Coastal wetlands are under siege from both increased development and sea-level rise. Coastal wetland habitat conservation is critical to ensure that wildlife and coastal communities continue to thrive for future generations. Over $17 million will be awarded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to 20 projects in 10 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 13,000 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 $20 million in additional funds to these projects, which protect, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.
“Wetlands in coastal watersheds, including on national wildlife refuges, are diverse and complex ecosystems that are vital to the nation’s economy and an important part of the nation’s natural heritage. They provide crucial habitat, including breeding grounds, nurseries, shelter and food for fish, birds and other wildlife,” said National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Cynthia Martinez. “The pressure on wetlands is increasing from the demand for land and water, as well as from the effects of climate change, and it is vital that we protect them for future generations.”
Coastal wetlands in the United States include both salt marshes in estuaries s and freshwater wetlands that extend inland within the coastal drainages. Coastal wetlands play an important role in reducing flooding from storm surge and in stabilizing shorelines in the face of sea-level rise. According to a Service report, wetlands in coastal watersheds are lost at an average annual rate of 80,000 acres. Conservation of these habitats will not only benefit coastal wetland-dependent wildlife, but will also enhance flood protection and water quality, and provide economic benefits and recreational opportunities for anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife watchers.
States receiving funds are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, North Carolina, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. Click here for the complete list of projects funded by the 2017 grant program.
“These grants will also have wide-reaching benefits for local economies, people and wildlife – boosting coastal resilience, reducing flooding problems and protecting natural ecosystems,” added Martinez.
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:
Grays Harbor, WA
The Washington State Department of Ecology, partnering with Ducks Unlimited, is awarded $1 million to acquire 1,750 acres of diverse and threatened habitats, including wetlands in Grays Harbor County, Washington, and is located within close proximity to protected areas, including Grays Harbor National Wildlife Refuge. Multiple fish and bird species that use watershed along with elk, deer, black bear and river otters will benefit from the protection.
Red Banks Alvar State Natural Area, WI
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is awarded $152,496 to help acquire and protect 140 acres on the Red Banks Alvar State Natural Area located adjacent to the bay of Green Bay in Brown County, Wisconsin. The property is dominated by palustrine emergent, scrub/shrub and forested wetlands that provide important habitat for the threatened dwarf lake iris as well as migratory and breeding birds and other wildlife.
Lower Altamaha River watershed, GA
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GA DNR) is awarded $1 million to acquire and protect approximately 2,091 acres of diverse habitat known as Sansavilla Phase 4. This tract is part of a long-term initiative by GA DNR, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Marine Corps, to conserve priority habitats in the lower Altamaha River watershed. More than 100 rare plants and animals occur within the tidal wetlands and adjacent uplands; of these 15 are federally listed as threatened or endangered, and 17 are state listed and are considered globally rare or imperiled.
Buzzards Bay, MA
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, in partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition and the Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust, is awarded $1 million to help protect 72.40 acres of coastal saltmarsh and adjacent uplands along the shoreline of the Allens Pond Estuary on Buzzards Bay in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Allens Pond is an especially high quality coastal embayment with high water and sediment quality, extensive eelgrass beds and excellent living resources that include shellfish, fin fish and coast dependent birds.
San Francisco Bay Estuary, CA
The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded $1 million to restore and enhance 68 acres of seasonal coastal wetlands at Bel Marin Keys on San Pablo Bay in the San Francisco Bay Estuary. It is part of the larger Hamilton Wetlands Restoration Project that will result in a restored coastal wetlands complex up to 2,500 acres in extent. The project will restore seasonal wetlands that will provide valuable habitat for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds on the Pacific Flyway, as well as high tide refugia for listed tidal marsh species, including the endangered Ridgeway’s rail. Extensive tidal marsh restoration made possible by the construction of a setback levee will help with resilience to sea level rise.
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.
More information is available at: http://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/index.html.
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit www.fws.gov.
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