The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has awarded $2.1 million in grants to restore and enhance aquatic habitats for vulnerable freshwater aquatic species in watersheds in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. These grants are being matched with more than $2.9 million for a total conservation impact of more than $5 million.
The 11 grants were awarded through the Southeast Aquatics Fund, a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Southern Co.
The projects will benefit more than 20 miles of stream habitat, improve management of more than 50,000 acres or working lands — by working with private landowners to implement conservation practices — and benefit species including the bridled and trispot darter, blue shiner, Alabama rainbow and Coosa creekshell. The projects are focused on the Coosa River Basin in Alabama and Georgia, including Big Canoe Creek and Holly Creek watersheds, the Lower Flint River watershed in Georgia and within coastal watersheds across the five Gulf Coast states.
Among the projects in Alabama are:
- Monitoring the status of bridled darters and assessing threats to the blue shiners. This grant was awarded to the Tennessee Aquarium, whose researchers will utilize snorkeling, eDNA surveys and DNA analysis from tissues to monitor bridled darters and assess threats to blue shiners in the Coosa River drainage area. The grant award was for $113,097, with matching funds of $116,970 for a total project amount of $230,066.
- Improving passage and monitoring populations of trispot darters in Big Canoe Creek Watershed. The project will remove two large culverts from an identified priority restoration site and replace with a bridge structure to improve the hydrologic regime, monitor fish before and after the restoration, conduct an assessment of spawning site populations and conduct surveys in non-spawning habitats. The grant amount was $235,367 with a match of $235,496 for a total award of $470,863.
- Engaging landowners to improve habitat for at-risk aquatic species in South Alabama. This grant was awarded to the Alabama Forestry Foundation in the amount of $350,000 with a match of $350,000 for a total award of $700,000. It will go towards increasing outreach and technical assistance to private landowners in the 10-county area of South Alabama. The project will work closely with 120 landowners to develop a management plan that includes best practices and implementing conservation practices, with the hope being able to improve 7,500 acres and 20 stream miles.