Pacific Southwest Region
California, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Coastal Program: Partnering for Conservation

The Coastal Program is one of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s most successful and effective cooperative conservation programs. The mission of the Coastal Program is to protect and recover Federal Trust Species (threatened and endangered species, migratory birds, and inter-jurisdictional fish) by supporting voluntary restoration and enhancement of high-priority coastal habitats. The Coastal Program provides technical and financial assistance for on-the-ground habitat restoration and protection projects through local program managers in 24 coastal areas around the nation. In the Pacific Southwest Region, there are four Coastal Program locations in California: Humboldt Bay, San Francisco Bay, Central California Coast, and Southern California. As a part of an on-going strategic planning effort, the Coastal Program is working with Federal, State, local and partners to identify geographic focus areas and develop targets to support conservation plans.

What Is a Coastal Ecosystem?

A "coastal ecosystem" includes estuaries and coastal waters and lands located at the lower end of drainage basins, where stream and river systems meet the sea and are mixed by tides. The coastal ecosystem includes saline, brackish (mixed saline and fresh) and fresh waters, as well as coastlines and the adjacent lands. All these water and land forms interact as integrated ecological units. Shorelands, dunes, offshore islands, barrier islands, headlands, and freshwater wetlands within estuarine drainages are included in the definition since these interrelated features are crucial to coastal fish and wildlife and their habitats. A variety of animals, and plants complete the ecological system. Coastal wetlands are commonly called lagoons, salt marshes or tidelands. If you live along the coast, these natural systems are likely to be a common sight, although in many areas, coastal wetlands were among the first places to be converted and developed for human activities.

The Importance of Coastal Ecosystems

Our Nation's coasts provide important fish and wildlife habitat, far beyond their limited geographic extent. Coastal ecosystems comprise less than 10 percent of the Nation's land area, but support far greater proportions of our living resources.

Paradise Beach, CaliforniaParadise Beach, California. (USFWS)

For example, coastal areas support a much higher percentage of the Nation's threatened and endangered species fishery resources, migratory songbirds, and migrating and wintering waterfowl.

Today, these species and their habitats face serious threats in coastal regions from human population growth and the development and disturbance that are often a consequence of growth. Population projections indicate that our coastlines will continue to receive the majority of the Nation's growth and development, promising to compound today's habitat losses.

As habitat is degraded, reduced or eliminated, plants and animals suffer population losses that can lead to the need for protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Service's Coastal Program is working to avoid further species declines by enhancing its efforts within the Nation's coastal areas and securing funding for conservation, including habitat restoration efforts.

how the program works

How does the Coastal Program Work?

The Coastal program support localized and landscape-level conservation efforts in California. It provide technical and financial assistance in high-priority coastal areas in the form of cost sharing with partners.

The Coastal Program integrates all Service activities in high priority coastal ecosystems to:

-- Help local program managers identify the most important natural resource problems and solution in their area. The work with partners to identify projects for technical and financial assistance.

-- Ensure potential projects are those supported by the Coastal program, such as habitat restoration and enhancement, protection, research, monitoring, outreach and Schoolyard habitats.

-- Influence the planning and decision-making processes of other agencies and organizations with the Service's living resource capabilities;

-- Implement solutions on-the-ground in partnership with others; and

-- Instill a stewardship ethic, and catalyze the public to help solve problems, change behaviors, and promote ecologically sound decisions.

The Program provides technical and financial assistance in high-priority coastal areas in the form of cost sharing with partners in support of restoration and protection of coastal habitats.

Funding Opportunities Listing

What are the benefits?

For the Collaborator: Fulfilling habitat conservation goals on the coast by working one-on-one in partnership with the local Service biologist. For the species: Restoring important habitats on lands that may result in the recovery of Federal trust species.

Who can participate?

We partner with all groups, including other Federal programs (including Service programs), State agencies, Tribal and local governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, industry, land trusts and non-profit groups, and private landowners.

Climate Change

Both coastal communities and listed species are dually benefited by projects between the Coastal Program and its ongoing various partnerships. Enhancing and restoring degraded coastal habitats offer a buffering against adverse changes in the climate, which can be observed in the sea level rise, increasing storm intensities, and the augmentation of sediment loads into coastal watercourses. The Coastal Program Regional Coordinator participates in the West Coast Governor's Alliance on Ocean Health Climate Change Action Coordination Team.

Strategic Habitat Conservation

Systematic conservation maximizes efficiency of preserving the integrity of coastal species and habitat processes by identifying key areas to focus time and monetary resources. Each of the four program locations in California developed a 5-year Strategic Plan (2012-2016) specifically for their location. The objectives and actions of these plans informed the development of the 5-year Strategic Plan for the Coastal Program in the Pacific Southwest Region.

Conservation areas in california

  • Monterrey Bay, California
    Monterey Bay, California. (USFWS)

    Central California Coast

    The Central Coast Conservation Area stretches along 450 miles of coastline that are home to 85 federally listed species. It spans from Santa Cruz County north of Monterey Bay to the Malibu lagoon in the south. The coastal resources here include coastal terraces and bluffs, beaches, large dune complexes, numerous estuaries, coastal watersheds, and near shore rocky outcrops and islands (including the Northern Channel Islands). Project activities along the Central Coast focus on restoring natural functions to streams, estuaries, and adjacent floodplains. The research and habitat monitoring performed also actively inform management decisions in the Coastal Program’s ecosystem approach to habitat restoration and enhancement.
  • Mouth of Eel River, Humboldt, California
    Mouth of Bear River, Humboldt Bay, California. (USFWS)

    Humboldt Bay

    The Coastal Program at Humboldt Bay was established in 2005 to protect and conserve the second largest estuary in California and the smaller adjacent estuaries of six major river systems.The Coastal Program is working with the Eureka Sea-Grant office and other partners to implement the Humboldt Bay Ecosystem-based Management Program to identify areas of special concern and then create functional management and restoration plans for them.

  • San Diego Bay
    San Diego Bay. (USFWS)

    Southern California

    The Southern California Coastal Program area extends from Orange County south to the Mexican border. Diverse habitats in this region consist of intertidal mudflats, saltmarsh, seagrass, sheltered open water, seasonal pond, and marsh areas. These ecosystems provide important nesting, resting, feeding, and overwintering habitat for this abundant and diverse array of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, birds of prey, and seabirds. San Diego bay habitat restoration activities facilitated by the Coastal Program have successfully restored hundreds of acres of degraded habitat for Listed coastal avian species; as a result, the California least tern and western snowy plover now have many concentrated breeding sites proliferating along this section of coastline. See also the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office Conservation Partnerships Program.
  • San Francisco Bay NWR
    San Francisco Bay NWR. (USFWS)

    San Francisco Bay

    The San Francisco Bay is the largest estuary of the Pacific flyway and the Coastal Program is involved with numerous partners on restoration projects throughout the nine counties that that comprise this area. Restoration activities and technical assistance primarily focus on the watersheds draining directly into the San Francisco Bay. The Coastal program and its partners have successfully enhanced thousands of acres of tidal marsh and freshwater habitats. Improving the health of these ecosystems has provided habitat for many wetland avian species and directly benefited the federally listed salt marsh harvest mouse. recreational opportunities for people along the San Francisco Bay Trail.