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RALEIGH, N.C. (Nov. 21) - For nature lovers in North Carolina, bird watching will become a little easier after the Progress Energy Foundation awarded a $25,000 grant to the North Carolina Birding Trail (NCBT).

The grant, presented to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission on Nov. 16 during its Nongame Wildlife Advisory Committee meeting, will help pay for the publication of the Coastal Plain region birding trail guide.

The NCBT, a statewide effort aimed at promoting bird watching and habitat protection through nature-based tourism, education and wildlife conservation, is being implemented in three regional components, starting in the Coastal Plain.

The regional driving trail guide is the first part in a series of guides that will serve as the core publication for visitors to use as they travel the state. The guide will identify good birding sites and link bird watchers and nature-based tourists with other attractions, lodging and businesses in the Coastal Plain. It also will enhance economic growth in communities along the trail by promoting a new form of tourism for the region.

"We are thrilled to receive this grant from the Progress Energy Foundation," said Salinda Daley, the birding trail coordinator for the Commission. "Their generous support makes it possible for us to pursue publication of our Coastal Plain trail guide, which is the key to launching this region of the trail."

A 2001 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of fishing, hunting and wildlife-associated recreation showed that 18 million people traveled to view birds and spent nearly $39 billion on wildlife watching nationwide.

"North Carolina already ranks in the top 10 most visited states, and the NCBT will create opportunities for additional tourism," Daley said.

"Progress Energy is committed to continuous improvement in environmental quality and environmental stewardship for the benefit of the communities we serve," said Vicky Will, director of Environmental Services for Progress Energy. "The Progress Energy Foundation focuses on education, the environment and economic development. Our partnership with the NCBT provides a great opportunity to support all three of these areas in a way that benefits our state."

The NCBT is led by a steering committee with representatives from the Commission, North Carolina State Parks, North Carolina Sea Grant, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Audubon North Carolina and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For additional information about the initiative, visit the NCBT Web site at www.ncbirdingtrail.org.

Progress Energy, headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is a Fortune 250 diversified energy company with more than 23,000 megawatts of generation capacity and $10 billion in annual revenues. The company's holdings include two electric utilities serving approximately 3 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Progress Energy's nonregulated operations include energy marketing. Progress Energy is the 2006 recipient of the Edison Electric Institute's Edison Award, the industry's highest honor, in recognition of its operational excellence. In 2005, the company also received the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Founder's Award for dedication, commitment and sustained improvement in customer service. For more information about Progress Energy, visit the company's Web site at progress-energy.com.

The Progress Energy Foundation invests in nonprofit partners in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina to improve the quality of life for both customers and employees. Grants focus on education, the environment, economic development and employee development. During 2005, the foundation invested more than $8 million in the communities served by Progress Energy.
 
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