FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matt Stout
Officials Unveil Marine Sanctuary Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan
The long-term health of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary received a welcome boost today, thanks to a unique collaboration among farmers, government officials and environmentalists. At a ceremony held at the National Steinbeck Center, officials unveiled the Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan, an initiative to protect sanctuary waters while sustaining the economic viability of the region's agricultural industry.
"The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is about bringing people together to solve tough issues, and that is what today's announcement represents," said William Douros, sanctuary superintendent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "This plan focuses on voluntary conservation practices, strengthens relations with the agriculture community, and is good news for the region's rivers, wetlands, harbors, and coastal waters."
The Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan is a unique collaborative effort crafted by the sanctuary's Water Quality Protection Program and the industry-led Farm Bureaus from six counties adjacent to the sanctuary. Strategies focus on improving technical assistance and education, funding and economic incentives for conservation measures, better coordination of the existing regulatory system to reduce barriers to implementing erosion control practices, and improving maintenance practices for rural roadways and public lands. A key element of the plan is an offer by the six-county Central Coast Farm Bureau Coalition to take a leadership role in establishing industry-led networks of landowners to address water quality issues.
"I applaud the leadership demonstrated by NOAA, the Farm Bureaus, and their various partners in crafting this agreement, and look forward to their efforts to carry out the work, " said U.S. Congressman Sam Farr. "This type of collaborative approach to managing our land and ocean protects the sanctuary and sustains our region's critical agricultural industry."
"These voluntary projects represent an innovative effort on the part of agricultural organizations to establish improved management practices, drawing on the extensive membership of the region's Farm Bureaus and other agricultural organizations," said Carolyn Richardson of the California Farm Bureau Federation. "Work is underway to establish industry-led landowner stewardship groups in four of the sanctuary's watersheds Salinas, Carmel, Pajaro and Pescadero -- building on the many positive conservation measures already underway in the agricultural industry."
The plan was developed over the past several years with the 25 government, public and private groups who are partners in the Water Quality Protection Program, the Central Coast Farm Bureau Coalition, and with guidance obtained from numerous public workshops.
Eighty participants attended Friday's announcement and reception at the Steinbeck Center, including Congressman Farr; David Festa, senior advisor to Secretary of Commerce William Daley, whose department includes NOAA; representatives from the Farm Bureaus throughout the Central Coast; and government agencies and environmental groups.
The agricultural plan joins the development of several previous sanctuary plans addressing water quality issues associated with cities, harbors and marinas that are already underway with local governments, businesses, residents and boaters. "Protection of the water quality in the sanctuary and its watersheds requires more than just the participation of the agricultural community -- it must involve everyone who lives and works in a watershed," said Holly Price, director of the sanctuary's Water Quality Protection Program.
The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is one of 12 marine sanctuaries administered by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The sanctuary extends from Marin to Cambria, encompassing 400 miles of shoreline and 5,322 square miles of ocean. It is home to numerous mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates, plants, and other life forms in a remarkably productive coastal environment.
For a copy of the plan, call the sanctuary at 831-647-4247 or visit its home page at: http://www.mbnms.nos.noaa.gov/.