LEMONT, Ill., Nov. 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- On Saturday, November 1, CITGO Petroleum Corporation (CITGO) together with the Village of Lemont, Lemont High School and the Wildlife Habitat Council hosted a community exploration event as part of the newly launched Lemont Quarry Restoration Project. This project is the third in a series of volunteer efforts sponsored by CITGO as part of its yearlong campaign to promote environmental conservation and restoration, in keeping with the long-held commitment by CITGO to the communities in which it operates.

Village of Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves presents Jim Cristman, Vice President and General Manager of the CITGO Lemont Refinery, with a proclamation during the CITGO Lemont Quarry Restoration Project.

Today's efforts mark the first phase of the community's extensive project to rid the Lemont Heritage Quarries of invasive species and restore the area to native habitats. Expert biologists from the Wildlife Habitat Council guided CITGO employees and local volunteers in identifying native and invasive species, later leading them on a tour of the 100-acre site during which participants recorded their findings.

"We are incredibly grateful to CITGO and the Village of Lemont for their help in taking on this important effort, as well as the students of Lemont High School for their incredible enthusiasm," said Daniel Goldfarb, Director of Ecological Restoration at the Wildlife Habitat Council. "The Lemont Heritage Quarries hold rich ecological value, but the overgrowth of invasive plants has made the site inaccessible to the public and many native species that once called this place home. Today's efforts take us one step closer to restoring the site as a critical habitat and reopening it to the community."

The Lemont Quarries are rich in history, dating back to the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Thirty-eight buildings in downtown Lemont were built from the limestone excavated the Quarries. The area provides critical habitats for a number of plants and animals within the surrounding ecosystems and has the potential to be a recreational mecca for the community. Unfortunately, the pervasiveness of vegetative plants has worsened over the past decade, making the site inaccessible to the public. Every year, the Village of Lemont spends tens of thousands of dollars just to keep invasive species at bay. This initial effort will help experts create an inventory of the area's species before the community launches a larger ecosystem restoration project, which will aim to restore the 100-acre site and increase habitats for native fish, migratory birds, and upland and wetland vegetation.

"The Lemont Quarry Restoration Project is the true embodiment of our commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen and improving the lives of those who are part of the communities in which we operate," said Nelson P. Martinez, CITGO President and CEO. "I am so proud to see business and community coming together in pursuit of one, common goal: to preserve and revive this historic site, and the environment we share."

The Lemont Quarry Restoration Project is only one in a series of environmentally-focused initiatives CITGO has embarked on this year, in commemoration of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. In August 2014, CITGO launched the CITGO Caring for Our Coast program with an event to promote marine education with the Ocean Exploration Trust, followed by a volunteer effort to restore wetlands surrounding the Audubon Louisiana Nature Center in New Orleans. The campaign continued in September, with volunteers planting more than 70,000 dune grass plugs along Holly Beach, La. Following today's event at the Lemont Quarries, the program will continue on November 6 with a shoreline cleanup effort in Lemont, Ill., and a restoration project along the Nueces Delta in Corpus Christi, Texas on November 15.

To learn more about the CITGO Lemont Quarry Restoration event, visit http://citgocaringforourenvironment.com/lemont. To learn more about Caring for Our Coast, visit: http://citgocaringforourcoast.com.

About CITGO Petroleum Corporation

CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products. The company is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. For more information, visit CITGO.com.

About the Wildlife Habitat Council

The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) promotes and certifies habitat conservation and management on corporate lands through partnerships and education. Formed in 1988, WHC's programs take corporate sustainability goals and objectives and translate them into tangible and measurable on-the-ground action. Through a focus on building collaboration for conservation with corporate employees, other conservation organizations, government agencies and community members, WHC programs focus on healthy ecosystems and connected communities.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141101/155998