Purchase of large Dauphin Island plot offers protection of endangered species
The purchase of 838 acres on the west end of Dauphin Island will help protect a diverse coastal habitat frequented by endangered birds and sea turtles, state conservation officials said.
Funds from Alabama’s portion of the $8.8 billion settlement by BP for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf were used to buy the land that was until recently privately owned, the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group announced. The Dauphin Island West End Acquisition project was approved as part of the Alabama Restoration Plan III and Environmental Assessment.
The new public property is a diverse coastal habitat made up of dunes, marsh and beaches. Turtles and birds use these habitats for nesting. Neotropical migratory birds use the area as a prime resting spot during migrations.
“Public ownership of the west end of Dauphin Island will allow for the protection and management of its habitats,” said Chris Blankenship, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. “Through the collaborative work of the Alabama Trustee Implementation Group and the local stakeholders, the acquisition of this land will have a tremendous benefit for coastal and water birds injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”
The piping plover is a federally protected threatened species that is among the species on the west end of the 166-square-mile barrier island southwest of Mobile. Conserving this parcel will ensure that the sensitive coastal habitat is protected for years to come, Blankenship said.
Along with providing habitat, barrier islands protect natural and human communities against ocean storms. Waves expend their energy as they break on the island beaches. Because they buffer the Gulf’s wave action, barrier islands protect salt marshes and seagrass beds, which are nurseries for valuable marine species.
In partnership with the Department of the Interior and the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Mobile County and the town of Dauphin Island will develop a bird conservation and management plan to guide future activities on the new public land. Activities to support productive bird populations will likely include improvements to the habitat, temporary protective closures surrounding nests, protections from predators, and education and outreach.
“The acquisition of the west end of Dauphin Island provides much-needed protections for threatened piping plover habitat,” said Erin Plitsch, restoration biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Alabama’s coastal habitat is a favorite for bird watchers and wildlife habitat enthusiasts alike, and this project will add to the continuing effort to restore these vulnerable areas.”
For more information on this and other Alabama projects, visit the Alabama Restoration Area portion of the Gulf Spill Restoration website.
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)