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At Formosa Plastics Corporation USA, environmental responsibility is a core Guiding Principle. As a vertically-integrated supplier of plastic resins and petrochemicals, the company owns and manages extensive land holdings near the Formosa Plastics Corp. Texas plant site in Point Comfort, Texas. Among these holdings are the Formosa Agricultural and Environmental Research Center (AERC) and the 200-acre Formosa-Tejano Wetlands (The Wetlands), both of which are established in the 1990’s.
Switching Gears: Monarch and Milkweed
The AERC was the vision of Formosa Founder Y.C. Wang and tasked with conducting research to explore strategies for environmentally friendly agriculture. Over the last six years, that focus has evolved in response to changes in the environment and Formosa Plastics’ growing involvement in sustainable land use.
Image Credits: Curtis Short
“It started in 2015 when the AERC entered into a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to grow milkweed plants that could attract monarch butterflies and help restore the species’ declining numbers,” said Curtis Short, lead scientist at the AERC. “Milkweed is the only plant monarch butterflies consume and our initial goal was to produce enough plants to provide food plots on Formosa properties as well as providing plants to the USFWS for distribution to other organizations. This original project became the catalyst for a completely different operational strategy at the AERC. We quickly moved from basic soil science research and into applied land resource management.
To date, the AERC has produced upwards of 3,200 plants, many of which have been donated to other environmental organizations in south Texas.
Image Credits: Steve Marwitz
All the Buzz: Bees and Trees
As one square in the environmental sustainability matrix, Formosa Plastics developed a long-term sustainability goal which was a perfect fit for the AERC: “Reforestation applications to provide wildlife and pollinator habitat, increase rainfall interception while capturing carbon…”.
In 2020, the AERC team began investigating strategies for concurrent production of honeybees (pollinators), native flowering plants (nectar sources) and native trees (carbon sequestration and improved rainfall interception).
Image Credit: Curtis Short
The AERC team began beehive construction and identified a site for placement of the hives such that nectar plants could be established on the site periphery. Coincidentally, Formosa Plastics staff were approached with a proposal from a local Agriculture Sciences teacher about the possibility of partnering with the company in a honeybee propagation project at the AERC. “We jumped at the opportunity to partner with the school district in setting up apiaries.” added Short. “Although our primary goal remains that of creating more pollinator activity here, the opportunity to support and facilitate environmental education is a nice bonus.”
Local pollinators, as well, seem to be excited about Formosa Plastics’ environmental initiatives. In mid-June, Short discovered a hulking swarm of bees busily establishing residence in one of the hives, apparently having decided to make the Formosa Plastics AERC its new home.
It sure looks like things are starting to hum around here.
“We are proud of the work we do at the Wetlands in maintaining a haven for migratory species and in providing wetlands habitats tailored to the biological needs of resident species of birds, mammals and reptiles. Perhaps the Wetlands most significant societal contribution comes in the form of providing environmental education. Maintaining earth’s biodiversity will require a lot of work: We welcome the challenge.” - Bill Harvey, Wetlands Manager/Consultant