Northern Gulf Coastal Program
Since its inception in 2010, the Northern Gulf Coastal Program has provided habitat improvement and technical assistance in a variety of ways. We will continue working with partners on marsh, forested wetlands and barrier island restoration to improve coastal resiliency. In upland areas we collaborate on the development of management plans and establishment of land use practices that benefit federally listed and at-risk species. The program also assists Refuges with projects targeted at benefitting federally listed species, including the establishment of new populations.
Habitat conservation projects on public and private lands are needed to curtail the deterioration and loss of wetlands, especially in coastal marshes and forested wetlands. We have delineated watersheds along the coast to be our priority areas of interest. The Coastal Program works very closely on teams of multiple partners to develop and implement Watershed Management Plans within these priority areas.
In Alabama, this landscape planning effort, led by the Mobile Bay National Estuary Program, is combining various funding opportunities with National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and RESTORE Act dollars. These plans specify restoration projects needed in the watersheds, and the team secures funding, particularly related to the Deepwater Horizon incident, to implement those projects. These plans depend upon public involvement and “stakeholders” who know the area, recognize its problems, and are invested in its health and resilience. It identifies causes and/or sources of pollution or impairment, identifies gaps in data related to watershed conditions, and estimates pollutant loads that enter the receiving waters. These plans ensure restoration efforts are based in science and fit into the overall management of the landscape.
The diverse wildlife and habitat assemblages and myriad environmental organizations make it imperative that we think strategically about conservation, including identification of priority species and habitats, and the resources we need to operate on the coast.
Northern Gulf Coastal Program Priority Areas
The Perdido Bay Priority Area encompasses approximately 772,486 acres in eastern Baldwin County, and a small portion of western Escambia County, Alabama and western Santa Rosa County, Florida. The Perdido River is the major waterway in this focus area, emptying into the Perdido Bay. Other waterbodies contained within this focus area include Wolf Bay, a portion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, and numerous smaller bays, bayous, and coves. Species that may benefit from habitat restoration in this area are Perdido Key beach mice, manatees, migratory birds (shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, etc.) and anadromous fish (Gulf sturgeon, Alabama shad, and striped bass).
Mobile River Basin
The Mobile River basin is the sixth largest watershed in the United States, with the fourth largest freshwater inflow, receiving drainage from almost two-thirds of Alabama and portions of Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Sitting at the southern end is the 3,113,580 acre Mobile Basin Focus Area. Portions of counties that are included in this focus area are Baldwin, Choctaw, Clarke, Escambia, Mobile, Monroe, Washington, and Wilcox. Within the focus area the Tombigbee and Alabama Rivers combine to form the Mobile River that empties into Mobile Bay. Several smaller coastal rivers also flow into the Bay. Species that may benefit from habitat restoration in this area are Alabama beach mice, red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, black pine snakes, eastern indigo snakes, Alabama red bellied turtles, manatees, migratory birds (shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, etc.) and anadromous fish (Gulf sturgeon, Alabama shad, and striped bass), as well as, submerged aquatic vegetation and oysters.
The Red, Black, Pascagoula and Escatawpa Rivers make up the 1,865,711 acre Pascagoula Basin Focus Area. This focus area is located almost completely in southeast Mississippi, with some of Alabama’s Mobile and Washington counties included. Portions of the counties of Forrest, George, Greene, Jackson, Jefferson Davis, Lamar, Marion, Pearl River, Perry, and Stone in Mississippi make up this focus area. Species that may be helped by restoration in this area are yellow blotched map turtles, gopher tortoises, black pine snakes, eastern indigo snakes, Mississippi gopher frogs, Alabama red bellied turtles, red-cockaded woodpeckers, manatees, migratory birds, Mississippi sandhill cranes, Pearl darters, and Gulf sturgeon.
The Mississippi Coast Focus Area contains Mississippi Sound and adjacent coastal habitats and barrier islands as well as portions of Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, Lamar, Pearl River, and Stone counties in Mississippi and Mobile County in Alabama. There are 1,561,405 acres in this focus area. Coastal rivers that feed this area include Jourdan, Wolf, Biloxi, Tchoutacabouffa, Bayou La Batre, and Fowl Rivers. Habitat restoration in this focus area could promote ringed map turtles, yellow blotched map turtles, gopher tortoises, black pine snakes, eastern indigo snakes, red-cockaded woodpeckers, Mississippi gopher frogs, Alabama red bellied turtles, manatees, migratory birds (shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl, neotropical migratory songbirds, etc.), Mississippi sandhill cranes, sea turtles, saltmarsh topminnows, and Gulf sturgeon.
Overlapping into Mississippi and Louisiana is the Pearl-Bogue Chitto Focus Area. Comprised of the Lower Pearl River and the Bogue Chitto, this focus area covers 1,916,807 acres. Hancock, Lamar, Lincoln, Marion, Pearl River, Pike, and Walthall counties in Mississippi and St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington parishes in Louisiana are included in this focus area. Species that may benefit from the Program’s efforts in this area include Louisiana black bears, ringed map turtles, Pearl darters, gopher tortoises, black pine snakes, manatees, migratory birds, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and Gulf sturgeon.