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(Washington, D.C.) Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray’s (D-WA) legislation to reauthorize the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Act was blocked by Senate Republicans as the 111th Congress came to a close. The bill passed the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation in July, 2009, and the full House of Representatives in December, 2009. 

“I am disappointed that Senate Republicans blocked my efforts to reauthorize this critical Washington state conservation legislation,” said Senator Patty Murray. “The Northwest Straits are one of our state’s most treasured economic and environmental resources, and this bill would help make sure that the Northwest Straits Commission can continue their research, stewardship, and restoration efforts. This bill is critical for our state, and I am going to keep fighting to pass it next year."

“This legislation is extremely important to ongoing conservation efforts in the Northwest Straits, an ecosystem home to diverse marine resources continually under threat,” said Senator Cantwell . “This reauthorization bill supports ongoing efforts and jobs that restore ecosystem health and facilitate sustainable resource use, and it is a shame that this bill is being blocked from fair consideration in the U.S. Senate.”

This legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Cantwell in the Senate, and the companion bill in the House was introduced by Congressman Larsen.

Murray first introduced the Northwest Straits Initiative in 1997 with then-Representative Jack Metcalf after bringing stakeholders together to discuss how best to protect marine resources in the Northwest Straits.  The goal of the Initiative is to restore and protect marine habitat in the Northwest Straits in order to achieve ecosystem health and sustainable resource use. The legislation which passed Committee today reauthorizes the Northwest Straits Commission, which designs and initiates projects that address marine habitat restoration projects in the Northwest Straits of the Puget Sound.

Today, the Northwest Straits Commission and its seven county volunteer groups extend from Clallam, Jefferson, Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, Island and Snohomish counties. The program awards grant funds which have been used to facilitate bottomfish recovery, conduct nearshore habitat inventories, protect forage fish species, establish marine protected areas, conduct habitat assessments remove, fishing nets and facilitate education and outreach.

The Northwest Straits Commission is a grassroots effort that involves representatives from county, tribal, state and federal governments, non-profit organizations and volunteers who are working together to protect and restore marine resources in northern Puget Sound.