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Top Habitat Conservation Stories of 2020

January 28, 2021

Despite a challenging 2020, NOAA Habitat continued protecting, restoring, and telling stories about habitat and its value to fisheries and communities. Here are the stories, videos and topics that surfaced as our most popular content throughout the year.

A colorful coral community in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Image: NOAA/University of North Carolina Wilmington A colorful coral reef in the Gulf of Mexico's Flower Garden Banks Sanctuary. Image: NOAA/University of North Carolina Wilmington

Commemorating 10 Years After Deepwater Horizon 

April 2020 marked 10 years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the largest U.S. offshore oil spill in history, resulting in the tragic loss of human and marine life, and destruction of habitat. We published a number of features to tell the story of NOAA and other federal and Gulf state partners working to restore the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources: 

Volunteers work on a community-based oyster restoration project in North Carolina.

More Funding for Habitat Restoration 

NOAA Habitat added another year to our decades of experience supporting restoration through funding projects and providing expert advice. Three different funding announcements topped the charts. A brand new coral restoration grant effort kicked off, and two other programs that have been in action since the 1990s continued their impacts restoring coastal habitats:

Construction equipment in a wetland
Construction underway at the Lower Muskegon River restoration project site.

Muskegon Lake Nears Recovery in the Great Lakes

The partnership between NOAA and the Great Lakes Commission has been working for more than a decade. One effort is restoring Michigan’s Muskegon Lake watershed, once one of the region’s most degraded areas. These efforts are seeing results—Muskegon Lake could soon be removed from the list of most polluted spots in the Great Lakes.

middle-fork-nooksack-dam_credit american rivers_750x500.jpg
Removing the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam has opened up miles of pristine habitat for salmon and steelhead. Image: American Rivers

West Coast Dam Removal Brings Hope for Salmon in Washington

In partnership with American Rivers, the NOAA-supported demolition of the Middle Fork Nooksack Dam in Washington got underway in spring 2020 and finished in the fall. Removing the dam is restoring access to 16 miles of priority habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead in the Middle Fork Nooksack River. 

The restored Coonamessett River in Massachusetts now allows river herring to migrate to their historic spawning waters.

Habitat Month 2020: Reconnecting with Habitat

Our annual #HabitatMonth celebration went off without a hitch in July, focused on “Reconnecting with Habitat.” We looked ahead to reconnecting with partners and highlighted the importance of habitat connectivity to our work.


Summer Interns learning science through field work on the Chesapeake Bay.

Our Habitat Team Continued Making a Difference in 2020

Along with partners, our work depends on the NOAA habitat conservation team—from interns just entering the field, to our new Director, and everyone in between. We gave some facetime to the folks doing habitat work across the country, adding a personal touch to the year’s news.


Thank You!

Thanks for following along with our list of 2020's top habitat highlights. We look forward to sharing more exciting habitat news in 2021!