News Releases

Murray and Dicks Announce Funding for Washington State Land Acquisition and Conservation Priorities in Interior Appropriations Bill

Oct 30 2003

Murray and Dicks secure critical funds for I-90/Plum Creek, Yakima River Forest, the Upper Raging River Valley, Willapa Bay, salmon restoration, and Elwha River

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Congressman Norm Dicks, ranking Democrat on the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, announced they had secured millions for Washington state conservation priorities in the Interior Appropriation’s bill. The bill passed out of conference committee on Tuesday and is slated for a final House vote tonight and Senate action either tomorrow or early next week.

The funding Murray and Dicks secured includes:

Land Acquisition:

$5 million for the I-90/Plum Creek Land Exchange (Kittitas County). These funds will help the Forest Service acquire land left out of the original land exchange. The goal of this project is to address the ecological holes and land management problems created by the checkerboard land ownership pattern in the area. The purchase will also help create wildlife corridors to allow Northwest species to maintain their North-South migration patterns. The Senate bill contained the original earmark of $5 million. Funding for the project was zeroed out in the President’s request and was not included in the House bill. Through the determination of Murray and Dicks the full funding was retained while most land acquisition earmarks were reduced. The $5 million represents one of the highest single land acquisition projects in the entire bill.

Sen. Murray said, “This was the highest priority for Plum Creek and the Cascade Conservation Partnership and I’m happy to have secured the funding at a time the overall accounts are being reduced. It was a very tough fight to retain this funding in the face of competing interests.”

Sen. Dicks said, “I am pleased that the conference panel agreed to our request to maintain an appropriate level of funding for this important acquisition, which has been one of the state’s highest environmental priorities this year.”

Bob Jirsa, Director of Corporate Affairs for Plum Creek, said “Plum Creek is pleased that Congress has approved significant funding to acquire more land that is a part of the I-90 Land Exchange. This brings us one step closer to completing one of the most significant land exchanges in Washington’s history.

“This accomplishment could not have been achieved without the leadership of Senator Patty Murray and Congressman Norm Dicks, who have consistently recognized the importance of this land exchange to the citizens of Washington,” Jirsa continued.

$1.025 million for the Tieton River Land Acquisition (Yakima County). The funds will be used to purchase land along the Tieton River. The project is strongly supported by the Yakima County Commissioners and The Nature Conservancy. The specific earmark was added in conference through the work of Senator Murray, Congressman Dicks, and Congressman Hastings.

Sen. Murray said, “It is testament to the hard work and commitment of the Yakima County Commissioners and The Nature Conservancy that this funding was provided in conference. This type of unified support makes it much easier for the delegation to be successful.”

$1.5 million for the Yakima River Forest (Kittitas County). The funds will be used for Yakima River Forest Legacy Land Easement.

“These funds will help continue the effort to protect priority acres within the Yakima River Forest,” Sen. Murray said. “Acquisition of easements on these lands will help prevent suburban sprawl, maintain working forests, and preserve the beautiful scenery along I-90, the only interstate highway in the country designated as a national Scenic Byway.”

$1 million for the Upper Raging River Valley (King County). The funds will be used for the Raging River Forest Legacy Land Easement.

Habitat Restoration:

$1 million for the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge (Pacific County). The funds will be used to fight an infestation of Spartina grass. Willapa Bay is important to migratory birds and home to a thriving oyster industry which are both threatened by Spartina grass. The funds will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue its efforts to eradicate the invasive species. The State of Washington is also involved in efforts to control Spartina. This is the second year of funding provided through the Interior bill. Both Senator Murray and Congressman Dicks have visited Willapa Bay during the past year to see first hand the extent of the infestation and machines being used to treat the grass.

Sen. Murray said, “The community effort to restore Willapa Bay is inspiring and I’m thrilled this funding will allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue to do its part in the restoration effort. The Service and the community deserve a great deal of credit for their cooperative and aggressive approach to the problem.”

Rep. Dicks said, this Spartina grass elimination project is absolutely essential for preserving the health and vitality of Willapa Bay. This second increment of funding demonstrates the federal government’s intent to remain involved with the community in solving this problem.”

Sen. Murray continued, “in the face of significant budget cuts, I am pleased to announce this important funding for land protection and restoration projects in Washington state,” Murray said. “Not only will these funds support the preservation of our state’s national treasures, they will also help protect our wildlife, help our economy and our preserve the way of life.”

$12.95 million for Elwha River Restoration (Clallam County). The funds will be used to continue work to restore the Elwha River through removal of two dams. Current work is focused on protecting the City of Port Angeles’ water supply.

Rep. Dicks, who has supported appropriations in the past five years for acquisition of the dams and engineering work related to the restoration project, said “the additional amount being appropriated this year will allow us to maintain the schedule for restoring the free-flowing Elwha to a vibrant, salmon-producing River.”

$350,000 for Fish Mortality Study (Kitsap County). These funds will be used by the U.S. Geological Survey to initiate a comprehensive study regarding the causes and impacts of recent unusually high levels of fish mortality in Hood Canal. Rep. Dicks said, “This is an important appropriation, bringing federal resources to assist in searching for the causes of low oxygen levels that have severely affected the fishery in Hood Canal.”

Salmon Recovery:

$2 million for National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Salmon grants (statewide). The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is using these funds to help smaller community and restoration groups pursue salmon recovery projects in Washington state. The Foundation grants fill a niche of funding smaller projects usually not funded through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board.

$1.4 million for Regional Salmon Enhancement Groups (statewide). These funds are distributed to the 14 regional salmon enhancement groups across Washington state. These community based groups work on a voluntary basis to recovery salmon through restoration work in their local rivers, streams, and coastal waters.

$175,000 for Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group (Mason County). This non-profit organization has been working for several years to protect and enhance the genetic diversity and populations of wild salmon in Hood Canal by protecting and restoring fishery habitat and water quality.

$200,000 for Long Live the Kings. Long Live the Kings is another Pacific Northwest non-profit organization that utilizes a science-based, collaborative approach to fishery research. In recent years –with assistance from the federal government and substantial private support-- the organization has studied hatchery conditions and fish rearing techniques in its effort to help recover naturally spawning salmon and steelhead populations and support sustainable fisheries in the Pacific Northwest.

$3 million for Hatchery Reform Initiative (Puget Sound and Coastal). These funds are used by a joint state and tribal group to study and propose reforms to hatchery operations. Hatchery operations have sometimes been found to contribute to wild salmon decline. The Reform Initiative has been examining each hatchery operation in Puget Sound and along the coast to study interaction with wild stocks in the watershed and how operational and physical changes may contribute to wild salmon recovery.