Habitat Restoration and Preservation Program

Throughout coastal North Carolina, thousands of acres of wetlands and hundreds of miles of shoreline have been altered, degraded or destroyed. Replacing these natural habitats with roads, parking lots and other hard, constructed surfaces has reduced the land's ability to absorb and filter polluted runoff before it enters our waters. Oyster reefs and clam beds have also declined, resulting in a loss of valuable aquatic habitat area and a reduction in the ability of oysters and clams to cleanse the water.

The federation’s Restoration and Preservation Program seeks to restore and preserve some of our most threatened environments, including wetlands and oysters, while also increasing the people’s appreciation for the value and beauty of our coastal habitats. 

Volunteers are crucial for the success of our restoration projects, and we give people hands-opportunities to protect our environment. Whether growing marsh grass seedlings, bagging shells to build new oyster reefs or offering information through workshops, we believe hands-on restoration is the first step in becoming an active steward in protecting our coast.

Our Habitat Restoration and Preservation Program includes an array of projects in a diverse variety of coastal habitats – oyster reefs, longleaf pine forests, wetlands – and includes “living shoreline” alternatives to traditional shoreline bulkheads and growing and planting marsh grasses with students from our coastal counties. We also work to restore and protect the hydrology of watersheds to maintain and clean up coastal water quality.


Program Goals

Restore and protect coastal water quality and critical habitats

The federation’s habitat and water quality restoration and preservation strategies are rooted in these concepts

  • Devise projects that replicate or maintain natural processes including watershed hydrology so that they result in meaningful improvements to environmental health and are sustainable
  • Work at scales that are meaningful in terms of accomplishing real improvements to environmental health
  • Stay focused within high priority watersheds so that the cumulative effects of numerous projects add up to obtain needed environmental gains
  • Connect the resources of federal, state, and local funders and governmental agencies to provide for project synergy that could never be achieved by one entity alone
  • Engage people directly in restoration and preservation efforts as a way to obtain their long-term understanding and participation in providing stewardship of coastal resources
  • Project successes result in additional project successes as people see tangible progress being made to protect and restore coastal resources

Habitat Restoration/Preservation Programs

Oyster Habitat Restoration

The federation creates new oyster reefs each year to provide valuable habitat area for oysters and other marine species and to improve water quality in our coastal environment. The program is guided by the N.C. Oyster Plan developed by a concerned group of regulators, researchers, aquaculture experts and restoration groups. Our Oyster Education Program allows high-school students and adults to help monitor the new reefs and learn about the life cycle of the oysters and help to collect data for use in future reefs. Our ongoing economic recovery project built oyster reefs all along the coast. [ > learn more ]

Wetland Restoration

The federation is committed to improving water quality along our coast. One way to achieve this goal is through the restoration of wetlands, from salt-water marsh to freshwater cypress swamps. We are currently restoring North River Farms in Carteret County in the largest wetlands restoration project in the state. The federation is also working on a landscape scale wetland and hydrologic restoration project in the Mattamuskeet Drainage Association that will surpass North River Farms in size when complete. Our Student Wetland Nursery Program gives middle school students a sustained and hands-on opportunity to learn about wetlands and water quality, build wetland nurseries at schools, cultivate wetland plants from seed and use these plants to restore coastal shorelines in their communities. [ > learn more ]

Living Shorelines

Initially developed as an alternative to bulkheads, living shorelines are erosion control measures that also provide stormwater buffers and protect threatened wetland and riparian habitat. [ > learn more]

Low-Impact Development Techniques

The use of these LID methods, such as rain gardens and cisterns, is integrated throughout our restoration and education programs because they offer hope of stanching the flow of polluted runoff, the main cause of water impairment along the coast. [ > learn more ]


We've built more than 300 acres of reefs in the last three years. We've worked with farmers in Hyde County to restore the hydrology on the their farms and thus protect Pamlico Sound and we partner with businesses, local governments and schools to build rain gardens to better control stormwater. Those are just some of our accomplishments in the last three years.