Wetlands in coastal watersheds are diverse and complex ecosystems that are vital to the nation’s economy and an important part of the nation’s natural heritage. In recognition of the role wetlands play, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is awarding nearly $19 million to 22 projects in 13 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 30,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $21 million in additional funds to these projects. These grants will have wide-reaching benefits for local economies, people and wildlife – boosting coastal resilience, reducing flooding risks, stabilizing shorelines and protecting natural ecosystems.
Coastal wetlands in the United States include both salt marshes in estuaries and freshwater wetlands that extend inland within the coastal drainages. They provide crucial habitat, including breeding grounds, nurseries, shelter and food for fish, birds and other wildlife.
States receiving funds this year are Alaska, California, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Ohio, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. Click here for summaries of projects funded by the 2018 grant program.
The program, funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters, creates significant benefits for the American public. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.
The Service awards grants of up to $1 million to states based on a national competition, which enables states to determine and address their highest conservation priorities in coastal areas. Since 1992, the Service has awarded nearly $400 million in grants under the program.
Examples of projects receiving grants today are:
Kanaha Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, HI
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is awarded nearly $1 million to restore a 240-acre coastal wetland by removing introduced predators and re-planting habitat within the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary on the island of Maui. This project will restore the native wetland ecosystem, resulting in improved water circulation and quality by reducing filtration and contamination, while reestablishing native vegetation communities and wildlife habitat for native waterbirds, shorebirds and migratory waterfowl.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, in partnership with the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, is awarded $1 million to acquire a 3,000-acre property along 7.5 miles of the Waccamaw River in Columbus County, North Carolina. The project will help protect over 1,900 acres of forested wetlands, and considerable waterfowl, waterbird, and landbird habitat. This will also create new public game lands, along with a new canoe/kayak landing for public access to the Waccamaw River Blue Trail.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection is awarded more than $674,000 to acquire and permanently protect a 1,650-acre property in Fairfield Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey. The effort is part of a partnership among the landowner, the New Jersey Green Acres Program, the Service and Ducks Unlimited. New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife will manage the area, located on the Delaware Bay, and provide public access for recreational activities, including hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing, including over 300 species, such as saltmarsh sparrow, American black duck, clapper rail and Atlantic brant.
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Conservation Fund and the Bristol Bay Heritage Land Trust, is awarded $650,000 to purchase two conservation easements on islands in northeast Lake Iliamna, in Southwest Alaska that will protect 13,876 acres of wetlands habitat. Lake Iliamna is an important nursery area for multiple salmon species and the islands provide vital spawning habitat for a genetically-distinct population of sockeye salmon. The salmon are the primary food source for the Iliamna seal population, as well as a critical resource needed to support the subsistence, recreational and commercial fisheries of the region.
The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded $1 million to protect 78.7-acres of wetlands and associated uplands and restore a 72.2-acre complex of tidal wetlands in the Elk River Estuary adjacent to Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, California. Humboldt Bay provides resting, refuge and nesting habitat for over 100,000 shorebirds and thousands of migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway. The restored wetlands will provide critical habitat for fish, invertebrates, shorebirds and waterbirds, as well as filter out pollutants and buffers adjacent lands from flood tides. The area will also provide public access for fishing, wildlife viewing, birdwatching and hunting.
The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the 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, motorboat and small engine fuels.