|Seattle, Washington, March 10, 2008— Local farmers and small forest landowners will receive help in saving salmon and farms, through a program available to Washington landowners. The Pioneers in Conservation program makes salmon recovery grants available for farms that develop projects that save salmon while also strengthening the farm or forest business. The program has just announced a new round of grants of up to $75,000 for non-profit organizations, governments and government agencies, farm or forestry groups, local special purpose districts, and tribes.
“If we are to save our salmon,” says Don Stuart, of American Farmland Trust, “we need to also save our farms; when we lose our farms and farmers, we lose our best opportunities to help the salmon. This program demonstrates how viable farms and healthy salmon go hand in hand—each can help in the survival of the other.” Stuart is American Farmland Trust’s (AFT’s) Pacific Northwest States Director. AFT is a national nonprofit group dedicated to preserving farmland and supporting its sustainable management. Stuart and AFT helped to create the Pioneers in Conservation program and currently assist in its administration.
Gary Smith, a farmer from the Dungeness Valley on the Olympic Peninsula, also supports the Pioneers program. “Anything that helps keep us farming also keeps the land from being developed for non-agricultural uses,” says Smith. “And that’s good for farmers, fish and the community.”
Elizabeth Gray, Director of Conservation Science at The Nature Conservancy agrees. “It is in the interests of salmon to have farms remain as farms and not be converted to other uses such as development,” says Gray. “Responsible stewardship of agricultural land is essential to the species’ survival. What is so important about Pioneers in Conservation is that it recognizes this and rewards landowners for their leadership in conservation.”
The program is also helpful for local governments, according to Whatcom County Executive Pete Kremen: “With Pioneers in Conservation grants, local governments can support private landowners in working toward the goal of creating a future for both salmon and farms. These incentives can support the viability that our farmers need in order to be a part of the local economy for years to come.”
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. In 2008, the program became 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.
A recent example of the program’s success is evident on a farm belonging to Nash Huber, 2008 winner of American Farmland Trust’s prestigious national Steward of the Land award. Huber and the Clallam Conservation District worked together on a salmon recovery project 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.
Funding for the Pioneers in Conservation program is provided through the Washington State Conservation Commission and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). The next deadline for applications is Monday, March 31, 2009. For further details on how to apply, please visit www.nfwf.org/Pioneers.
For more information contact:
? Brian Ferrasci-O'Malley, Evergreen Funding Consultants, Phone: (206) 691-0700, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
? Cara Rose, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – Western Partnership Office, Phone: (503) 417-8700, Email: email@example.com
? Don Stuart, American Farmland Trust, Phone: (206) 860-4222, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.