Puget Sound Restoration Gets a Boost from USDA
Local farms, shellfish, salmon and clean water will benefit.
SEATTLE–Farms, shellfish, salmon and water quality in the Puget Sound Region will get a $9 million boost from a new federal conservation program included in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Awards come through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), a new program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
“This is a big win for local people who are working together to maintain local sources of food, clean water and our quality of life,” said Mark Clark, Director of the Washington State Conservation Commission, which will manage funding for the Puget Sound project.
Governor Inslee included $4 million in his proposed budget for the non-federal matching funds required by the grant. It’s up to state lawmakers to approve the matching funds as part of the 2015-2017 biennial budget, which is under consideration during the 2015 Legislative session underway now.
Early-action projects in the Puget Sound region are:
- Farmers in Thomas Creek, a sub basin of the Samish River, will be eligible for voluntary incentives to reduce runoff that impacts shellfish beds. There is also $500K for a farmland protection project along the Samish River (Skagit Conservation District).
- Farmers in the Snohomish and Skykomish river valleys will receive assistance to manage nutrients and restore riverfront land, as part of Snohomish County’s Sustainable Lands Strategy. (Snohomish Conservation District)
- Dairy, livestock and crop farmers along Newaukum Creek, in King County’s largest agricultural production district, will be eligible for voluntary incentives to plant vegetation and install fencing to keep livestock out of the creek. (American Farmland Trust)
“This new program furthers the broad-based work that we need to engage in for Puget Sound recovery,” said Martha Kongsgaard, chair of the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council. “Thanks to our congressional delegation, particularly Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Suzan DelBene, for their leadership in securing this new funding source for Puget Sound. We also greatly appreciate the opportunity to work with NRCS as they bring these new resources that will strengthen the collaborative restoration and protection efforts around Puget Sound.”
“The Tulalip Tribes, as part of the Sustainable Lands Strategy, was delighted to hear that we have been included in the RCPP funding,” said Terry Williams, Tulalip Tribes Treaty Office. “Building partnerships between farms, fish, and environment has proven to be a game changer here in Snohomish County. Working together to understand the problems we are all facing has helped us find mutual solutions.”
“We all have a stake in a healthy Puget Sound, clean water, and thriving local farms and other food producers,” said Heidi Eisenhour, Pacific Northwest Regional Director of American Farmland Trust
“This is significant recognition and support for locally-led conservation efforts, and a testimony to the power of the diverse coalition of farm, shellfish, tribal and conservation interests that has come together to support this effort,” said George Boggs, of the Puget Sound Natural Resources Alliance. “Thanks to The Nature Conservancy for its leadership in bringing this coalition together to advocate for this program.”
The Puget Sound Natural Resources Alliance will serve as the advisory committee for this project. The Alliance is a collaboration of agriculture, aquaculture, business, conservation groups and tribes working together to protect the lands and waters of Puget Sound and strengthen the long term viability of our natural resource industries and tribal treaty rights. The Nature Conservancy is a member of the Alliance and will also serve on the steering committee.
“In Washington state, we know how critical it is to protect our natural resources, not only for the environment, but also for our economy,” said Senator Murray, D-WA. “This funding from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program will support local farmers and build on the great work being done to restore the Puget Sound region, grow the economy, and create jobs.“
“I’m thrilled that this proposal was awarded. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program was made possible through the Farm Bill, and I am pleased to work with such a great coalition of partners to support this proposal,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01) said. “The project will help improve water quality and habitat for many species, as well as the overall ecosystem, while preserving the beautiful nature of the Pacific Northwest.”
RCPP is a public-private partnership designed to focus conservation efforts on the most critical watersheds and landscapes. Under the program, local partners propose conservation projects specific to their region to improve soil health, water quality and water use efficiency, wildlife habitat and other natural resources on private lands.
Photo caption: Farms and wildlife can thrive together.
Photo credit: Kirsten Morse