s most successful Conservation Certification programs, both designated as Gold-Certified.

ExxonMobil Houston Campus
The ExxonMobil Houston Campus provides world-class facilities to 9,000 employees on 385 acres in Spring, Texas, approximately 25 miles from Houston. The Campus was constructed to the highest standards of energy efficiency and environmental stewardship and incorporates extensive research on workplace design to foster collaboration, creativity and innovation.

From the open architectural design to the latest in technological innovations, the campus provides many amenities for employees including state-of-the-art office buildings, training and meeting facilities, laboratories, wellness center, paths and walkways linked to natural landscapes, on-site dining options, retail services, a child development center, and gathering and recreation spaces. The campus, which is surrounded by woodlands and is within the Spring Creek watershed, contains a variety of habitats such as upland forests, ravine forests, riparian zones, swamp forests, and two constructed lakes.

The conservation program at the Campus consists of a variety of activities including avian habitat creation and maintenance, forest preservation, native tree restoration, wetlands maintenance, Earth Day outreach and education, bird watching, and pollinator awareness.

One of the program’s most ambitious projects is forest preservation and native tree restoration. Since 2011, just as construction of the campus began, ExxonMobil has restored 190 acres of terrestrial forests, ravine forests, riparian communities, and swamp forests. These habitats support a variety of vegetation including loblolly pine, hickory, duckweed, water elm, wetland shrubs and sedge species. Since implementation, over 500 native trees have been preserved either in place or transplanted. A volunteer team of employees actively manages the site to increase species richness and structural diversity in plant communities to support native wildlife and vegetation. Monitoring of wildlife in these areas reports the appearance of deer, armadillos, foxes, bobcat, egrets and coyotes.

“This preservation is vital to our goal of fostering biodiversity on the Campus and ties into our corporate Sustainability goal to Protect Tomorrow, Today.,” said ExxonMobil’s Bill Johnson, a facility manager at the Houston Campus. “Part of the land that the Campus sits on was once a monoculture timber plantation comprised exclusively of loblolly pine – we are restoring this area with the diverse hardwood species that inhabit the other ecological zones on the property, including native and mixed forest species such as post and red oak, elm, sweetgum, birch and cypress.”

Approximately 80 percent of the campus is vegetated or covered by two lakes, the East and West Lakes. The lakes are home to a variety of wetland dependent species, herbaceous perennials, and upland grasses that provide valuable habitat for native wildlife, as well as aid in improved water quality and storm water runoff for the area.

The Campus serves as an integral part of the relationship between ExxonMobil and the greater Houston community by hosting a variety of conservation awareness events for the public.

“The Campus is an important part of our local ecosystem and we do all we can to ensure what we do is harmonized with what the local community and agencies are striving towards,” said Johnson. “We also partner with internal committees and external community members to take advantage of the diverse expertise and interests of over 10,000 residents – with recent results being facilitating bird and nature walks.“

These events, as well as annual Earth Day and Pollinator Week activities, aid in creating a transparency and openness between the community and the campus and help to increase awareness of the habitats and species on-site. In addition, by learning about the sustainable design practices incorporated in the campus design, such as energy efficiency and water management, visitors and employees alike gain a greater understanding of the critical role business has in the future of a sustainable world. Employee engagement and community events continue to create new environmental stewards and empower them with the knowledge to contribute to the overall health of the local ecosystem by taking lessons learned at the Campus and applying them to their own backyards.

The “Campus in the Woods” consistently strives for success in making positive biodiversity impacts with optimization of existing projects. Recent updates included a retrofit of the irrigation controllers to more intelligent models that consume less water, optimization of plant selections and micro-climate landscapes in the many rain gardens and “biomes,” and establishment of partnerships with the Texas A&M Forest Service and Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to maintain an aligned dialogue on best practices and set shared goals on biodiversity and sustainability.

This exemplary model of continual improvement, employee engagement and community relations will help benefit the environment and the surrounding community for decades to come.

ExxonMobil Joliet Refinery
Corporate citizenship is a core value of all ExxonMobil employees, and a way of life at the Joliet Refinery, where employees regularly volunteer their time to dozens of local non-profit organizations. As a proud member of the Channahon, Illinois, community the Refinery is dedicated to safe and environmentally responsible operations.

Not surprisingly, the employees have demonstrated excellence in the conservation efforts at the Refinery, a key supplier of refined petroleum products to the midwestern U.S. since 1972. Located 50 miles southwest of Chicago, the refinery includes substantial tracts of adjacent land, which is utilized to restore and expand native prairie habitat and create and monitor habitats for birds and native bats.

“Our team welcomes the opportunity to ‘give back’ to nature and the community and spend time outdoors,” said Bill Simon, Project Manager, Joliet Refinery, ExxonMobil. “There’s something for everyone’s interest, whether it be building nest boxes, planting native species to restore native prairie or monitoring wildlife, all of these activities help keep the natural environment here thriving.”

Avian conservation is a major component of the conservation program at the Refinery. In an effort to preserve and enhance the native bird population of eastern bluebirds, black-capped chickadees, and wood ducks, employees install and monitor bird houses, which are successfully occupied each season. This avian conservation projects offers employees the unique opportunity to learn about native bird species and the importance of safe habitats for them to reproduce and thrive.

To expand native prairie, additional land was cleared of invasive buckthorn shrubs and seeded with a mix of native grass, sedge and forb species. Under the mentorship of the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie—a neighboring U.S. Fish and Wildlife Preserve—these restored areas are consistently maintained through active monitoring and prescribed burns.

With all the wildlife habitat projects occurring on the site, the Joliet Refinery is well suited to provide unique learning experiences for the local community.

“We’re currently focused on providing conservation education to children of ExxonMobil employees, and are considering how we can expand the program to work with local schools and youth groups,” said Simon. “We already have a very successful STEM enrichment program with three local junior high schools, and hope to provide additional activities to their STEM curriculum or for school environmental clubs in the upcoming school year.”

Additional future plans include a forest habitat project to promote native trees species including oaks, elms, hawthorns, and walnuts, an interpretive trail, a pollinator project in conjunction with an education and awareness project, and a lake habitat. The development of these new projects, along with expansion of current activities is a testament to the dedication of the employee wildlife teams and ExxonMobil’s overall commitment to biodiversity and corporate citizenship.

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Quick Facts

Site Name:ExxonMobil Houston Campus and Joliet Refinery
Categories:Avian, Awareness and Community Engagement, Bats, Education & Awareness, Forest, Pollinators, Wetlands
Company Name:ExxonMobil
Site Location:Houston, Texas and Channahon, Illinois
Partner:USFWS
WHC Index Link:Search for project

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