Grants of $20.5 Million Safeguard Coastal Wetlands

WASHINGTON, DC, January 4, 2008 (ENS) – Twenty-nine conservation projects encompassing nearly 10,000 acres of coastal wetlands will be funded with $20.5 million from 2008 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grants, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced Friday.

The grants will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and habitat.

“The projects offer enormous benefits,” Secretary Kempthorne said. “Coastal wetlands filter pollution, reduce storm surge from hurricanes, protect coastlines from erosion, provide habitat for many species of fish and wildlife, and offer recreational opportunities for millions of Americans.”

States receiving funds include California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maine, Maryland, and Massachusetts, along with the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

These federal grants will be matched by nearly $46 million in partner contributions from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups.

“By tapping into the power of partnership through these grants, we are joining with states, local governments, conservation organizations and other partners across the country to conserve and restore our vitally important coastal wetlands,” Kempthorne said.

The 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, drawing from Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels.

“The number of plant and animal species that rely on coastal wetlands for their health and well-being is remarkable, and I include people among that group,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall.

Including the 2008 grants, the Service has awarded more than $200 million to coastal states and territories since the program began in 1992. When the 2008 projects are complete, 244,000 acres of habitat will have been protected, restored or enhanced.

Projects funded by the 2008 grant program include one million dollars for each of three California projects – the 2,320 acre Sears Point wetlands and watershed restoration, the 35 acre Malibu Lagoon restoration and enhancement project, and the 730 acre Eden Landing Salt Ponds tidal wetland restoration project in South San Francisco Bay.

TheEden Landing Salt Ponds
border San Francisco Bay
(Photo courtesy Society
for Conservation Biology)

For the Eden Landing Salt Ponds, planning is underway for what will be the largest wetland restoration project ever conducted on the west coast. The project will integrate restoration with flood management, while providing for public access, wildlife-oriented recreation, and education opportunities.

Washington state will receive one million dollars for each of five projects, including a million to acquire and restore Deadwater Slough, Ebey Island in the Snohomish River Delta, an 820 acre project.

In Wisconsin, two million dollar projects will acquire and protect coastal wetlands including the Lake Michigan Ridge and Swale Coastal Wetlands and the Kellner Fen and Sturgeon Bay Canal.

The Kellner Fen Preserve is a unique wetland complex situated north of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal just inland from the shores of Lake Michigan.

“The main feature of this preserve is the open waters of the fen itself and an expansive sedge mat that literally floats on top of the underlying water,” explains Dan Burke, executive director of the Door County Land Trust, which is doing restoration work in the fen.

Also in Door County, a million dollar grant will be spent to acquire Washington Island and Detroit Island, part of a string of islands stretching across the entrance of Green Bay from the Door Peninsula in Wisconsin to the Garden Peninsula in Michigan.

In Puerto Rico, one million dollars will be spent to acquire 174 acres for the San Miguel Natural Reserve. Located on the island’s northeast coast, the dunes of the San Miquel Natural Reserve feature near-shore coral reefs, dunes, and mangrove marshes, and is one of the last remaining nesting grounds for the federally endangered leatherback sea turtle.

Once targeted for development of a large resort and two golf courses, the 270-acre reserve was purchased by Trust for Public Land for protection by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a cornerstone for a proposed 3,200-acre Northeastern Ecological Corridor.

The state of Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources will receive a $400,000 grant to restore 300 acres of wildlife habitat at Kure Atoll State Wildlife Sanctuary. The federal funding will be matched by more than $150,000 from partners.

Located at the northwest tip of the Hawaiian archipelago within the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, the atoll provides nesting habitat for 17 seabird species, including four species identified as highly imperiled – the black-footed albatross, Laysan albatross, Christmas shearwater, and Tristram’s storm-petrel.

Much of the work to restore nesting habitat will focus on the removal of the invasive plant golden crownbeard, Verbesina encelioides. The plant overtakes native vegetation, reduces seabird nesting habitat, and leads to heat stress and entanglement of seabirds.

The atoll also hosts the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, threatened green turtle, Hawaiian spinner dolphins, Galapagos and tiger sharks, spotted eagle rays, and large predatory jacks. Kure has almost 80,000 acres of coral reef habitat supporting 155 species of reef fishes.

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