Eight new wetland, riparian and coastal conservation grants have been awarded in the Southeast through the Five Star Restoration Program, a joint project between Southern Company, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the National Association of Counties and the Wildlife Habitat Council.

The grants will help protect more than 10,000 acres of fragile riverbanks, wetlands and coastal areas in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, which provide critical habitats for waterfowl, mammals, fish, reptiles and plants.

Southern Company provided $198,928 in grants for this project, part of the $1.2 million the company pledged to fund community-based wetland and streamside restoration across its four-state territory over five years.

"EPA's Five Star Restoration Grants support community-based projects, including environmental education and training to restore wetlands, streams and coasts," said Stan Meiburg, EPA acting regional administrator. "Over time, these grassroots efforts make a significant contribution to our environmental landscape and to the understanding of the importance of healthy aquatic ecosystems across the Southeast."

Other Five Star Restoration Grants have gone toward restoring an urban stream in Alabama, constructing a natural oyster reef breakwater in Florida, restoring 30 acres of floodplains of a watershed in Georgia and many other projects that help to protect and restore the ecological integrity of America's wetlands and aquatic ecosystems.