NFWF Announces $2.4 Million in Grants Benefiting Freshwater Species and Working Lands in the Southeastern United States

Eight projects will benefit freshwater species in targeted watersheds

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 18, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced $2.4 million in grants to restore and enhance aquatic habitats to improve populations of imperiled native freshwater aquatic species in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee. The grants will leverage $1.8 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $4.2 million.

The grants were awarded through the Southeast Aquatics Fund, a competitive grant program and public-private partnership with funding provided this year by six different funders, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Cargill, Nestlé and Southern Company.

"The Southeast is a hotspot for global aquatic biodiversity, and these projects will help safeguard this incredibly valuable resource," said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. "By improving conditions in-stream and across the landscape, these grants will address threats to aquatic species at multiple scales."

The projects supported by the eight grants announced today will utilize a variety of conservation strategies to positively impact native freshwater species. These strategies include restoring rivers and streams, reducing harmful runoff, conserving stream flow, and assessing species and habitat conditions to prioritize future restoration actions. Several projects will also work with landowners to adopt voluntary practices that conserve aquatic habitat by improving water quality. 

"America's farms, ranches, and private forests provide important aquatic habitat," said NRCS Chief Terry Cosby. "The public-private partnerships sustained by these grants will help support farmers and ranchers as they help protect these habitats and improve water quality through voluntary conservation."

"We are proud to engage in partnerships to promote healthy aquatic ecosystems and improve freshwater wildlife diversity," said Regional Forester Ken Arney, for the Forest Service's Southern Region. "Managing our resources together across all lands enables us to achieve the most impactful and beneficial restoration." 

"The Service is proud to support aquatic conservation efforts in the Southeast’s natural areas," said Mike Oetker, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's acting regional director. "These restoration efforts will help recover several endangered and threatened species, and conserve many at-risk species, only found in this regionwhile also balancing working lands and community goals."

Importantly, 196,000 acres of working lands will be improved by these grants through voluntary agricultural best management practices (BMPs) and innovative grazing lands management which will filter water, improve soil health, and even improve the carbon sequestration capacity of the land. Additionally, by improving the quality of forage on grazing lands through improved management, these projects will increase the carrying capacity of the land resulting in higher yield. This slate of projects will benefit aquatic species including the striped bass, bridled darter, trispot darter, blue shiner, Alabama rainbow mussel and oval pigtoe mussel.

"The aquatic diversity in the southeastern United States is unrivaled," said Jesalyn McCurry, Southern Company’s environmental stewardship manager. "It's important we protect natural resources in the communities we serve, which is why we are thankful for the Southeast Aquatics conservation partnerships."

Launched in 2017, the Southeast Aquatics Fund supports voluntary watershed-based restoration and improved management to improve aquatic systems and secure populations of native freshwater aquatic species. Including this year's grants, the program has awarded $10.5 million to 46 conservation projects expected to benefit more than 700,000 acres of working lands and riparian areas and restored more than 60 miles of the most biodiverse stream habitat in the world.

A complete list of the 2023 grants made through the Southeast Aquatics Fund is available here.    

About the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Chartered by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores the nation’s fish, wildlife, plants and habitats. Working with federal, corporate, foundation and individual partners, NFWF has funded more than 6,000 organizations and generated a total conservation impact of $8.1 billion. NFWF is an equal opportunity provider. Learn more at

About the Natural Resources Conservation Service
As the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s primary private lands conservation agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners make investments in their operations and local communities to keep working lands working, boost rural economies, increase the competitiveness of American agriculture, and improve the quality of our air, water, soil, and habitat. Through one-on-one, personalized and voluntary assistance, NRCS works with producers and communities to find the best solutions to meet their unique conservation and business goals to ensure the health of our natural resources and the long-term sustainability of American agriculture.

About the U.S. Forest Service
The mission of the USDA Forest Service is, “To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.” The Forest Service manages 193 million acres of forest lands with tribal governments, state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forest research organization in the world.

About the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is to work with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

About Southern Company
Southern Company (NYSE:SO) is a leading energy company serving 9 million customers through its subsidiaries. The company provides clean, safe, reliable and affordable energy through electric operating companies in three states, natural gas distribution companies in four states, a competitive generation company serving wholesale customers across America, a leading distributed energy infrastructure company, a fiber optics network and telecommunications services. Southern Company brands are known for excellent customer service, high reliability and affordable prices below the national average. For more than a century, we have been building the future of energy and developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including carbon-free nuclear, advanced carbon capture technologies, natural gas, renewables, energy efficiency and storage technology. Through an industry-leading commitment to innovation and a low-carbon future, Southern Company and its subsidiaries develop the customized energy solutions our customers and communities require to drive growth and prosperity. Our uncompromising values ensure we put the needs of those we serve at the center of everything we do and govern our business to the benefit of our world. Our corporate culture and hiring practices have been recognized nationally by the U.S. Department of Defense, G.I. Jobs magazine, DiversityInc, Black Enterprise, Forbes and the Women’s Choice Award. To learn more, visit

About Cargill
Cargill helps the world’s food system work for you. We connect farmers with markets, customers with ingredients and families with daily essentials—from the foods they eat to the floors they walk on. Our 160,000 team members around the world innovate with purpose, empowering our partners and communities as we work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible, sustainability way. 
From the feed that reduces methane emissions to waste-based renewable fuels, the possibilities are boundless. But our values remain the same. We put people first. We reach higher. We do the right thing. It’s how we’ve met the needs of the people we call neighbors and the planet we call home for 158 years—and how we’ll do so for generations to come. For more information, visit and our News Center

About Nestlé USA
Nestlé USA is committed to unlocking the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone, today and for generations to come. The company's food and beverage portfolio includes some of the most recognizable brands in the United States including Coffee mate, DiGiorno and Nestlé Toll House as well as category disruptors such as Sweet Earth, and are in nearly every home in the country. Nestlé USA also boasts the largest coffee portfolio in the U.S., including Nescafé and Nestlé Starbucks Coffee. Nestlé USA is part of Nestlé S.A. headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland — the world's largest food and beverage company, which has been named among "The World's Most Admired Food Companies" by Fortune magazine for twenty-five consecutive years. For more information, visit