A 210-acre parcel of pristine Whidbey Island shoreline will be protected, restored and made accessible to the public thanks in part to a $1,422,500 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Coastal Resilience Fund grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), was announced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell on December 6. The grant was awarded to the Whidbey Camano Island Land Trust. The Land Trust purchased an area along Admiralty Bay earlier this year, preserving the land for habitat restoration and increasing public access to the shore. A portion of the grant, $600,000, will go toward repayment of the emergency bridge-loans the Land Trust’s used to purchase the property; the remainder will go toward restoring salmon-friendly coastal bluff habitat on the property.

The National Coastal Resilience Fund invests in restoring or expanding natural coastal features that protect people, fish, and wildlife from storms, sea level rise, and other hazards. The program is funded in part through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. During negotiations of the law, Sen. Cantwell championed and delivered substantial increases in funding for coastal resilience programs, including this one. “Thanks to funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, this $1.4 million grant will help Whidbey Islanders restore more than half a mile of their shoreline to its natural state, providing habitat for salmon and many other species,” Sen. Cantwell said. “The public will also be able to access this new local beach and can enjoy its views, its wildlife, and its education opportunities.”

The Whidbey Camano Island Land Trust is matching the grant with $3,248,000, bringing the total project investment to $4,670,500. “The Land Trust is thrilled to have been chosen to receive the National Coastal Resilience Fund grant for Keystone Preserve, and the opportunity to showcase how habitat protection and restoration can help keep Island communities resilient to the impacts of climate change,” said Ryan Elting, executive director of the Land Trust.  “There aren’t many chances left to protect this much shoreline and forest on the Islands, and allow the public to see first-hand how strategic conservation benefits communities and the environment.”

The 210-acre parcel was previously a privately-owned farm. The project will restore 15 acres along 2,500 linear feet of bluff-top to native coastal habitat. The bluff habitat will be packed with carbon-sequestering native vegetation to naturally stabilize the bluffs, benefiting kelp and eelgrass beds along the nearshore that are critical habitat for salmon and many coastal species. Part of the property that’s currently used for farming will be used to show the environmental benefits of regenerative agriculture. Work is expected to start this summer and continue through the end of 2025. “Work has already started on the project,” said Director of Coastal Resilience Jessica Grannis. “The funding that has been secured will greatly help this restoration project and will aide in creating a natural environment for native wildlife.”

In Washington state, five National Coastal Resilience Fund grants were announced, totaling $18.5 million. The National Coastal Resilience Fund is managed by the (NFWF) and NOAA. Nationwide, 88 National Coastal Resilience Fund grants were announced, totaling $136 million. The grants awarded through NFWF’s National Coastal Resilience Fund will leverage more than 94 million in matching contributions to generate a total conservation impact of 230 million.