Working for Wildlife

Nature-based solutions and water coalitions

  • Delaney McPherson
  • Conservation
  • Jun 09, 2022

Program Spotlight

Nature-based solutions create coastal benefits

As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, our nation’s shorelines are at risk from severe storms, flooding, erosion and other threats. While hard structures such as bulkheads are prone to damage and can contribute to erosion by deflecting waves, living shorelines can be more effective at protecting coastlines and create habitat, purify water and benefit wildlife species (such as black oystercatchers, pictured).

A black oystercatcher wading

The National Wildlife Federation has helped construct multiple living shorelines, including at Conquest Beach in Maryland, which the Federation and local partners transformed from an unstable riverbank to a living shoreline with a “shingle beach” technique—which uses small stones to protect the beach from severe erosion—as well as other nature-based features. Other living shoreline tactics include marsh grass planting (shown at Windy Hill Farm in Maryland, above), oyster reef creation and dune building.

NWF also provides technical support and expertise to communities in the Gulf Region interested in creating living shorelines and helps facilitate training that teaches marine contractors how to install nature-based features. It also works with communities to understand their needs and connect them with state agencies to help provide funding.

“We do this work with an overarching equity lens,” says NWF Adaptation and Coastal Resilience Specialist Arsum Pathak. “We want to make sure these solutions are in communities of most need, where we are seeing high storm surges and erosion rates—while making sure the communities want them.”  


Sunset over a Louisiana Swamp

Working for clean water

Water coalitions grow capacity and reach

The Federation proudly works with nine coalitions devoted to protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems across the country: the Choose Clean Water Coalition, Healing Our Waters–Great Lakes Coalition, Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, Clean Water for All Coalition, Texas Living Waters Project, Healthy Headwaters Alliance, Everglades Coalition and Water Protection Network.

A man building a reef with oyster shells

Each of these works with regional partners. The Restore the Mississippi River Delta Coalition, for example, involves five core organizations and partners with NWF affiliates Louisiana Wildlife Federation and Mississippi Wildlife Federation, which work to protect the delta (above) using methods such as barrier island restorations, oyster reef creation (right) and sediment diversions. One priority project, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, will direct sediment-laden water from the Mississippi River into Barataria Bay to bolster thousands of acres of rapidly disappearing wetlands.

The Texas Living Waters Project advocates for equitable and sustainable water infrastructure as part of its broader focus on the health of Texas rivers, bays and estuaries. It supports “One Water” planning, an integrated management approach that prioritizes community participation, water reuse strategies and climate resilience. “We are big advocates of trying to get people to think differently about water infrastructure,” says Amanda Fuller, director of NWF’s Texas Coast and Water Program. “We want to encourage the incorporation of green and nature-based infrastructure elements.”  


More from National Wildlife magazine and the National Wildlife Federation:

Our Work: NWF Water Coalitions »
Blog: Living Shorelines Build Resilient Coasts »
Blog: Nature-based Climate Strategies Protect People and Wildlife »

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More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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