U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe announced yesterday $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 in partners from Maine to the Pacific Northwest to as far away as American Samoa in the South Pacific.”
The announcement marks the first time in the program’s history that American Samoa has received a National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant. The $269,000 grant will be used by the American Samoa Department of Commerce and its partners to restore 18.3 acres of coastal wetland habitat in Leone Village. Partners will provide $93,850 in matching funds to restore the wetland and address the degradation and loss of coastal wetland and coral reef habitat in Leone Village, including damage from a devastating 2009 tsunami event.
The Leone wetland area consists of one of the largest and most important mangrove swamps in American Samoa, which was designated as a Special Management Area in 1990. The four main project activities being proposed are community management, tsunami debris removal, coral reef restoration, and mangrove restoration. Community members will participate in all phases of restoration. Enhancing and improving the wetland habitats will benefit the marine, freshwater and terrestrial wildlife associated with mangroves and coral reefs, as well as increase the resiliency of the ecosystem to future impacts from natural disasters and climate change.
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.
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 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 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 Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement America’s Great Outdoors initiative in their states.
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. (FWS)