The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) released a press release announcing at the Urban Waters National Training Workshop that 58 community-led wetland, stream, and coastal restoration projects across the nation have been awarded approximately $2.2 million in grants. The grantees have committed an additional $5.2 million in local project support, creating a total conservation investment of more than $7.4 million in projects that will restore wildlife habitat and urban waters. These projects will engage thousands of volunteers, students and local residents in community-based conservation projects.
The grants are awarded through the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program, which develops community stewardship of local natural resources across the country, preserving these resources for future generations and enhancing habitat for local wildlife by addressing water quality issues in priority watersheds. Since 1999, the program has supported more than 820 projects, with more than $9.8 million in federal funds, $7.9 million in private and corporate contributions, and $67 million in matching funds at the local level. Programmatic support for 2016 Five Star and Urban Waters program is provided by the Wildlife Habitat Council, and major funding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, FedEx, Southern Company, Bank of America and Alcoa.
“The Five Star and Urban Restoration Program is such a wonderful example of a successful community-focused conservation effort,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director, and CEO of NFWF. “The program is in its 17th year, so it represents a long-term commitment to environmental challenges. And because a major program component is engaging communities in conservation, not only do we see the conservation benefits of the individual projects, but we also see the tremendous rewards of involving and educating citizens in the restoration and protection of clean water and healthy fish and wildlife habitat in their own communities.”
“The Urban Waters Federal Partnership reconnects urban communities, particularly those that are overburdened or economically distressed, with their waterways by improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with community-led revitalization efforts to improve our nation’s water systems and promote their economic, environmental and social benefits,” said EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator for Water Joel Beauvais. “This public-private partnership allows EPA to assist communities in ways we could not do on our own.”
“With a significant portion of our operations, people, and facilities based in metropolitan centers, we highly value healthy urban spaces and appreciate the opportunity to invest in these restoration projects through financial contributions and team member volunteerism,” said Mitch Jackson, vice president of environmental affairs and sustainability for FedEx Corp. “Through NFWF and the FedEx EarthSmart Outreach program, FedEx team members work directly with local nonprofits to improve the urban spaces where they live and work. We congratulate the community groups that were selected to receive grants as a part of the Five Star and Urban Waters Restoration Program.”
“Forests and water are inextricably linked,” said U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie. “About 20 percent of the water used by families, farms and businesses in the United States originates on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and our urban forests provide billions of dollars in storm water management savings. USDA is pleased to support urban forest restoration so important to water quality and community health.”
“This year’s projects provide an excellent foundation for conserving natural resources well into the future by connecting and educating communities through hands-on watershed restoration,” said Southern Company Chief Environmental Officer Dr. Larry S. Monroe. “Southern Company’s long-standing support of the Five Star and Urban Waters program is an example of how we help make communities better because we are there.”
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched our Urban Wildlife Conservation Program in 2013 to grow collaborative efforts that provide residents of demographically diverse cities with fresh opportunities to get outdoors and experience nature within the urban environment”, said National Wildlife Refuge System Chief Cynthia Martinez. “These grants will help connect a new generation in the stewardship of our natural resources.”
Another way the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reaches new audiences in urban areas is through birds and their conservation. The Service’s Urban Bird Treaty cities bring together private citizens, federal, state, and municipal agencies, and non-governmental organizations to conserve migratory birds through education programs, participation in citizen science, habitat conservation, and improvement, and reducing hazards to birds in urban/suburban areas. “Through the Urban Bird Treaty Program, citizens in metropolitan areas across the country are engaging in conservation efforts and education activities that are making a difference for the birds, habitats, and people in their local communities,” said Jerome Ford, the Service’s Assistant Director for the Migratory Bird Program.
The Five Star and Urban Waters 2016 winners were selected from a highly competitive pool of more than 220 applications. The partnership bases consideration for funding upon educational and training opportunities for youth and the community at large as well as ecological, cultural and economic benefits. These projects also involve a high degree of partnership between local government agencies, elected officials, community groups, businesses, schools and environmental organizations for improving local water quality and restoring important fish and wildlife habitats. A full list of 2016 projects is available here.