Federal NAWCA grant supports long-term wetland conservation
RICHMOND, Tx., March 30, 2009 – Ducks Unlimited was awarded a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant to enhance over 5,728 acres of wetland habitat in Chambers and Jefferson counties along the Texas coast. Partners contributed more than $2 million to match the $1 million received from the federal grant. The project will restore high priority wintering habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds within the Chenier Plain of Texas.
“This proposal represents a continuation of long-term efforts to protect and enhance important wetland habitats along the Gulf Coast. These habitats support a rich diversity of wildlife species,” DU Manager of Conservation Programs for Texas, Todd Merendino said. “The planned restoration activities will partially compensate for the region’s degradation and loss of fresh and intermediate marshes and prairie grasslands, and will maximize waterfowl and other migratory bird values on the project areas by improving breeding, migration and wintering habitat.”
Emergent wetlands and coastal marshes of the Texas Gulf Coast provide critical migration and wintering habitat for millions of migratory birds. However, the region has experienced tremendous habitat alterations and wetland losses due to several factors including development pressures, urbanization, decreased rice agriculture, altered local and regional hydrology, and saltwater intrusion. The remaining wetland habitats within the Texas Gulf Coast support a rich diversity of wildlife species and are vital to wildlife population sustainability.
“Successful delivery of this project will help ensure that the Texas Gulf Coast will continue to be one of the most important wintering and migration habitats in North America for continental populations of waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland-dependent migratory birds,” Merendino said.
Under this proposal, partners will restore and enhance 5,728 acres of freshwater and coastal wetlands and associated transitional upland habitats including native grasslands on public lands within the Chenier Plain of Texas. Grant funds will also be used to restore and enhance a total of 2,639 acres of fresh / intermediate coastal marsh on McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac NWR, and J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area.
Much of the infrastructures on the public lands within the region are “legacy” features that are degraded, inefficient or altogether inoperable. Constructed decades ago, the managed wetland units on the federal and state lands listed in the proposal provide less than optimal habitat values for wintering waterfowl. The project will replace degraded culverts and pipes with modern water control structures, improve existing levees, and construct new levees to provide dependably managed additional flooded habitat.
Grant funding will also be used to construct terraces in a subsided marsh on Anahuac NWR. Terraces provide suitable conditions to re-establish submerged aquatic and emergent vegetation in the degraded marsh by reducing erosion and turbidity generated from wind-driven wave action.
“Like all of our projects, the partners involved in the Texas Chenier Plains improvement project make it possible,” Merendino said.
This NAWCA project combines the fish and wildlife management capabilities of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the wetland enhancement expertise of Ducks Unlimited. In addition, the partnership includes financial support from the BP America, Suemaur Exploration and Production, LLC, and Jefferson County Drainage District #6.
Jim Sutherlin, Area Manager at the J.D. Murphree WMA for TPWD states, “This partnership project will enhance management capabilities on approximately 1,100 acres of freshwater coastal marsh habitat. The aging water management infrastructure is in need of upgrades to enhance wetland habitat for wildlife and especially migratory waterfowl.”
In Washington, D.C., Ducks Unlimited’s governmental affairs staff works with Congress to raise support for annual funding of NAWCA. To date, NAWCA has helped fund more than 1,800 wetland projects on 24 million acres in all 50 states, every province of Canada, and areas in Mexico.
NAWCA projects have conserved over 135,000 acres in Texas alone. Thousands of partners, including private landowners, corporations and state governments have worked together to conserve wildlife habitat through NAWCA grants.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization, having conserved over 12 million acres. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands – natures’ most productive ecosystem – and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.