FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Connie Barclay
The U.S. Senate and House recently passed the U. S. Department of Agriculture fiscal year 2001 appropriations bill, which includes $500,000 to carry out many of the recommendations of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan, and President Clinton signed the final bill late yesterday.
The Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan, unveiled last January, is a unique collaborative effort crafted by the 25 agencies and organizations participating in the sanctuary's Water Quality Protection Program and the industry-led farm bureaus from the six counties adjacent to the sanctuary. "The funding approved here will help protect the waters of the sanctuary from polluted runoff, while sustaining the economic viability of the region's critical agricultural industry," said William Douros, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary superintendent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The funding is slated to go to the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service. It will be used to expand technical assistance and outreach to farmers on the Central Coast on soil erosion and nutrient management, provide engineering assistance to minimize runoff from rural roads, and develop training programs for other agency staff on agricultural watershed issues. "Allocation of this funding reflects the widespread support generated during development of the plan, and will help bring to life many of the plan's detailed recommendations," said Carter Christenson, area conservationist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
A key element of the plan is an offer by the six-county Coalition of Central Coast County Farm to take a leadership role in establishing industry-led networks of landowners to address water quality issues. To leverage these efforts by the industry which are getting underway this year, the USDA funding will provide technical field staff to work closely with the farm bureaus and local landowners to carry out their portion of the plan.
Congressman Sam Farr, who worked over the past year on the Agricultural and Appropriations Committees to include the funding in the USDA budget said, "Once again, this region leads the nation. The partnership between the sanctuary and local farmers is a first - the outcome will benefit all. It will serve as a model for collaboration, and result in voluntary improved management practices for land use."
The Agriculture and Rural Lands Plan is one of several other sanctuary plans addressing water quality issues associated with cities and harbors and marinas. "Protection of the water quality in the sanctuary and its watersheds requires the participation of 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 13 marine sanctuaries administered by the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The sanctuary extends from Marin County to San Luis Obispo County, encompassing 300 miles of shoreline and 5,322 square miles of ocean. It is home to numerous mammals, seabirds, fish, invertebrates, and plants, in a remarkably productive coastal environment.