DARE COUNTY — The state Division of Coastal Management will use a recently awarded federal grant to acquire for conservation 35.6 acres of maritime evergreen forest and wetland habitats on Little Colington Island.
In what’s called the Meter Point Acquisition, the division will purchase for about $1.24 million the tract on a peninsula in Kitty Hawk Bay. The tract is to be incorporated into the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve.
The grant is part of more than $20 million Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced this week will go to 22 projects in 11 coastal states to protect, restore or enhance more than 7,000 acres of coastal wetlands and adjacent upland habitats under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.
“Through the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program, we are demonstrating our commitment to promoting coastal sustainability with healthy ecosystems, vibrant economies and resilient communities,” Bernhardt said.
State and local governments, private landowners, conservation groups and other partners are to contribute more than $26.7 million in additional funds to the projects. North Carolina’s grant request was $912,750 with a cost share of $326,500 for a total project cost of $1,239,250.
USFWS said the purchase will protect the Meter Point tract from development and conserve critical maritime forest and wetland habitats, maintain water quality, enhance resilience to sea level rise and increasing storms and provide habitat for a variety of important aquatic and terrestrial species. The protection will also enhance the ecological integrity of the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve and other cultural sites in the area.
The site will be accessible to the public by boat, and the state is to work with the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership, The Nature Conservancy and Dare County to install educational signage at nearby public boat ramps that describes the importance of protecting maritime forest and coastal wetland habitats.
“These grants are a superb example of states, local governments and private landowners working hand-in-hand with the federal government to ensure coastal communities and their irreplaceable natural environments continue to thrive for future generations,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Margaret Everson. “In addition to providing myriad conservation and economic benefits, these grants will increase recreational opportunities for anglers, boaters, hunters and wildlife-watchers across the nation.”
The grant program was created to acquire, restore and enhance wetlands in coastal areas through competitive matching grants to eligible state agencies. The program is funded in part through taxes paid on equipment and fuel purchases by recreational anglers and boaters. Officials said the billions of dollars generated through recreational angling, boating, waterfowl hunting and bird watching benefit communities in the vicinity of wetlands restoration projects.
Grants of up to $1 million are awarded to states based on a national competition, which enables states to determine and address their highest conservation priorities in coastal areas. Since 1992, USFWS has awarded more than $400 million in grants under the program.