Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced that nearly $6.8 million in grants will support seven projects to conserve and restore coastal wetlands in Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. Across America, the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program will this year award $20.5 million in grants, matched by almost $21 million from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups.
“Coastal wetlands serve as some of nature’s most productive fish and wildlife habitat while providing storm protection, improved water quality, and abundant recreational opportunities for local communities,” Salazar said. “I am pleased that with these grants we are able to help our state partners implement some of their high-priority projects that support both conservation and recreation along their coasts.”
The grants will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitat. Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue, generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment, motorboat and small engine fuels, funds the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act.
Including the 2012 grants, the Service has awarded nearly $300 million to coastal states and territories since the program began in 1992. When the 2012 projects are complete, about 293,000 acres of habitat will be protected, restored or enhanced as a result of these grants.
Coastal areas comprise less than 10 percent of the nation’s land area, yet they 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.
$829,400 grant awarded to protect Delaware marsh and add bird, duck opportunities
The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife and Delaware’s Open Space Program will acquire 194 acres of intertidal and forested wetlands along the Delaware River in New Castle County.
Part of the Thousand Acre Marsh, the area is a haven for breeding and wintering waterfowl, waterbirds, muskrat and fish. The marsh also provides critical wintering habitat for bald eagles. Delaware Fish and Wildlife plans to install a platform for bird watching with interpretive signage, blinds for duck hunters and a trail system to provide public access. The grant will be matched by $503,400 of non-federal funds.
$980,000 grant will add 177 acres to Maine wildlife management area
A grant in Maine, matched by an additional $450,000 in non-federal funds, will protect an area rich with rare plant and animal occurrences in Long Cove, Seal Cove and Oscar’s Pond of Washington County.
This relatively intact natural landscape, including spruce forests, freshwater wetlands, intertidal lands and eel grass beds, provides food for many types wildlife, from bufflehead and goldeneye ducks to salmon and softshell clams. Through a partnership with nine conservation agencies, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will protect this land as part of the Pleasant Bay Wildlife Management Area, expected to reach 2,070 acres. The grant will help expand public access, improve recreation for residents and visitors, provide local economic benefits and a resource for long-term ecological research and education.
$986,604 grant will conserve Chicamacomico River wetlands in Maryland
Maryland DNR, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Audubon Maryland-DC and the Service will protect 450 acres of saltmarsh, wetlands, forests and agricultural fields on the Chicamacomico River in Dorchester County. Matched by $514,259 in non-federal funds, the grant will be used to plant trees, enhance wetlands and restore former farmlands to benefit a variety of wildlife, from black rail birds, bald eagles, black ducks and saltmarsh sparrows to American eel, striped bass and the Delmarva fox squirrel.
The properties are next to the northern boundary of Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area and just four miles west of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Restoration work will improve water quality in waters neighboring the Chicamacomico, nestled in the heart of one of the most pristine and ecological significant watersheds in the mid-Atlantic region, the 725,000-acre Nanticoke-Blackwater River watershed.
$1 million grant will improve water quality, wildlife around Maryland’s Choptank River
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, with the Service, Ducks Unlimited and a landowner, will protect and restore the 930-acre Point Pleasant Farm in Talbot County at the mouth of the 68-mile Choptank River. The farm peninsula symbolizes the diverse Chesapeake Bay landscape, including forested wetlands, upland hardwood and pine forests, grasslands, ponds and pristine shorelines.
Work to improve runoff filtration along the peninsula will better water quality in Broad Creek and the Choptank—Maryland’s longest river on the Eastern Shore. Many wildlife and plants will benefit, from the bald eagle, American black duck, and spotted and box turtles to the wood thrush, diamondback terrapin and blue crab. Not only is the peninsula popular for local birding organizations, but a portion of the property is being converted by the landowner for a retreat for wounded veterans. Non-federal partners are matching this grant with $3,070,000. Through a conservation easement and a variety of activities, such as tree planting, the project will help enhance the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary.
$1 million grant will add 82 acres to Virginia Beach’s park and open space system
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, partnering with the City of Virginia Beach and the Trust for Public Land, will use this grant and non-federal match of $540,000 to acquire and preserve one of Hampton Roads’ largest undeveloped waterfront properties.
The 82-acre property overlooks Lynnhaven Bay at Pleasure House Point and consists of estuarine emergent wetlands, tidal mudflats, near shore habitat and maritime forest.
The focus of this site will be preservation of wetlands and maritime forest, passive recreation, nature observation, and non-motorized water access. The grant will not only help wildlife, including finfish, blue crab and shorebirds, but it will link more than 2,900 acres of permanently protected lands along Pleasure House Creek. The Virginia Conservation Lands Needs Assessment Vulnerability Model ranked this site as a hot spot for its ecological significance and threat for conversion to high-density residential development.
$1 million to add to New Jersey wildlife management area
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, partnering with the Service, will use this grant and matched non-federal funds of $1,200,000 to acquire more than 140 acres of critical privately owned, undeveloped wetlands in Middle Township near Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.
As part of the state’s Green Acres program, the conservation of this high-quality saltmarsh and upland property will add to a corridor of permanently protected land providing more than 21,000 acres of diverse habitat. The land borders the Cape May Wetlands Wildlife Management Area, one of the most significant concentration areas for migratory birds in the world. The management of this land will benefit wildlife like the American black duck and seaside sparrow, water quality, and significant recreational and commercial fisheries for weakfish, winter flounder and other species.
$1 million grant will protect 330 acres of salt marsh in Boston area
The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation will conserve a portion of the critical 2,200-acre Rumney Marsh. Located in the Atlantic Flyway, Rumney Marsh is the largest salt marsh system in the Boston area, providing a crucial stopping point along migrating pathways.
The acquisition of 297 acres and restoration of 33 acres will contribute to the preservation of nesting, breeding, feeding, wintering and buffer habitat critical to waterfowl and shorebirds, from the American black duck to black-bellied plover and great blue heron, piping plover and northern harrier. The marsh also plays an important role in the life cycle of other species, including fin and shellfish, birds and small mammals.
This grant will be matched by $2,322,198 in non-federal funds.
A complete list of projects funded by the 2012 grant program can be found online at: http://www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/index.html.
Learn more about coastal protection in the Northeast at: http://www.fws.gov/northeast/coastal.