Working together leads to a BIG WIN for Puget Sound!
By Noelle van der Straaten, TNC Volunteer Content Specialist
Photography by Andy Porter Photography
Salmon, shellfish, farms and water quality are top priorities in a new Farm Bill conservation program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. TNC was instrumental in securing funding via this program - the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). This program works to provide conservation assistance to producers and landowners in promoting the restoration and sustainable use of critical watersheds and landscapes.
The Conservancy will serve on the steering committee and the Puget Sound Natural Resource Alliance will be the advisory committee. This collaborative alliance represents a diverse group of leaders and stakeholders - tribes, farmers, conservation groups, private sector interests and academic institutions - all working together to strengthen the long-term viability of our natural resources and local economies.
Funding has been approved for a 5 year project with a budget of $18 million ($9MM from NRCS and $9M in matching funds from state and other private sources), that will be used for a wide variety of local working-lands conservation programs including: farmland protection, voluntary incentives for habitat restoration on farms, upgrades in water quality infrastructure and on farm practices for improving water quality. Implementation of these practices and innovative strategies will deliver tangible lasting results, benefiting farms and forests as well as local economies and communities. This is a big win for the Puget Sound region and will strengthen the viability of agriculture and advance shellfish and salmon recovery goals!
Infusing local efforts
Some local projects that will greatly benefit from this funding include:
- Thomas Creek, a sub-basin of the Samish Watershed, is part of a project that is working to upgrade 4,000 acres of shellfish beds that have been closed due to contamination by fecal coliform from upstream land uses. This project will focus on working with landowners in implementing best practices to reduce water contamination and support the local economy by reducing closures of Samish Bay shellfish beds.
- The Skykomish River project is working with agricultural producers to enhance salmon habitat by managing nutrients and planting trees along the banks of the Woods Creek watershed. This area contains streams and rivers that are impaired with dissolved oxygen and temperature issues. This project will work to enhance habitat and water quality suitable for salmon.
Moving forward together
This funding really kickstarts an emerging relationship between farmers, tribes, and conservation interests. It enables local communities to rally around priority projects that have long been on the books and need an infusion of funds to make progress. Working together, we can get so much more done.
The goal of this funding is for this collaborative alliance to work together in community-led projects and to develop and implement stewardship practices that will help ensure a future of abundant salmon and shellfish and more resilient farms in the Puget Sound region!