Today, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced $20 million in grants to 24 critical coastal wetland projects in 13 states and territories to conserve and restore coastal wetlands and their fish and wildlife habitat. An additional $21.3 million in matching funds will be provided by partner contributions from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups through the 2013 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants Program.
“When President Obama unveiled his America’s Great Outdoors initiative three years ago, our goal was to work with communities across the country to create a 21st century conservation ethic,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “Our coastal grants program is a model of this kind of partnership, conserving vital wetlands hand-in-hand with partners from Maine to the Pacific Northwest to as far away as American Samoa in the South Pacific.”
Coastal areas comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area yet support a significant number of wildlife species, including 75 percent of migratory birds, nearly 80 percent of fish and shellfish and about half of all threatened and endangered species.
“These coastal wetlands are extremely important to the future of both wildlife and humans,” Ashe said. “As Superstorm Sandy showed, it is essential to have natural wetlands available to act as a buffer against extreme weather events.
“Coastal wetlands also serve as some of nature’s most productive fish and wildlife habitat while providing improved water quality and abundant recreational opportunities for local communities. These grants will help our state partners implement some high-quality projects that support conservation and outdoor recreation.”
The grants will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitat. States and territories receiving funds are California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and American Samoa.
The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 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.
The grants support President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors initiative for conservation, recreation and reconnecting people to the outdoors. A 50-State Report lists more than 100 of the country’s most promising projects – a result of meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement America’s Great Outdoors initiative in their states – including three projects that will be supported by today’s grants. These three projects are:
- Dickinson Bayou Wetland Restoration Project – The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department was awarded $500,000 to restore and enhance approximately 27 acres of estuarine intertidal emergent wetlands and tidal channels along Dickinson Bayou part of the Galveston Bay estuary, a nationally significant ecosystem benefiting invertebrates, fish and wildlife species. The project also will improve water quality and enhance recreational fishing and birding opportunities for the public.
- Illinois Wolf-Lake Powderhorn Lake Connection – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and Openlands, was awarded $1 million to acquire coastal wetlands within the Millennium Reserve in southeast Chicago. The acquisition will expand the amount of contiguous, protected coastal wetland and natural areas to about 1,200 acres on an important bird migration route. This acquisition will increase opportunities for outreach, education and outdoor recreation in economically disadvantaged and underserved communities in the Chicago area.
- Penobscot River Restoration – The project was awarded $1 million to remove the Veazy Dam on the Penobscot River and restore about 225 acres of in-stream habitat and about 65 acres of streamside habitat. Removal of the dam will enhance connectivity and functional value of 188,000 acres of wetland habitats for native sea-run fish, including endangered Atlantic salmon, endangered shortnose and Atlantic sturgeon, and eight other fish species. The project is a joint effort between the Penobscot Indian Nation, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust, six other non-governmental organizations, the State of Maine, the Department of the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and hydropower companies.
Including the 2013 grants, the Service has awarded about $320 million to coastal states and territories since the program began in 1992. When the 2013 projects are complete, about 298,000 acres of habitat will have been protected, restored or enhanced as a direct result of these grants.
A complete list of projects funded by the 2013 grant program can be found online athttp://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2013/pdf/2013awardslist_v2.pdf.