Along Cape Cod, salt marshes line the coast with stretches of lush green grass divided by winding blue water. Fish, turtles, and birds—including rare species like the eastern box turtle, least tern, and river herring—come to the marshes for nesting and feeding. For people, these coastal areas provide not only picturesque views, but also a welcome buffer against stormy weather and a natural filter for pollutants.
But these salt marshes are harmed by development. Tara Nye, biologist for the Association to Preserve Cape Cod, said roads and railroad tracks that cross the marshes have restricted the flow of saltwater, or tidal flow, which nourishes these habitats. “Thirty-eight percent of our historic marshes – nearly 7,000 acres – have been degraded,” said Nye.
Several Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs), funded through CLF’s Environmental Enforcement Project, have focused on trying to reverse this pattern. These projects have involved monitoring three marshes where efforts have been made to increase tidal flow or decrease tidal restrictions. The projects have shown the changes that occur, specifically in plant life, when salinity levels are altered. “The [SEP] grant provided the Association with the resources to track and generate vital data that helps guide current and future saltwater marsh habitat care and protection,” said Nye.
Since the project first began in 2003, 13 marshes (265 acres) have been restored. While there are still around 200 salt marshes on Cape Cod that have restricted tidal flow, the SEP grants have provided important funding to continue this path toward restoration.