On Jan. 27, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded $1 million in National Wetland Program Development Grants, which provide interstate agencies, intertribal consortia, and non-profit organizations with funding to develop and refine comprehensive state, tribal, and local wetland programs.

EPA announced the award of six proposals including the first on leveraging hazard mitigation buyouts — the acquisition of flood-prone areas — to protect and restore wetlands and improve watershed health. The Environmental Law Institute and the University of North Carolina will investigate and map hazard mitigation buyouts in three states to examine the potential wetland habitat and flood mitigation benefits of acquired properties. The two organizations will provide recommendations to help wetland programs across the country enhance collaboration with hazard mitigation planners and emergency managers. They also will leverage hazard mitigation buyouts to restore, manage, and connect acquired properties to provide wetland and wildlife habitat and improve community resilience. In a second project, The Environmental Law Institute also will focus on improving in-lieu fee compensatory wetland mitigation programs through training.

Restore America’s Estuaries and its partners will create and operate a “Living Shorelines Academy” focused on promoting the use of natural protection methods to reduce degradation of fringing shorelines and fish habitat that surround the nation’s estuaries.

The Nature Conservancy and its partners will convene a group of national experts to develop a Wetland Stewardship Calculator, accompanying handbook, and web-based application.

The Association of State Wetland Managers and its partners will focus on connecting state, tribal, and wetland professionals with training opportunities and resources. A second project by The Association of State Wetlands Managers will develop a national strategy for improving wetland restoration success and create a series of resources on best management approaches for wetland restoration.