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$3.7 million will fund loon restoration projects in New England and New York

Loons can be found on bodies of freshwater in New England and sometimes on salt water.
Loons can be found on bodies of freshwater in New England and sometimes on salt water.Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Six projects aimed at restoring the population of common loons affected by a 2003 oil spill in Buzzard’s Bay are receiving $3.7 million, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

The goal of the grants is to increase productivity and survival of common loons nesting at breeding sites across New England and New York, the US Fish and Wildlife Service said in a statement.

An estimated 531 common loons died during the Bouchard B-120 Oil Spill in April 2003, the statement said. The birds were killed in especially high numbers because they were wintering in Buzzard’s Bay at the time of the spill.

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The spill occurred when the Bouchard Barge No. 120 released up to 98,000 gallons of fuel oil into the bay, leaving about 100 miles of shoreline in Massachusetts and Rhode Island oiled, according to the service’s website.

The funding will support a variety of management activities including deploying nesting rafts to withstand fluctuating water levels and reduce disturbance from predators and people, new educational signs, and the hiring of seasonal wardens to watch over nests, the statement said.

It will also support reducing common loon mortality by rehabilitating stranded birds and conserving land to protect loon breeding habitats, as well as promoting lead tackle exchange programs, public volunteer participation, and public outreach aimed at reducing lead poisoning of loons, the statement said.

The work is funded by a $13.3 million natural resource damages settlement from Bouchard Transportation Co., Inc. and others with $7.3 million designated for common loon restoration, the statement said.

“Almost $4 million in oil spill settlement funds will be used to increase the productivity and survival of breeding loons, and protect existing nesting sites,” Audrey Mayer, supervisor for the service’s New England field office, said in the statement. “We are excited to partner with this diverse community of organizations to restore these captivating birds and their charismatic calls to our lakes and ponds across New England and New York.”

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The Loon Preservation Committee in New Hampshire will receive $844,881, the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation will receive $796,005, Maine Audubon will receive $825,445, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies will receive $446,393, the Biodiversity Research Institute will receive $522,774, and the Forest Society of Maine will receive $250,000, the statement said.