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Matagorda Island Salt Marsh Restoration Project Receives Gulf Guardian Award

Release Date: 09/03/2009
Contact Information: Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. – The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aransas National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program will receive a third place Gulf Guardian Award for 2009 in the Partnership Category. The 2009 Gulf Guardians hold a special significance this year as they will be awarded on the 10th Anniversary of the Gulf of Mexico Program’s Gulf Guardian Awards Program! (2000-2009). The ceremony will be held on the evening of October 29, 2009, beginning at approximately 6 p.m in the Magnolia Ballroom at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. The Awards ceremony is being held in conjunction with the Oceans `09 International Conference.

The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge, began work to restore approximately 15,000 acres of saltmarsh on Matagorda Island. The area known as the Western Marsh serves as critical habitat for the whooping crane and provides habitat for crabs, shrimp, fish, and migratory birds. In the 1950’s the estuarine marsh was sectioned off with constructed levees so that they could be drained for cattle production. Although this program was generally ineffective at producing productive rangelands, the resulting modifications to the hydrology and elevations resulted in colonization by non-native species and an altered circulation, exchange, and drainage patterns. The system of levees and roads remains mostly intact, with the exception of some recent restoration work.

In 2007, the CBBEP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed an Adaptive Management Plan (AMP) to guide and prioritize this restoration effort. By the summer of 2008 approximately 2,500 aces of marsh were restored by the removal of sections of levee as well as the installation of culverts in key areas identified in the AMP. The project is a cooperative effort between CBBEP, the Refuge, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program. All have provided funding and technical expertise to the project. Other project partners have included Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Friends of Aransas and Matagorda Island National Wildlife Refuge, Fish America, and Tivoli ISD.

The Gulf of Mexico Program initiated the Gulf Guardian awards in 2000 as a way to recognize and honor the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in seven categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, partnership and bi-national efforts.

"The Gulf Guardian Awards recognize the positive efforts to protect the important natural resources the Gulf of Mexico holds. The Gulf provides critical habitat for wildlife, recreation and commerce for humans, protection for inland communities, and so much more," said Acting Regional Administrator Lawrence Starfield of U.S. EPA Region 6. "By preserving this vital resource, this year's winners are gaining benefits for all Americans."

The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Bryon Griffith, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Program said, “The Gulf Guardian Awards Program is in its 10th year of honoring citizens, governments and businesses throughout the 5 State Gulf Region for outstanding environmental achievements. Our 2009 award winners are truly an inspiration and exemplify the high quality of projects being done that generate as much excitement and pride as the award winners did in the beginning. With the addition of the Binational Gulf Guardian award in 2005, we now appropriately pay tribute to the bond we share in protecting this treasured resource with our southern neighbors and friends.”

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2008, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button.

Editor’s Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call the Gulf of Mexico Program Office at 228-688-3726 or visit our web site at