Bill would refresh coastal conservation program

June 25, 2021

Lawmakers have waved off some customary Capitol Hill differences to float a bill that would continue some politically popular coastal conservation efforts.

Jointly introduced by Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, the legislation would reauthorize the Fish and Wildlife Service's Coastal Program. The program provides a variety of grants, among other measures.

"This collaborative bill will ensure the health and resilience of coastal ecosystems, benefiting the wildlife, communities, and economies that depend on them," said Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Oceans and Wildlife.

Huffman introduced the House version of the "Coastal Habitat Conservation Act of 2021," H.R. 4092, along with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico). Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a companion, S. 2194, in the Senate.

The FWS Coastal Program brings together activities in priority areas along the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes and in the Caribbean.

It also co-administers the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program with the Sport Fish Restoration Program to provide grants of up to $1 million to coastal and Great Lakes states, as well as U.S. territories.

In South Carolina, for instance, Coastal Program staff assisted with two prescribed burns on the Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

FWS reported that the prescribed burns reduced wildfire threats to the refuge and improved 400 acres of habitat for the threatened wood stork and other migratory birds.

"Protecting South Carolina's wetlands is an economic driver and ensures our natural resources are preserved for future generations," Graham said.

Coastal wetlands comprise 38% of the estimated 107.7 million acres of U.S. wetlands. They provide essential habitat for nearly half of all endangered and threatened species and help protect coastal areas from storm damage.

The legislation would authorize appropriations of $20 million to $25 million for each year of fiscal 2022 through 2026.

By:  Michael Doyle
Source: E&E News