Department of Ecology News Release - January 30, 2012

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Ecology partnership awards save Puget Sound wetland habitat

OLYMPIA – The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has secured seven federal grants totaling $5.7 million to help protect or restore 960 acres of marine wetlands and connected freshwater and upland habitat areas in Puget Sound.

Details about the wetland restoration and preservation projects in Clallam, Island, Jefferson, Mason and Whatcom counties are available online.

To accomplish the acquisitions, Ecology is working in partnership with the Lummi Nation, Stillaguamish Tribe, Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group, North Olympic Salmon Coalition, Whidbey Camano Land Trust, Mason County, and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Ecology also coordinates its environmental efforts in Puget Sound with the Puget Sound Partnership – the state agency leading the coordinated effort to restore and protect the Sound by setting regional priorities, spurring action by organizations, and providing accountability for progress

During the past 125 years, Puget Sound has lost about 70 percent of its marine wetlands and connected habitat areas due to residential, commercial and industrial development.

Washington’s marine estuaries and connected freshwater wetlands provide vital habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and other wildlife species and are nurseries for salmon and other marine life.

Estuaries also are important to the economy because they help control floods, filter drinking water and keep erosion in check. They also help sustain Washington’s clam, mussel and oyster beds which are worth more than $107 million annually.

Gerry O'Keefe, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership, said: “These projects demonstrate if we work together, we can identify, invest in and make the most of these opportunities to benefit our economy and environment. Habitat enhancement projects represent a key part of our Action Agenda for a healthy Puget Sound.”

The Partnership is the coordinating agency responsible for the science-based Action Agenda that guides the efforts of more than 600 organizations, state, county, city governments, tribes and other organizations.

Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said that since 2006, Washington has received $31.3 million in federal coastal protection grants to acquire and permanently protect 5,300 acres of marine wetlands and related habitat.

Sturdevant said, “While our state has a large number of viable and worthy projects, we’re also fortunate that Ecology has talented, skilled experts who have forged long-term partnerships for protecting our marine estuaries and wetlands for current and future generations.”

Ecology is using $5.7 million in National Wetland Conservation Program Grants for these investments:

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service established the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program in 1990. It is designed to help states acquire, restore and enhance coastal wetlands. Funding for the program comes from excise taxes on fishing equipment and motor boat and small engine fuels.

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Contacts: Curt Hart, Ecology media relations, 360-407-6990; cell, 360-480-7908 (curt.hart@ecy.wa.gov

For more information:

National Wetlands Conservation Grant Program (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/wetlands/stewardship/nwcgp.html)

Wetlands (www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/sea/wetlands/index.html)

National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant Program (www.fws.gov/coastal/CoastalGrants/)

Puget Sound Partnership (www.psp.wa.gov/)