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Habitat Goals and NEP Plans

National Estuary Program Habitat Goals


Like the individual NEPs, the EPA has established goals with respect to habitat in its Strategic Plan (GPRA).

EPA's new Strategic Plan defines key goals for the Agency over the next five years (2006-2011). Under these goals, there are specific sub objectives and strategic targets that define, in measurable terms, the environmental change to be accomplished by 2011. The strategic target that addresses the NEPs states that:

"By 2011, protect or restore an additional 250,000 acres of habitat within the study areas for the 28 estuaries that are part of the National Estuary Program."

NEPs report annually to EPA the number of habitat acres they have protected and/or restored. These reports include Habitat Categories, and type of Protection/Restoration Activity. This information is accessible in National Program Results, and it helps EPA determine if individual NEP strategic targets are being accomplished.

Continue to the "National Program Results" page to learn more about National Estuary Program progress toward its strategic target of protection/restoring an additional 250,000 acres of habitat.

NEP Communities Design Local Solutions for Restoring Habitat


At the 28 NEP Study Areas around the country, local stakeholders work together to identify and prioritize the problems in their estuaries. NEP community stakeholders include citizens, educators, government representatives, environmental advocates, business leaders, scientists, farmers, and people who fish. Through an extensive consensus-driven stakeholder process, each NEP community develops a Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) with specific actions designed to protect the estuary and its resources. The objective is to create and implement a plan that addresses the whole range of environmental problems facing the estuary.

The CCMPs developed to date contain wide-ranging actions to address habitat loss and degradation. These include efforts to acquire or preserve open space, develop conservation easements for riparian buffer areas, and restore or create habitats through revegetation programs; efforts to improve water quality through upgrades in wastewater treatment plants, or improved stormwater and septic systems; the monitoring and mapping of critical areas; and public outreach and education activities. All of these efforts are carried out through partnerships between federal, state, and local agencies with assistance from private and nonprofit sectors and citizens.

For hightlights of specific NEP efforts please see the National Estuary Program: Habitat Protection and Restoration book:



Visit Habitat Restoration Prioritization Framework  Exit EPA Disclaimer to view an NEP Habitat Restoration Strategy from the Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership.
Target Ecosystem Characteristics (TECs) for the Hudson Raritan Estuary: Technical Guidance for Developing a Comprehensive Ecosystem Restoration Plan (2007) (PDF) (112 pp, 1.7MB, About PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer
TECs are an important component of the overall habitat restoration planning effort in the harbor
View the Long Island Sound Habitat Restoration Initiative (PDF) (138 pp, 1.8MB, About PDF)  Exit EPA Disclaimer to see an example of an NEP habitat restoration manual from the Long Island Sound Study
View the The Land Conservation Plan for New Hampshire's Coastal Watersheds (PDF) (268 pp, 24.7MB, About PDF)  Exit EPA Disclaimer to see an example of an NEP land conservation plan from the Piscataqua Region Estuaries Partnership

To see information about each NEP's CCMP and their habitat goals, please visit their NEP home pages.


National Estuaries Program Habitat Measure

The habitat protection efforts reported here, while coordinated and reported by the NEP, were accomplished through the efforts of the many individual state, local, and federal partners that comprise each estuary program. These stakeholders have committed significant time and resources to support habitat-related Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) actions that serve as the basis of the acreage numbers reported. It is through these strong partnerships and collective efforts that the NEPs are able to address not only habitat loss and alteration, but the broad range of problems facing local coastal communities and our estuaries.

EPA recognizes that although habitat acreage restored and protected is a strong measure of on-the-ground progress made by NEPs, it does not necessarily reflect improvements in habitat health (e.g., water quality and living resources). This habitat measure is used as an indicator to show tangible results towards a goal of conserving and enhancing the ecological health of estuaries. It represents an initial performance measurement effort that will evolve over time.

In addition, although the habitat acreage measure is reported annually, EPA recognizes that complete habitat restoration is a long-term process. While visual transformations in habitat structure and composition due to restoration efforts may be seen after a growing season, or use of the habitat by various key species may increase over a short period of time, changes in ecological function may not be fully realized for many years.

EPA acknowledges that there are data limitations associated with the habitat information reported by each NEP. For example, there may be inconsistencies in reporting based on different interpretations of the habitat categories or definitions of protection and restoration (see Protection and Restoration Terms), acreage may be miscalculated due to human error when transferring data supplied by other NEP partners, and there may be double counting of acreage in some cases where activities are repeatedly done on-site (such as replanting vegetation on the same habitat parcel due to storm damage). Although these limitations exist, the data presented is as accurate as possible based on review and inspection by each NEP prior to posting on this web page.

For individual NEP reports, please visit Local NEP Projects and Regional Summary.

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