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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
REGION 8: Four California Coastal Conservation Projects Receive $3.7 Million Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants
Region 8, December 29, 2009

Four projects that will restore and conserve wetland habitats in California will receive more than $3.7 million from a federal grant program that benefits coastal habitats for fish and wildlife. The projects are among 25 conservation projects in 11 states that will receive $19.2 million through the 2010 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

The federal grants will be matched by nearly $26 million in partner contributions from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups.

Projects in California include:

Cullinan Ranch Restoration Project – The California Wildlife Conservation Board was awarded $1 million to restore 1,575 acres of vital estuarine tidal salt marsh and uplands at the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge in north San Francisco Bay. These funds leverage $6,282,940 in non-federal cost share. Specific project actions include excavation of historic channels, levee lowering, breach construction, and the protection of highway infrastructure. San Pablo Bay is part of the largest estuary system on the Pacific coasts of North and South America, and is globally recognized for its importance to numerous fish, waterfowl and shorebirds, and other wetland dependent species. The project will benefit numerous threatened and endangered species, including the salt marsh harvest mouse and California clapper rail. Population declines among both species are primarily attributable to habitat loss.

Middle Watsonville Slough Wetlands Protection Project – The California Coastal Conservancy was awarded $860,410 to acquire the 45-acre Bryant/Habert parcel, which contains 18.3 acres of palustrine emergent and palustrine scrub-shrub coastal wetland habitat in Santa Cruz County. These funds will leverage $3,560,814 in non-federal cost share. The Watsonville Slough complex is one of the largest remaining freshwater coastal wetlands in the central coast of California, totaling approximately 800 acres. The slough complex is located along the Pacific flyway and the wetlands, marsh, and grasslands provide critical resting habitat for migratory waterfowl and significant wintering habitat for raptors. The slough ecosystem also supports the Federally-threatened California red-legged frog, the California endangered pelican, and at least 10 other bird species of state special concern.

Odello East Floodplain Restoration Project – The California Coastal Conservancy, partnering with the Big Sur Land Trust, was awarded $925,000 to acquire and restore a 131-acre historic floodplain located along the lower Carmel River along the Central Coastal of California. These funds will leverage $4,826,100 in non-federal cost share. The project consists of acquisition of 82 acres of former coastal wetland habitat called Odello East; restoration of 90 acres of the project site to coastal wetland habitat by removing portions of a levee to reestablish the hydrologic connection between the project site and the Carmel River; and creation of a 41-acre agricultural preserve that will be managed to achieve the dual goal of preserving the agricultural heritage of the project area in a manner that is compatible with the adjacent coastal wetland habitat.

Tomales Wetlands and Dunes Complex Protection Project – The California Coastal Conservancy was awarded $1 million to purchase a conservation easement to permanently protect 400 acres on a private property known as Lawson’s Landing at the mouth of Tomales Bay in Marin County. These will leverage $550,000 in non-Federal cost share. The 850-acre dune complex is the largest unprotected wetlands and dunes system in central California, encompassing rare mobile dunes, central dune scrub, dune prairie, and seasonal dune slack wetlands. It supports at least 9 listed and special status species, including the Federally-threatened California red-legged frog, western snowy plover, and Tidestrom’s lupine. Protection of the complex will provide future opportunities for restoration and management of native dune and wetland communities. The project also includes an environmental education and outreach program.

The grants will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitat. Other states receiving funds include Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. A complete list of projects funded by the 2010 grant program can be found online at: http://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/index.html.

Coastal areas are vitally important to fish and wildlife. They comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area yet support the majority of wildlife species, including 75 percent of migratory birds, nearly 80 percent of fish and shellfish and about half of all threatened and endangered species. The Coastal Program is a vital tool in helping to recover listed species and maintaining populations of candidate species that depend on coastal habitats.

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funded under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding is provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels.

Including the 2010 grants, the Service has awarded nearly $240 million to coastal states and territories since the program began in 1992. When the 2010 projects are complete, over 260,000 acres of habitat will have been protected, restored or enhanced.

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov