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, California. Photo Credit: 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 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.

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.