Projects: Habitat Protection

Habitat protection projects conserve key parcels of coastal lands, such as important habitats around National Wildlife Refuges and State Coastal Preserves, in order to protect those habitats in perpetuity. Projects may directly purchase private lands through fee simple acquisition, or work with landowners to purchase conservation easements. Involving landowners in conservation easement purchase programs often allow additional restoration and enhancement opportunities on the property. 

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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge Land Acquisition

  • State: Florida
  • Type: Habitat Protection
  • Estuary: Apalachicola Bay
  • Land Benefit: 20,000 acres

This project provides habitat conservation through land acquisition and permanent conservation easements via expansion of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. The project will enhance water quality, improve community resilience, protect coastal marine resources, and provide tremendous benefit to migratory bird species. The targeted tracts include wetland habitats that provide direct benefits to Apalachee Bay, St. Marks River, and the Gulf of Mexico. Two tracts, the Sam Shine tract (8,117 acres) and The Nature Conservancy Tract (7,699 acres) comprise the vast majority of this project. In addition, the 2,228-acre Lower Ochlockonee River Tract would provide protection to the local estuary, and two other easement parcels (totaling approximately 2,100 acres), would greatly aid the St. Marks River. This project will buffer Apalachee Bay, a high salinity, seagrass rich aquatic area which is an important corridor to the low salinity, phytoplankton rich area of nearby Apalachicola Bay.

Fish and Waterfowl Benefits

Apalachee Bay is also renowned as one of the cleanest and most ecologically abundant bays left in Florida. St. Marks NWR provides opportunities for both fresh and saltwater fishing. In addition to many lakes, ponds, creeks and rivers, the refuge has two boat launching sites for access to Apalachicola Bay. In addition, the refuge holds several organized hunts on portions of the refuge, including a special youth hunt.

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Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge Land Acquisition

  • State: Alabama
  • Type: Habitat Protection
  • Estuary: Mobile Bay
  • Land Benefit: 2,250 acres

The Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, in Alabama and Mississippi, protects one of the largest expanses of undisturbed pine savannah habitat in the Gulf Coast. The goals of the refuge include conserving valuable riverine habitat, protecting threatened and endangered species, restoring and protecting key coastal habitats and managing populations of migratory birds and other trust species. This project would add approximately 2,250 acres to the nearly 18,000 acres currently owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. It will add critical coastal frontage to the refuge for permanent protection and improved management of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland areas.

Fish and Waterfowl Benefits

The rare and vital habitat provided by Grand Bay NWR serves as a home for various plant communities and migratory bird species, which can often be observed in abundance. The refuge also provides many hunting and fishing opportunities for the public, including waterfowl hunting, deer stands, a free boat launch and a fishing pier.

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Gulf Islands National Seashore Land Acquisition

  • State: Mississippi
  • Type: Habitat Protection
  • Estuary: Mississippi Sound
  • Land Benefit: 250 acres

Gulf Islands National Seashore spans two barrier islands chains off the Mississippi Coast and Florida Panhandle. This project will permanently protect roughly 250 acres on Horn Island, through the acquisition of an outstanding 50 percent interest held in private ownership. These inholdings within the Gulf Islands National Seashore are among the highest acquisition priorities for the National Park Service. Its permanent protection would support a variety of wildlife species, would increase storm surge protection and would facilitate and public use of the property.

Fish and Waterfowl Benefits

Horn Island is one of the few nationally designated barrier island wilderness areas in the national park system, and provides excellent feeding, resting, and wintering habitat for numerous types of neotropical migrants and wintering waterfowl. In particular, the lands to be acquired provide nesting habitats for sea turtles, grazing seagrass beds for migrating manatees, as well as important barrier island maritime forests and freshwater wetland areas.

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West Powderhorn Ranch Acquisition (Powderhorn II)

  • State: Texas
  • Type: Habitat Protection
  • Estuary: Matagorda Bay
  • Land Benefit: 10,000 acres

On the west side of Powderhorn Ranch, is the 10,000-acre West Powderhorn ranch, with more than four miles of frontage on the tidally-influenced Powderhorn Lake, and healthy native prairie, live oak forest, tidal marsh, tidal flat and palustrine freshwater wetlands. Acquisition of the West Powderhorn site would expand the Powderhorn Ranch Wildlife Management Area and State Park to well over 27,000 acres. This estuary is provides habitat for a vast number of shorebirds, wading birds, waterfowl and Neotropical migrants.

Fish and Waterfowl Benefits

This project aids in assuring management for landscape scale ecosystem functions and sufficient habitat for whooping cranes, as well as a myriad of resident and migratory coastal species such as shore and wading birds and waterfowl, many of which are already identified by the state as species of greatest conservation need.

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San Antonio Bay Conservation Easement Acquisition

  • State: Texas
  • Type: Habitat Protection
  • Estuary: San Antonio Bay
  • Land Benefit: 2,500 acres

Private landowners hold and manage key tracts in and around the Guadalupe Delta and San Antonio Bay. Many of the lands are not currently available for fee simple purchase, however, a number of landowners have expressed interest in sale of conservation easements. Engaging local landowners through a conservation easement purchase program in this critical ecological area would also provide additional opportunities for enrolling these same landowners in a number of private lands habitat restoration and enhancement programs established by other private and public funders.

Fish and Waterfowl Benefits

The Guadalupe-Blanco River Trust holds conservation easements on over 9,000 acres of land that preserves wildlife corridors, native grasses, river and stream frontages, ranches and farms. Permanently protecting additional lands in this area would provide direct benefit to waterfowl, wetland dependent birds, endangered species and water quality.

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