The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has announced grants totaling $370 million in support of twenty-four coastal restoration projects in five Gulf states.
The fourth round of grants awarded through NFWF's Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, which was created in 2013 to help remedy environmental harm and reduce the risk of future damage to natural resources affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, will fund efforts in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Under plea agreements between the U.S. Department of Justice and BP and Transocean, $2.544 billion will be directed to NFWF over five years; to date, the fund has distributed more than $870 million in grants.
The grants include $63 million for six projects in Alabama, including the acquisition and restoration of coastal habitats and the continuation of fisheries monitoring; $32 million for four projects in Florida, including monitoring of fisheries, expansion of shorebird restoration activities, enhancement to sea turtle stranding response capacity, and oyster reef restoration; and $245 million for five projects in Louisiana, including the engineering and design of two major sediment diversions along the Lower Mississippi River that will result in the restoration and protection thousands of acres of vulnerable coastal wetlands. The fund also awarded more than $16.2 million for two projects in Mississippi to expand a coastal bird stewardship and monitoring program and to advance marine mammal and sea turtle conservation, and nearly $12 million for seven projects in Texas, including the acquisition of coastal habitat, protection of critical stretches of shoreline, enhancement of rookery habitats, and hydrologic restoration of vital coastal wetland habitat.
"Our nation's Gulf Coast encompasses some of the most unique and irreplaceable wildlife habitat in the world — thirty-three major river systems and more than two hundred estuaries culminate here, providing food and shelter for hundreds of native species of birds, fish and other wildlife and plants," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe. "The Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund plays a crucial role in helping the Service and its partners address the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and restore the health of the Gulf for the wildlife and people who share this incredible place."