FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Partnership honors four Whatcom County "Puget Sound Champions"
BELLINGHAM – Today the Puget Sound Partnership honored four “Puget Sound Champions” from Whatcom County during a ceremony in Bellingham. These individuals and organizations were recognized for their exceptional work protecting and restoring habitat, cleaning up polluted water, and engaging the community in implementing the Action Agenda – the Partnership’s regional plan to clean up Puget Sound.
“The work being done locally is critical to the regional effort to restore Puget Sound,” said Martha Kongsgaard, chair of the Partnership’s Leadership Council, who presented the awards today. “The regional vision of a swimmable, fishable, diggable Puget Sound will only become a reality with local-level efforts like we are honoring here in Whatcom County and around the region.”
The honorees are partners with the Whatcom Local Integrating Organization Network, one of 10 local watershed-based groups the Partnership works with to help set priorities for local programs and projects.
“In order to restore Puget Sound, we need big-picture projects, and we need people to work together. That is what we are honoring today,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “These groups and individuals are making tangible improvements in their county, their cities and their backyards. That is how Puget Sound recovery will succeed.”
The honorees are:
Whatcom Conservation District—Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program
The Whatcom Conservation District has been working to enhance riparian areas on private property through its Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. This work protects water quality, stabilizes streambanks, reduces erosion and creates shade that lowers water temperature. The program also funds the removal of invasive species and fencing of livestock to keep them out of critical riparian areas. So far this program has implemented approximately 285 projects that have established a total of 134.9 miles of buffer and planted 1,993 acres with 942,998 seedlings. The district’s mission is to “serve present and future generations of Whatcom County through a natural resource conservation program of leadership, partnership, technical, educational, and financial assistance to foster a healthy, sustainable relationship between people and the environment.
Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association—Streamside Habitat Restoration Program
The Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association works to restore wild salmon runs in Whatcom County by bringing resources and people together for the common good. To date, the group has completed 120 restoration projects on more than 15 miles of local streams through their Streamside Habitat Restoration Program. Efforts include re-establishing native vegetation, installing fences to keep livestock out of streams, improving in-stream habitat and stabilizing stream banks. The program also leverages support from the Washington Conservation Corps and volunteer work parties. In 2011 alone, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association completed 16 restoration projects, including planting nearly 7,000 feet of riparian area, installing 29 large woody debris structures and reopening fish access to more than 3.3 miles of stream. Also in 2011, the program educated more than 2,000 visitors through community streamside habitat restoration work parties, reached 1,244 students and engaged all of the public school districts and four colleges.
Whatcom County Special District Riparian Program
The Special District Riparian Program is meant to reduce long-term maintenance dredging of drainage district watercourses choked with reed canary grass by establishing shade-producing hedgerows along these watercourses. Since its inception in 2000, the program has planted 263,000 plants and established upwards of 70 miles of riparian hedgerows. The program’s success is illustrated by the fact that in the treated areas, reed canary grass no longer creates drainage problems, which significantly reduces the need for maintenance dredging while also increasing water quality and benefitting fish populations. The program was initiated by the Whatcom County River and Flood Division of Public Works and is managed by the Whatcom Conservation District. The project is supported by two corrections crews supervised by the Whatcom Sheriff’s Office. These crews spend five days each week planting and maintaining riparian areas along hundreds of miles of watercourses within the County’s 15 Drainage District Improvement districts.
Whatcom Water Weeks
Whatcom Water Weeks is the brainchild of the Whatcom Watersheds Information Network. The event focuses on the theme “Our Community, Our Water” and includes a range of events such as nature walks, hatchery tours, lectures and crafts to engage a variety age groups and interests about Whatcom County’s water resources. This celebration began in 2010 with 30 events and 10 sponsors and has grown to 40 events and 23 sponsors in 2012.
About the Champion awards
Puget Sound Champion awards are presented by the Leadership Council to honor partner contributions to the Puget Sound ecosystem recovery effort. To learn about other Puget Sound Champions, go to www.psp.wa.gov/champions.php.
About the Partnership
The Puget Sound Partnership is the organization leading the recovery of Puget Sound. The Partnership is a state agency that coordinates the efforts of citizens, governments, tribes, scientists and businesses to set priorities, implement a regional recovery plan and ensure accountability for results. For more information, go to www.psp.wa.gov.
MEDIA CONTACT: Alicia Lawver, Public Information Officer, (360) 464-2011, firstname.lastname@example.org
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