Columbia Land Trust scored a major victory this week when its Long Beach Peninsula Wetlands Conservation Project was awarded a $914,375 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Columbia Land Trust will acquire and protect 400 acres of declining coastal wetlands, riparian areas and conifer forest on the Long Beach Peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Willapa Bay, in addition to wetlands in the Chinook River estuary in southwest Washington.
The project will conserve seven different properties that are largely composed of inter-dunal freshwater wetlands, open water, emergent, scrub-shrub and Sitka spruce forested wetlands, and a significant amount of frontage on the Pacific Ocean and the Chinook River. The properties lie adjacent to over 44,000 acres of federal, state and private conserved lands, including Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The conservation lands are highly interconnected and host numerous federal and state listed species.
This is the fourth Coastal Wetland grant awarded to a Columbia Land Trust project in the past eight years, all of which have supported Long Beach Peninsula and Willapa Bay projects. The Land Trust has conserved 1,400 acres with the grant funds so far. If all goes according to plan, the new grant will bring the total up to 1,800 acres by the end of 2016.
The Long Beach Peninsula Conservation Project was one of five Washington projects and four Oregon projects to receive coastal wetland grants this week. Nationwide, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is granting over $21 million to 25 projects in 13 coastal and Great Lakes states to protect, restore or enhance more than 11,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners will contribute over $35 million in additional funds to these projects, which include acquiring, restoring or enhancing coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish and wildlife and their habitats.
The program, funded through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters, creates significant benefits for other recreationists and the American public. The billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.
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 over $357 million in grants under the program.
Conservation of coastal wetlands ecosystems will not only benefit coastal wetland-dependent wildlife, but will also enhance flood protection and water quality, and provide economic and recreational benefits to anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife watchers.