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Nonprofit and government agency partners working to preserve the… (SHMUEL THALER/SENTINEL FILE)

WATSONVILLE - An effort to preserve and restore the Watsonville Slough system has received national recognition with a Coastal America award.

The award, vetted by federal agencies and approved by the Obama administration, honors outstanding collaborative projects and excellence in leadership in conservation of coastal resources.

The Middle Watsonville Slough Wetlands Protection and Water Quality Partnership Team, a collaboration of 11 nonprofit and government agencies, was presented with the award, one of six nationwide, at a ceremony Wednesday at Pajaro Dunes.

The Watsonville Slough system is the largest freshwater wetlands in Santa Cruz County, and one of the largest in coastal California. The system, which features six interlinked sloughs, covers about 800 acres in and around the city. In addition to supporting federally threatened red-legged frogs, endangered California pelicans, and at least 10 other bird species of special state concern, the property provides winter habitat for raptors and migratory waterfowl.

The team is being hailed for acquiring 490 acres and initiating numerous restoration projects within the system.

Members include The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County; California State Coastal Conservancy; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office; Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County; U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service; California Wildlife Conservation Board; State Water Resources Control Board; Watsonville Wetlands Watch; Fitz Wetlands Education Resource Center; The Nature Conservancy; and the California Department of Fish and Game.