The U.S. Fish Wildlife Service's Coastal Program is celebrating its 25th
year of conserving coastal wetlands and habitats for fish and wildlife
across the country. This remarkable program received the Restoration
Partnership Award at the Restore America's Estuaries Conference, which recognizes an individual or group who has demonstrated their dedication, commitment and passion for estuary habitat restoration.
"The Coastal Program is a shining example of how people from all
different sectors can work together to accomplish remarkable
conservation achievements," said Acting Fish and Wildlife Service
Director Rowan Gould. "This voluntary, cooperative program has conserved some of our nation's most imperiled estuaries, wetlands and coastal habitats for current and future generations to enjoy."
There are now 23 Coastal Program offices throughout the United States
including the Great Lakes and the U.S. Commonwealths and Territories,
dedicated to protecting, restoring and conserving coastal areas. The
Coastal Program has proven that a voluntary approach to coastal habitat conservation works. By providing technical assistance, funding and other resources to partners including federal, state and local agencies, and private landowners, the program has restored 251,000 acres of coastal wetlands and coastal upland habitat, permanently protected nearly 2 million acres of coastal habitat, and restored 1,700 miles of riparian and in-stream habitat. These coastal wetlands provide for improved water quality, increased water storage and supply, reduced flood and storm surge risk, and vital habitat for plants, fish and wildlife.
Despite the numerous gains made in conserving coastal habitat by the
Coastal Program and other similar voluntary, incentive-based programs,
threats to coastal ecosystems have become even more challenging.
Climate change poses numerous and complex threats to coastal wetlands
and the fish and wildlife they support throughout the United States,
including sea level rise, more invasive species, and increases in ocean
temperatures and acidity. In addition, scientists predict increased
flooding of populated coastal areas and further decreases in water
quality, changes that will severely impact not only fish and wildlife
species, but humans as well. Given the magnitude of these threats,
there is now more than ever a strong need for public-private
partnerships to protect and restore coastal wetland habitats.