Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that she included $1.6 million in funding for the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative in a fiscal year 2010 Senate spending bill. The funding will help protect and restore marine waters, habitats and species at priority sites along the Northwest Straits, which run through Clallam, Island, Jefferson, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish and Whatcom counties.

"The Northwest Straits Initiative is leading the nation in showing what an innovative, grassroots conservation effort can be," said Senator Patty Murray.  "This funding will allow the nationally-recognized group to continue and expand upon their excellent work researching, restoring, and conserving our marine environment.”

“The Northwest Straits Initiative was created out of concern for dwindling marine resources and damaged habitats in the Northwest Straits region,” said Ginny Broadhurst, Director of the Northwest Straits Initiative. “Our structure recognizes that local residents can and should be part of the solution to protect and restore the marine environment. With seven Marine Resources Committees and 112 members, thousands of volunteer hours, and hundreds of successful projects, we demonstrate that citizen stewards working on local restoration and conservation projects are powerful, effective and necessary.”

The Northwest Straits Initiative works to restore and protect marine habitat in the straits, which promotes ecosystem health and strengthens the Northwest Straits’ marine-based economy. Using community input and grassroots support, the Northwest Straits Commission is able to design projects that target the most urgent ongoing and emerging issues in the marine environment.

Since it was first authorized by Congress in 1998, Senator Murray has helped secure over $10 million for the Northwest Straits Initiative.  Earlier this year she also partnered with Rick Larsen (D-WA 2nd) to author legislation that will ensure the continuation of the Northwest Straits Initiative for several more years to come. 

The NSCMI was first created in 1997 when Senator Murray and Republican Congressman Jack Metcalf joined forces to create a local advisory commission to address marine issues. At a time when few thought their experiment would work, their coordinated efforts were able to bring together opposing stakeholders and create an innovative, successful program for restoring and protecting marine habitats.

The funding was included in the fiscal year 2010 Senate Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations Bill, which passed in the Subcommittee today and will now move to the full Appropriations Committee. Senator Murray is a senior member of the Appropriations Committee.