The oyster reef building project marks the first in a series of habitat restoration projects aimed at restoring Alabama’s Gulf coast, an effort led by the 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama partnership.
“Mobile Bay stands out as an impressive model for long-term investments in habitat restoration, science and partnerships that can be replicated across the Gulf of Mexico,” said Judy Haner, marine director for The Nature Conservancy based in Alabama.
Volunteers from California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida and points in between participated in the inaugural event which was made possible in part through funding from the Alabama Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. For many participants, it was one of their first opportunities to actively engage in Gulf Coast restoration efforts in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
“Volunteer participation is critical to the success of restoration efforts Gulf wide,” said Bethany Kraft, executive director, Alabama Coastal Foundation. “The 100-1000 project provides people with the opportunity to have a significant impact on the future of the Gulf.”
The 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama partnership focuses on the importance of restoration in Gulf-wide recovery efforts according to Casi Callaway, executive director of Mobile Baykeeper. “Last weekend, citizens from across the Gulf took a major step forward in restoring our precious natural resources and the economic health of our coastal communities.”
Over the past few decades, coastal Alabama has lost its marshes, sea grass beds and oyster reef habitats through incompatible development practices, erosion, storm events, and most recently, the impacts of the Gulf oil disaster. In fact, scientists estimate 10-20 acres of intertidal habitat are lost each year. These challenges make Mobile Bay one of the largest potential areas for outright restoration, replacement and enhancement of lost habitats on the Northern Gulf coast.
“When I was young, we waded through these waters looking for flounder in thick beds of seagrass. When the oyster reefs were destroyed, the seagrass and flounder all disappeared. But what fun it was to get my feet wet again, rebuilding the oyster reefs that will welcome the grasses, flounder and shrimp back home," said Bill Finch, senior fellow with The Ocean Foundation.
The 100-1000 partnership is committed to kick starting coastal restoration in Alabama over the next three to five years by building 100 miles of oyster reefs and growing at least 1,000 acres of marsh and sea grass to make Alabama’s coastal areas more resilient to impacts from hurricanes, oil spills and climate change.
In addition to volunteers, the 100-1000 project represents a close collaboration with a growing roster of more than 20 public and private partners, ranging from federal and state agencies to academic institutions and private organizations, including a recent partnership with Boat People SOS (BPSOS), the largest Vietnamese-American community organization in the U.S.
About 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama
In 2010, four conservation organizations – Alabama Coastal Foundation, Mobile Baykeeper, The Nature Conservancy and The Ocean Foundation – formed 100-1000: Restore Coastal Alabama, a coalition to address the environmental impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and reverse years of damage from pollution, storms, development practices and erosion. With more than 20 public and private partners, the coalition is working to build 100 miles of oyster reefs and grow 1,000 acres of marsh and sea grass. To learn more, visit www.100-1000.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.