AP Photo/Eric RisbergThe Tidelands Trail goes through former salt ponds at the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge with traffic on highway 84 in the background Thursday

Fish & Wildlife Service announces $1.24 billion plan for Bay Area wetlands

A 50-year plan for the restoration of San Francisco Bay and other coastal wetlands was released Thursday by federal wildlife officials who call it the biggest effort to save tidal marshes outside the Florida Everglades.

The $1.24 billion plan for the Bay and a patchwork of tidal marshes in Northern and Central California calls for projects along 500 miles of the state’s 1,100-mile coastline, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said.

The plan is the result of 15 years of research and provides recommendations meant to save 17 struggling species of plants and animals, including the endangered California clapper rail, a bird. The plan was previously approved by the service, which has spent years reviewing and getting public comment. Funding will come from a mix of federal state and private sources.

Since the Gold Rush era, 90 percent of tidal marshes in the San Francisco Bay have been lost to development and contamination.

Tidal marshes, especially in such dense urban environments, help clean water flowing through the dense vegetation during tidal swings; sequester carbon dioxide in myriad plants; and provide habitat for sea life, birds and other animals.

The plan is not a regulatory mandate but does give government agencies and private conservation groups the science-based guidance needed to help focus their efforts.

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