The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation announced Tuesday the award of more than $370 million from its Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund for 25 projects in five Gulf states, including four critical conservation projects in Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will receive over $19 million to continue current conservation programs related to shorebirds, Gulf of Mexico fisheries and sea turtle stranding response. The fourth Florida project aids in recovery of oyster reefs in the Big Bend region and is managed by the University of Florida. The projects are designed to help natural resources recover and improve after being affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Florida projects address high priority restoration and conservation needs.
“This important funding will allow the FWC to continue to do large-scale conservation work on behalf of all of the citizens of Florida,” said FWC Chairman Brian Yablonski. “By properly targeting funding from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, we can ensure that Florida’s recovery efforts are tailor-fitted to meet the needs of our wildlife and citizens.”
Over $11 million will go to restoring Florida’s shorebird and seabird populations. The FWC and Audubon Florida, as project partners, will begin to implement Florida’s new beach-nesting bird plan.
“This project complements our Critical Wildlife Areas,” Yablonski said. “This is another way in which we are able to work with our partners to conserve precious shorebird habitat.”
The FWC will consider the establishment and improvement of existing CWAs this week. CWAs are designed to protect important wildlife concentrations, such as congregations of nesting and wintering seabirds and shorebirds, from human disturbance during critical periods of their life cycles, such as nesting or migration.
NFWF was created by Congress in 1984 and has become one of the world’s largest conservation grant-makers. In 2013, a U.S. District Court approved two plea agreements resolving certain criminal cases against BP and Transocean that arose from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. The agreements direct funding to NFWF to fund projects benefiting the natural resources of the Gulf Coast that were impacted by the spill.
“Shorebirds and seabirds were among the most visible victims of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy,” said Julie Wraithmell, Audubon Florida’s Deputy Executive Director. “The FWC and NFWF’s investment in these important species is helping make the Gulf whole again.”
For more information about the GEBF’s Florida projects, visit NFWF.org. For more information about the FWC’s Critical Wildlife Areas, visit MyFWC.com/Conservation and click on “Terrestrial” then “Critical Wildlife Areas.”