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Navy and The Nature Conservancy Partnering to Help Conserve Dabob Bay

Program protects underwater testing range

The Nature Conservancy - October 6, 2011

SEATTLE — The Navy and The Nature Conservancy have entered into a five-year agreement that benefits the environment and protects the Navy’s underwater research range on Dabob Bay.

The agreement provides $3 million for the Navy and the Conservancy to work in partnership and acquire interests in land around local Navy installations to protect underwater ranges, to include Dabob Bay.

Dabob Bay is one of the most pristine, least developed and ecologically important estuaries in Hood Canal and Puget Sound. The Dabob Bay range is also the Navy’s premier location in the United States for research, development and testing of underwater systems.

“We are honored to enter into this agreement with the Navy,” said Karen Anderson, the Conservancy’s Washington director. “There has been a long history of collaboration at Dabob Bay for conservation of forests and shorelines. We’re thrilled that the Navy, a longtime user of Dabob Bay, is now entering into this collaboration to protect their research and testing range.”

“Access to land and water spaces to test and train are vital to our success in maintaining high levels of readiness to defend our nation,” said Rear Adm. Douglass Biesel, Commander, Navy Region Northwest. “We are extremely happy to partner with The Nature Conservancy, an organization that is as committed to sustaining our natural resources for use by future generations.”

This Encroachment Protection agreement is part of the Department of Defense (DoD) Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) that is designed to support partnerships to work with willing landowners to protect habitat and to ensure that development or use of lands, water or air space in the vicinity of areas related to a military installation, range or airspace is compatible with the military mission.

The Conservancy has a 40-year history of working with the Navy and the other military services to protect the environment while also protecting the military’s ability to perform its missions. The first project between the Conservancy and the Navy was an agreement to work together to manage natural resources habitat on the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility Boardman in Oregon.

Dabob Bay is one of the premier locations within the U.S. for research, development, testing and evaluation of underwater systems such as Unmanned Undersea Vehicles, torpedoes, countermeasures, targets and ship systems. The Navy has conducted underwater testing at Dabob Bay since 1956. It is also a component of the DoD Major Range Test Facility Base, the core set of DoD test and evaluation infrastructure recognized as critical assets to national defense. Because the Navy is a seagoing force, many of its environmental initiatives focus on ocean stewardship. The Navy seeks opportunities to ensure compatibility of its ecological footprint in relation to marine life, coastal impacts and water quality.

“This is an excellent example of the DoD Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative helping to protect the Navy’s substantial investment in the Dabob Bay range while preserving water quality and wildlife habitat in Hood Canal,” said Rep. Norm Dicks, ranking Democratic Member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

“Dabob Bay is an important component in testing and research for the Navy,” said Biesel. “Our partnership with The Nature Conservancy helps us to amplify our preservation efforts beyond what could be done through the Navy's efforts alone.”

The Conservancy has worked in Dabob Bay for 25 years with Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and other local partners to protect this nearly pristine estuary, which is home to a globally significant oyster nursery, rare saltmarsh spits, salmon and the forage fish that feed them.

The Conservancy will continue its work with a coalition including the Northwest Watershed Institute, Jefferson Land Trust, DNR and other state and federal environmental agencies, who are working together to acquire land around Dabob Bay from willing sellers to preserve it as part of the state-designated Natural Area.

“The Navy is bringing significant resources to this ongoing effort on the part of conservation organizations, local residents, DNR, and shellfish growers to protect the pristine habitat and water quality of this remarkable area for future generations,” said Owen Fairbank, board chair of Jefferson Land Trust. “These funds will enable our local investment in conservation to go even further.”

“Dabob Bay is a place where we have the opportunity to preserve one of the least developed and ecologically rich bays and salt marsh estuaries remaining in Puget Sound. We welcome the Navy to this effort,” said Peter Bahls, an aquatic biologist and director of Northwest Watershed Institute.

“The Skokomish Indian Tribe is pleased that the Department of Defense is contributing to the long term effectiveness of protecting this estuary and the associated fish, shellfish, and wildlife resources that are vital to maintaining the social, cultural and spiritual fabric of the Tribe,” said Joseph Pavel, Skokomish Tribes director of natural resources.

“The Nature Conservancy is playing a vital role to maximize benefits to Puget Sound recovery from this Navy program, which protects the Navy’s ability to operate in the region,” said Gerry O’Keefe, executive director of the Puget Sound Partnership. “The agreement between the Navy and the Conservancy to protect Dabob Bay will be a significant lift to the health of Hood Canal and Puget Sound.”

 

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