Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced the award of $19.2 million to support 25 conservation projects benefiting fish and wildlife on more than 6,100 acres of coastal habitat in 11 states through the 2010 National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program.

The federal grants will be matched by nearly $26 million in partner contributions from state and local governments, private landowners and conservation groups.

The USFWS said the grants will be used to acquire, restore or enhance coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands to provide long-term conservation benefits to fish, wildlife and their habitat. States receiving funds include California, Florida, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

“There are few actions we can take that are more important to the health of our environment, our wildlife and ultimately our coastal communities and their economies than conserving and restoring these vital wetlands,” Salazar said. “The grants I am announcing today will enable us to continue to work in partnership with states, conservation organizations and other partners to acquire, protect and restore these vital areas and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.”

The National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funded under provisions of the 1990 Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act. Funding is provided by Sport Fish Restoration Act revenue – money generated from an excise tax on fishing equipment and motorboat and small engine fuels.

Including the 2010 grants, the Service has awarded nearly $240 million to coastal states and territories since the program began in 1992. When the 2010 projects are complete, over 260,000 acres of habitat will have been protected, restored or enhanced.

Several examples of projects include:

•· Lake Michigan Coastal Wetlands Protection, Shivering Sands Unit: The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, partnering with The Nature Conservancy and Door County Land Trust, was awarded $1 million to acquire 468 acres in Door County, Wisconsin. The site is characterized by lakeshore, coastal wetlands, dune-swale topography, embayment lakes and large tracts of mixed conifer forest. The proposed acquisition will become part of the Shivering Sands Unit of the Cave Point to Clay Banks State Natural Area, which encompasses 4,000 acres. The project will protect habitat for two federally listed species – the endangered Hines emerald dragonfly and threatened Dwarf lake iris.

•· Madsen-Ridge Conservation Easement Great Marsh Estuary: The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, partnering with the Great Marsh Land Protection Team, was awarded $353,500 to permanently protect 177 acres of coastal salt marsh and associated upland buffer through the purchase of a conservation easement. The property is located south of the Plum Island Sound and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Marsh is the largest salt marsh in New England covering 25,000 acres. It functions as a major shellfish and fin fish nursery and is a critically important foraging and resting area for migrating birds along the Atlantic Flyway.

•· Stanley Point/South Willapa Bay Conservation: The Washington Department of Ecology was awarded $1 million to protect more than 700 acres of high quality wetlands, including estuarine emergent salt marsh, eelgrass meadows, mud flats, marsh scrub-shrub and freshwater forested wetlands in southwest Washington. The project area includes Willapa Bay, one of the most productive areas for oyster cultivation in the Pacific Northwest. The project area is also adjacent to the 15,000-acre Willapa Bay National Wildlife Refuge.