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Local Partnership Agreement Manages Resource Concerns in Jobos Bay Watershed

Local Partnership Agreement Manages Resource Concerns in the Jobos Bay Watershed

Agreement will Conserve Coastal Waters, Habitats and Coral Reefs

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO, May 30, 2008 - The United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Caribbean Area, celebrated the signing of a local partnership agreement to manage resource concerns in the Jobos Bay Watershed on May 22, 2008.  Arlen Lancaster, Chief, USDA-NRCS witnessed the signing.

"Resource solutions are found at the local level," said Lancaster. "This agreement reflects the strength and commitment of many organizations that came together with the common purpose of conserving the natural resources of the Jobos Bay Watershed."

The Jobos Bay Watershed is the second largest estuarine area in Southeastern Puerto Rico. It encompasses a chain of 15 tear shaped mangrove inlets and is home to the endangered brown pelican, peregrine falcon, hawksbill sea turtle, and West Indian manatee. It is also important for marine recreation, commercial and recreational fishing and ecotourism.

Signing the Jobos Bay Watershed partnership agreement were Juan Martinez, Director, USDA-NRCS Caribbean Area; the Hon. Gabriel Figueroa, Secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture; the Hon. Javier Velez-Arocho, Secretary, Puerto Rico Department of Natural Resources and Environment; and Dr. John Fernandez, Director, University of Puerto Rico (UPR) College of Agricultural Sciences.  Also signing the agreement were representatives from the USDA - Agricultural Research Service (ARS); U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, (EPA); U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS); Sea Grant – UPR; Salinas Forage Farm, Inc.; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Estuarine Reserve Division; and the Sudeste Soil Conservation District.

The Jobos Bay Watershed partnership agreement emphasizes federal and state agencies, local groups, and academia, working together in partnership to determine the environmental effects agricultural conservation practices implemented by farmers on the uplands may have on coastal waters and associated habitats, tropical marine ecosystems, and ultimately on coral reef conservation.  To facilitate these objectives the partners also signed an agreement to work on the Jobos Bay Special Emphasis Watershed Conservation Effects Assessment Project (CEAP). The NRCS, which helps America's private landowners and managers to conserve their natural resources by providing planning, technical and financial assistance, serves as the lead coordinating agency for the CEAP project.

Also on hand to witness the agreement signing and celebration were: Richard Coombe, Regional Assistant Chief - East, NRCS; Krysta Harden, CEO, National Association of Conservation Districts; and Gary Mast, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA.

At present, the $1.3 million CEAP project is projected to span 3 years and is partially funded by USDA and NOAA. The partnership seeks to establish a long-term research and monitoring program for Jobos Bay with the results used to manage agricultural landscapes for environmental quality.

"We are extremely proud of this agreement," said Juan Martinez, NRCS Caribbean Director. "We hope this will be the beginning of a long term partnership to achieve NRCS' mission to 'help people help the land'."

For more information about the Jobos Bay Conservation Effects Assessment Project, contact Edwin Mas, CEAP Coordinator, at 787-766-5206 or download www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/coral_reef/Jobos_Bay_(CEAPFact)02-15-08.pdf