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Farmers and Foresters Can Help Save Salmon
through Statewide Grant Program

Don Stuart 206-860-4222 , dstuart@farmland.org

Seattle, Washington, October 13, 2008—Local farmers and small forest landowners will receive help in saving salmon through a program now available to Washington landowners. The Pioneers in Conservation program makes salmon recovery grants available for projects on farm and forest lands where the project saves salmon and also helps the farm or forest business.

The Pioneers program “let us upgrade our irrigation system while providing better in-stream habitat for salmon,” said Gary Smith, a Dungeness Valley Farmer whose farm received a Pioneers grant.  “[The Pioneers] program has helped keep us farming, and keeps the land from being developed for non-agricultural use, so that’s good for farmers, fish, and the community.”

Bob Kelly, Director of Nooksak Natural Resources in Whatcom County agrees. “The beauty of the Pioneers grants program is it gives tribes, farmers, and the flood agencies an incentive to start working together for the benefit of all,” says Kelly. “Through this program we can build up trust between parties that are usually on opposing sides and gain an understanding of each other’s requirements and find places where our goals coincide.”

The idea for Pioneers in Conservation originated with the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound salmon recovery planning process that resulted in a plan officially adopted by the federal government in early 2007. With this new round of grants, the program will become available statewide for projects affecting farms, ranches, and small private forest properties throughout Washington. It became clear in the salmon recovery planning processes all across the state that saving private agricultural lands for agriculture is necessary in order to save salmon. The Pioneers program is designed to implement that idea on the ground. It is funded through the Washington State Conservation Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and is supported by American Farmland Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Washington State Dairy Federation, Whatcom Farm Friends, Skagitonians to Preserve Farmland, and the Western Washington Agricultural Association.

Don Stuart of American Farmland Trust is helping administer the program. “The Pioneers program demonstrates that farm and forest landowners are a part of the solution for our salmon runs,” he says. “Instead of being a burden on the landowner, these grants show how salmon recovery can be a big benefit for their businesses. If we can replicate this approach across our region, we can save our salmon, and save our farms and private forests at the same time.”

A recent example of the program’s success is evident on Nash Huber’s farm. Huber, winner of American Farmland Trust’s prestigious Steward of the Land award, and the Clallam Conservation District worked together on the Dungeness River, thanks in part to funding by Washington’s Pioneers in Conservation program. Huber and the district were able to implement more efficient irrigation lines, improve 47 miles of riparian habitat, remove five impediments to fish and take necessary steps to prevent erosion and farm runoff. The result is a better allocation of water resources between farmers and a healthier habitat for the salmon. 

Grants will go to eligible local governments, tribes, and organizations working with farm and forest landowners on projects that affect their land. The next deadline for applications is Monday, November 10, 2008. For further details on how to apply, please visit www.nfwf.org/Pioneers or www.farmland.org/Pioneers

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American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.

AFT's national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.

American Farmland Trust