Projects in eight coastal states will improve wetlands for wildlife, coastal communities and recreation.
Coastal wetlands are vitally important in protecting us from floods, filtering our water, supporting recreation and local economies, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Despite their importance, there has been a steady loss of coastal wetlands. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is awarding nearly $19 million to support 21 projects in eight coastal states to protect, restore or enhance nearly 14,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
State, local and Tribal governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute more than $20 million in additional funds to these projects. These grants will have wide-reaching benefits for local economies, people and wildlife – boosting coastal resilience, reducing flood risk, stabilizing shorelines and protecting natural ecosystems.
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 more than $450 million in grants under the program.
The 2023 grants will help recover coastal-dependent species, enhance flood protection and water quality, provide economic benefits to Tribes and underserved communities, increase outdoor recreational opportunities, and benefit habitat and wildlife at several national wildlife refuges.
States receiving funds this year are Alaska, California, Hawai‘i, Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Washington. Several of the projects funded by the 2023 grant program, include:
Tarboo Wildlife Preserve Acquisition and Restoration
The Washington Department of Ecology, in partnership with Northwest Watershed Institute (NWI), is awarded $689,000 to permanently protect and restore 35 acres along Tarboo Creek’s tributaries and wetlands as an important addition to NWI’s 500-acre Tarboo Wildlife Preserve in Tarboo Valley. This project is part of a long-term landscape-scale conservation effort to protect the Tarboo-Dabob Bay ecosystem. The project site includes wetlands and tributaries that flow into Tarboo Creek and significant upland conifer and hardwood forest. The project will protect spawning and rearing habitat for threatened steelhead and coho salmon, coastal cutthroat trout, and western brook lamprey. It will also protect habitat for at-risk land birds and other species, including black-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, cougar and black bear.
Galveston Bay Wetland Acquisition
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, in partnership with Galveston Bay Foundation, is awarded $1 million to acquire 60 acres of coastal habitat with 43 acres of wetlands in Galveston County, Texas, known as Redfish Cove. These coastal habitats provide critical nursery, foraging, breeding and nesting habitat for state-identified species of greatest conservation need in Texas, including eastern black rail and the federally threatened piping plover. They also harbor economically significant fisheries, including shrimp, crab, redfish, trout and flounder. Galveston Bay Foundation will manage the tract along with its other coastal habitat conservation holdings.
RMS-Wadmacon Tract Acquisition
The South Carolina Conservation Bank and its conservation partners are awarded $1 million to add 2,180 acres of forested land on the Santee River to the Wee Tee State Forest by acquiring the RMS-Wadmacon tract. The property is almost entirely palustrine forested wetland floodplain from Dawhoo Lake and Wadmacon Creek to the Santee River, which form the parcel’s northern and southern boundaries. Conservation of the property supports habitats utilized by at least 116 species of conservation concern in the South Carolina State Wildlife Action Plan, including waterfowl, wading birds, bats, songbirds, amphibians, reptiles, fish, crayfish and mussels. It will provide habitat for at least 19 federal or state-listed species. This project will also support the objectives of at least 20 regional, state and federal conservation plans
Potter Marsh Watershed Conservation – Phase 2
The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is awarded $1 million to implement Phase 2 of the Potter Marsh Watershed Conservation Project. Potter Marsh provides a critical linkage of conserved lands between two conserved areas – the 32,500-acre Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge and the 495,000-acre Chugach State Park. Phase 2 will permanently protect 83.5 acres of the largest remaining unprotected and undeveloped tract of urban coastal wetlands ecosystem in the Anchorage area. Potter Creek flows along the southern edge of the larger 302.6-acre conservation area, providing habitat for fish and a variety of resident and migratory birds and mammals. The Great Land Trust is responsible for project management, including facilitating negotiations and conducting the regulatory due diligence.
Big Canyon Tidal Marsh Restoration – Phase 3
The California State Coastal Conservancy is awarded $1 million to restore approximately 14.3 acres of coastal wetlands and associated uplands in the Big Canyon Nature Park in Upper Newport Bay in the City of Newport Beach. This is the final phase of a multi-phase water quality, habitat restoration and climate adaptation project in the Big Canyon Nature Park. The project will restore and enhance approximately 1,900 feet of tidal and creek channel, 2.8 acres of tidal marsh, 7.3 acres of transitional wetlands and 4.2 acres of coastal sage scrub. The project will restore tidal saltmarsh and establish a riparian corridor that integrates the previous phases of the restoration project. The restoration of the wetlands and sage scrub habitats and improved water quality will benefit numerous listed birds and increase opportunities for educational programming and public access.
Wetlands in coastal watersheds are diverse and complex ecosystems that are vital to the nation’s economy and an important part of the nation’s natural heritage. Coastal wetlands in the United States include both salt marshes in estuaries and freshwater wetlands that extend inland within the coastal drainages. They provide crucial habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife, including breeding grounds, nurseries, shelter and food.
The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the Service and funded in part by taxes or import duties collected from the sale of recreational fishing equipment, boats, electric motors and motorboat and small engine fuels under the authority of the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and birdwatching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.