WASHINGTON - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is awarding $1 million in grants to strengthen the capacity of states and tribes to protect and restore wetlands. The National Wetland Program Development Grants provide interstate agencies, intertribal consortia, and non-profit organizations with funding to develop and refine comprehensive state, tribal, and local wetland programs.
“Wetlands are part of the foundation of our nation's water resources and are vital to the health of waterways and communities that are downstream,” said Ken Kopocis, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water at EPA. “Wetlands feed downstream waters, trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution, and provide fish and wildlife habitat. Wetlands are also economic drivers because of their key role in fishing, hunting, agriculture and recreation.”
EPA is announcing the award of six proposals. All proposed projects must be linked to environmental results and demonstrate how they will contribute to developing healthy communities and ecosystems. The selected proposals are:
·Leveraging Hazard Mitigation Buyouts (acquisition of flood prone areas) to Protect and Restore Wetlands and Improve Watershed Health - The Environmental Law Institute and the University of North Carolina will investigate and map hazard mitigation buyouts in three states to examine the potential wetland habitat and flood mitigation benefits of acquired properties. The two organizations will provide recommendations to help wetland programs across the country enhance collaboration with hazard mitigation planners and emergency managers. They will also leverage hazard mitigation buyouts to restore, manage, and connect acquired properties to provide wetland and wildlife habitat and improve community resilience.
·Improving In-Lieu Fee Mitigation Practice Through Training - The Environmental Law Institute will design and host a conference and a series of webinars devoted to addressing the needs of state, tribal, and local governments seeking approval for, administering, or overseeing In-Lieu Fee compensatory wetland mitigation programs.
·Creation of an Online Academy to Advance the Use of Living Shorelines - Restore America’s Estuaries and its partners will create and operate a "Living Shorelines Academy" focused on promoting the use of natural protection methods to reduce degradation of fringing shorelines and fish habitat that surround our nation’s estuaries.
·Development of a Stewardship Calculator for Wetland Mitigation Banking - The Nature Conservancy and its partners will convene a group of national experts to develop a Wetland Stewardship Calculator, accompanying handbook, and web-based application. These resources will support the ability of states, tribes, local governments, and land trusts (“wetland stewards”) to successfully provide long-term stewardship of wetland protection sites.
·Creating New Access to High Quality Wetland Training for State and Tribal Wetland Program Field Professionals - The Association of State Wetland Managers and its partners will focus on connecting state, tribal, and wetland professionals with training opportunities and resources. The project will increase these professionals’ ability to implement wetland programs. ASWM will convene a Working Group to identify national and regional wetland training needs and assist in developing the other products of this project.
·Raising the Bar on Wetland Restoration Success Nationwide - The Association of State Wetlands Managers will work on several related projects. These include developing a national strategy for improving wetland restoration success and pursuing strategies to improve permit application and review of voluntary restoration projects. ASWM will also work on developing a series of written and web-based resources on best management approaches for wetland restoration.