Coastal Program
Habitat and Resource Conservation
skip navigation


Resource Benefits


To restore and protect priority habitats to increase and maintain federal trust species populations.

The Service’s Coastal Program evolved from the establishment of the Chesapeake Bay/Estuary Program in 1985. In 1991, the Program took on a national focus with the addition of three new coastal areas and, with gradually increasing budgets, has expanded its presence over the years and is now active on all U.S. coasts, including the Great Lakes, Pacific Islands and the Caribbean, focusing the Service’s efforts in bays, estuaries, coastal streams, near shore and terrestrial habitats within high-priority coastal watersheds.

Coastal gull. Photo USFWSAs human population and development on our coasts increase, stresses on coastal fish and wildlife resources increase commensurately.  Many of these coastal areas are heavily urbanized where citizens depend on coastal natural resources to make a living.  Major environmental challenges include water quality and quantity and concerns that affect human and animal health.

Coastal areas are still vitally important to fish and wildlife. Coastal areas support 40% of the Service’s National Wildlife Refuges, 40% of the Federally-listed endangered species (including 75% of the listed mammals and birds), 50% of the Service’s fisheries activities, 25% of the Nation’s wetlands, and at least 30% of North American wintering waterfowl. These Federal Trust Species habitats are clearly a Service priority.

In response to stresses on Federal Trust Species in the coastal environment, the Coastal Program promotes large-scale ecosystem-based policies, seeks partnerships to carry out the on-the-ground projects, and catalyzes public action to solve problems in the Nation’s coastal areas. This has been accomplished by integrating the activities and authorities of the array of Service programs addressing fisheries, migratory bird and waterfowl management, endangered species, environmental contaminants, law enforcement and the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Coastal development in Florida. Photo USFWS

The Coastal Program is organized around locally-based field coordinators who can provide a broad range of technical and financial assistance to help identify, develop, and implement unique, local conservation strategies. Coastal Program coordinators assist communities in conserving coastal resources through fish and wildlife habitat assessment, ecological restoration, technical assistance regarding lands in need of protection, and outreach and education. Our technical assistance and leadership skills have helped catalyze coastal conservation projects on private and public lands, as well as Tribal lands. The large variety of partners we work with reflects the high population density and the complexity of ownership and governance of the Nation’s coastal areas.

The Coastal Program is guided by the following ecological planning principles:

  • Maintain natural ecosystem diversity, functions and productivity
  • Promote self-sustaining populations of Federal Trust Species within their historic range
  • Provide for ecologically sound levels of public use, economic benefits, and the enjoyment of natural values

The Coastal Program was built on a framework of four interdependent major functions that have been proven successful. These are:
  • Integrating Service activities in high-priority coastal watersheds to identify the most important natural resource problems and solutions;
  • Bringing the Service’s biological expertise to the planning and non-regulatory decision-making processes of other Federal, local and state agencies;
  • Forming partnerships to implement on-the-ground solutions; and,
  • Using focused outreach to instill a stewardship ethic and catalyze the American public to help solve problems, change behaviors, and promote ecologically sound decisions for the benefit of Federal Trust Species.

Farm Bill

National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants


Coastal Strategic Plan

Estuary Restoration Act


Resource Benefits

Regional and State Contact Information


Site Map

Coastal Program logo

Last updated: September 14, 2009
Fisheries and Habitat Conservation
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Home Page | Department of the Interior  |  | About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  | Accessibility  | Privacy  | Notices  | Disclaimer  | FOIA | DOI Inspector General