BENTONVILLE, Ark., Jan. 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Walmart's 2012 Acres for America program is helping conserve more than 49,000 acres of critical wildlife habitat across the United States. Acres projects connect existing lands to protect migration routes, provide access for people to enjoy the outdoors and help ensure the future of rural economies that depend on forestry, tourism and recreation. Acres f or America is a 10-year, $35 million commitment that began in 2005 between Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the U.S. for every acre of land developed by the company through 2015. To date, Acres for America has invested in projects in 24 states, protecting more than 687,000 acres. “It is estimated that America loses nearly three million acres of open space each year,” said Jennifer May-Brust, Walmart vice president of realty supplier management and compliance. “Our strategic partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is helping save important wildlife habitats and fits perfectly with Walmart's larger goal to bring sustainability into the communities we serve.” In the summer of 2011, Walmart expanded its Acres investments to include urban conservation projects in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. The six awards announced today will support projects in California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, North Carolina and Tennessee. “With these new projects, Acres for America extends into five additional states to protect vital areas for wildlife and people,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “These investments will not only benefit endangered species like the Florida panther – they will also expand open space near urban areas and conserve forests and streams along the Appalachian Trail, one of our most treasured natural resources.” The 2012 Acres for America projects: Southern Sierra Partnership: Tehachapi Linkage, California While protecting more than 22,000 acres of rare blue oak habitat in the Sierra foothills, this project completes a key 50-mile ecological corridor linking the Sierra-Cascade ranges to the California Coast ranges and the lowlands of the Great Central Valley to the Mojave Desert. Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge Expansion: Colorado This project protects 1,334 acres of tallgrass prairie adjacent to the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge and connects to 70,000 acres of locally protected open space, greatly expanding recreation opportunities in metropolitan Denver. Panther Crossing Protection Project: Florida This 1,530-acre property protects a key migratory corridor for the endangered Florida panther, of which less than 165 exist in the wild. It connects existing panther habitat to the south with 1.5 million acres of new habitat in the Northern Everglades, and will also benefit the American black bear, red-cockaded woodpecker, swallow-tailed kite and snail kite. Almo Tract: Fort Benning, Georgia This 7,550-acre tract in Georgia's Fall Line Sandhills is the eastern anchor of a larger 30,000-acre conservation corridor adjacent to Fort Benning. The project protects longleaf pine forest and provides important habitat for the gopher tortoise and red-cockaded woodpecker, among other species. The Palila Protection Project: Hawaii On the Big Island of Hawaii, two protected parcels (4,469 acres) provide critical habitat to the palila (Loxioides bailleui), one of the rarest birds in the world, and contribute significantly to its recovery. Appalachian Trail Habitat Protection Project: North Carolina and Tennessee Partners: The Conservation Fund, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Blue Ridge Forever and Conservation Trust for North Carolina This group of seven key parcels collectively protects nearly 13,000 acres of forest and 40 miles of freshwater streams along the Appalachian Trail Corridor, which are home to the imperiled southern Appalachian brook trout, 1,000 species of plants, at least 300 species of birds and 20 species of rare and declining salamanders. For more information on Acres for America or to apply for a grant, visit www.nfwf.org or http://walmartstores.com/sustainability.