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Wetland Conservation Projects Get Funding

Great Lake in the Croatan National Forest near Havelock. Photo: NC Wetlands/N.C. Division of Water Resources

Wetland conservation projects in North Carolina’s Southeastern Coastal Plain will receive $2 million through the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.

Chaired by Interior Secretary David  Bernhardt, the commission considers and approves areas of land or water recommended by the secretary for purchase or rental by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The announcement of the funding was made Thursday as May, which is American Wetlands Month, came to an end.

Of the $160 million approved in funding for various wetland conservation projects in North America, $22.1 million was allocated under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, or NAWCA, to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners to conserve or restore more than 160,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds for 22 projects in 15 states. Partners will match these grants with an additional $50 million.

“These dollars are from our great conservationists – the hunters and anglers who purchase migratory bird stamps,” said Bernhardt. “These efforts support local economies and wildlife in numerous ways. As the country continues to reopen, access to outdoor spaces is more important than ever, and we are doing our part to maintain public access and conserve natural habitats.”

The Embayed Rivers Initiative III was awarded $1 million to protect, restore and enhance wetland habitat on the central and northeastern coast of North Carolina within the Embayed Rivers Initiative Focus Area. Ducks Unlimited, the grantee, North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation and The Nature Conservancy are partnering to permanently protect in Camden, Dare and Jones counties 2,540 acres of wetlands and uplands through fee acquisition and to enhance 782 acres of managed wetland impoundments. The proposed match is $2,100,467.

The coastal plain of North Carolina contains a wide diversity of habitats including forested wetlands, estuarine emergent wetlands, longleaf pine habitat and maritime forests, managed brackish and freshwater tidal impoundments, semi-permanently flooded gum-cypress swamps, seasonally flooded bottomland hardwoods, Carolina Bay lakes and pocosin, officials said.

Another North Carolina project was awarded $1 million. North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, grantee, is working with Dillon County, South Carolina, North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, private contributors and The Nature Conservancy to restore wetlands in Bladen, Columbus, Craven, Pender counties and Dillon County in South Carolina. The proposed match is $2,355,000.

This project is to permanently conserve through fee title acquisition targeted tracts in three important Atlantic Coast Joint Venture Waterfowl Focus Areas: the Lower Cape Fear River, Waccamaw River and Little Pee Dee-Lumber River. All of the target and match tracts within the Carolina Wetlands Initiative IX connect or buffer existing conservation lands, including the Croatan National Forest, Columbus County Game Lands, Holly Shelter Game Lands, and the Black River Cypress Preserve.

The project will conserve cypress-gum swamp, bottomland hardwoods, pocosin and longleaf pine forests that will benefit a diversity of priority bird species and which is directly supported by the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture’s Waterfowl Implementation Plan and South Atlantic Migratory Bird Initiative, according to officials. The 2015 North Carolina Wildlife Action Plan highlights all of these habitats as priorities for conservation.

“Wetlands are special places with an exceptional role to play in both the economy and conservation of our magnificent wildlife,” said Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “Through these grants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is uniquely placed to not only positively impact wetland conservation, but also further President Trump’s goal to improve access to public lands and outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.”

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.