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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Announces over $21 Million in Grants to Conserve Coastal Wetlands

Dan Ashe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director

Posted on February 8, 2016

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced over $21 million will be provided to 25 projects in 13 coastal and Great Lakes states to protect, restore or enhance more than 11,000 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 $35 million in additional funds to these projects, which include acquiring, restoring or enhancing coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.

“Coastal wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems in the world,” said Director Ashe. “The nation’s coastal resources provide resting, feeding and breeding habitat for 75 percent of waterfowl and other migratory birds, and nearly 45 percent of the nation’s endangered and threatened species are dependent on coastal habitats. Coastal wetlands also provide billions of dollars in ecosystem services through drinking water filtration, buffering against storms and flood control, as well as billions more to support local economies through outdoor recreation-related expenditures and jobs.”

The program, funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters, creates significant benefits for other recreationists and 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.

States and territories receiving funds are Delaware, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington. Click here for the complete list of projects funded by the 2015 grant program.

Wetlands in coastal watersheds in the U.S. are experiencing a net annual loss of more than 80,000 acres according to a recent report by the Service, highlighting the importance of coastal wetland conservation. Conservation of this habitat will not only benefit coastal wetland-dependent wildlife, but will also enhance flood protection and water quality, and provide economic and recreational benefits to anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife watchers.

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 over $357 million in grants under the program.

“This program provides states with an extraordinary opportunity to address conservation priorities in coastal areas at a time when coastal wetlands are under siege from the combined forces of development and climate change,” said Ashe. “These coastal wetlands grants are more important than ever in helping to ensure the resilience of coastal communities and the preservation of our wildlife heritage.”

Examples of projects receiving grants today are:

Beltz Farm Acquisition Project, Oregon
Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is awarded $970,500 to acquire, permanently protect and manage as a state natural area, 244 acres of coastal estuarine habitat within the Sand Lake estuary in Tillamook County. The Beltz Farm parcels include coastal estuary and freshwater wetlands, coastal dune habitat, ocean shore and forest and upland scrub habitats. Two creeks on the property provide spawning and rearing habitat and connect to additional habitat upstream. Conservation of Beltz Farm has long been a priority of the local community, conservationists and state agencies due to the diversity of coastal habitats, the pristine condition of the estuary and its importance to listed and sensitive species including more than 100 bird species, amphibians and fish. Beltz Farm has been under significant development pressure in recent decades, with proposals for resorts, golf courses and condominiums all pursued.

Altama Plantation Acquisition – Phase 2, Georgia
Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR) is awarded $1 million to acquire and protect approximately 2,370 acres of the Altama Plantation. The area is made up of tidal wetlands, inland maritime forests and adjacent uplands in the Lower Altamaha River watershed. The lower Altamaha River watershed is designated as one of the “Last Great Places” by The Nature Conservancy, and is a top State Wildlife Action Plan priority. It boasts the highest documented number of rare plants, animals, and natural community occurrences in Georgia and is one of the most ecologically diverse habitats in the southeast. This project is part of a larger initiative by the GA DNR, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Forest Service to conserve 4,038 acres of priority habitat in the lower Altamaha River system. The Altamaha watershed provides critical habitat for nesting, breeding and feeding neotropical migratory birds and colonial waterbirds.

Point Abbaye and Huron Bay Coastal Wetlands Acquisition, Michigan
Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Keweenaw Land Trust are awarded $1 million to acquire four privately owned parcels of high quality, intact coastal wetlands and near-shore aquatic habitats on the Abbaye Peninsula and Huron Bay of Lake Superior in Baraga County. The parcels total 1,374 acres and include nearly a mile of Lake Superior shoreline. The Lake Superior basin in northern Michigan has some of the most diverse, intact and ecologically significant habitats remaining in the Great Lakes region. The Keweenaw and Abbaye Peninsulas are major migratory bird corridors, especially notable for raptors and waterfowl. The project area’s large, forested wetland and riparian habitats support wide ranging mammals such as gray wolves, black bear and bobcat in addition to a large diversity of bird species. This project will protect and enhance coastal wetlands in a relatively pristine portion of Michigan that is increasingly being threatened by development.

Tidmarsh Farms Restoration Project, Massachusetts
Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game was awarded $790,290 to restore 250 acres of recently retired cranberry bogs and supporting upland grassland and forest in the southeastern part of the state. The project will restore wetland communities by removing dams and water control structures and thousands of tons of sediment, and installing a culvert to reconnect the hydrology in the Beaver Dam Brook watershed. The project will be the largest freshwater wetlands restoration effort to date in Massachusetts, and includes a cutting edge, long-term monitoring component led by the landowners and involving Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Audubon and several other organizations. The same restoration strategy was used at the Eel River Headwaters Restoration Project in Plymouth Massachusetts, which was supported by a 2008 grant. Although the project site is privately owned, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service holds a conservation easement on 192 acres and Massachusetts Audubon is acquiring the site as a wildlife sanctuary.

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.

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