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The Nature Conservancy Applauds Congressional Support for Oregon’s Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge

Press release from Nature Conservancy | August 26, 2005

Portland, Oregon - The Nature Conservancy today applauded Congressional action to fund the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge project with $4.2 million from the Safe, Affordable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. The House of Representatives and Senate gave final approval to the transportation bill on Friday.

The Bandon Marsh project will rebuild and upgrade a section of county road that crosses and accesses the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. It will open up more than 400 acres of tidal wetlands for restoration to provide essential habitats for threatened coho salmon, waterfowl and shorebirds. The Nature Conservancy recognizes the refuge as one of Oregon's highest priority natural areas and strongly supported the road improvement project.

"The Bandon Marsh Refuge is home to some of the most critical tidal wetlands on the Oregon coast," said Russell Hoeflich, director of The Nature Conservancy's Oregon chapter. "We are delighted that Congress recognized the importance of funding conservation projects that create jobs and benefit the local economy while protecting Oregon's natural heritage. The support of Congressman Peter DeFazio was essential to ensuring that this precious landscape will continue to thrive and provide numerous benefits to local communities."

"At long last, the House and Senate have approved legislation that will create in the most direct and immediate way hundreds of thousands of jobs and millions in economic stimulus," said Congressman Peter DeFazio, a key leader on the legislation. "And we don't have to borrow the money to make it happen. SAFETEA-LU will invest money Americans have paid at the pump to create jobs, putting Americans to work to improve the nation's bridges, roads, highways and mass transit."

"The Nature Conservancy, Coos County, the City of Bandon and other local groups and businesses have formed an impressive partnership to enhance the Bandon Marsh Wildlife Refuge and make the area a hub of environmental tourism," DeFazio added. "Funding for the North Bank Lane and Randolph Road rehabilitation project will help make their vision a reality, and in turn protect the environment and improve the economy of the surrounding communities."

Along with applauding Congressman DeFazio for securing funding for the Bandon Marsh project in the Transportation bill, Hoeflich also commended Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Gordon Smith for their longtime support of the project.

The project will improve a section of the Bandon-Charleston State Scenic Tour Route on Coos County's Randolph Road and North Bank Lane by improving the paving, striping and widening the shoulders to make them safe for bicycling. In addition, a portion of North Bank Lane will be raised to prevent flooding from tidal action along the Coquille River and the bridge over Fahys Creek will be replaced to reduce flooding during peak rain events and tidal action.

According to estimates of federal highway officials, a $4.2 million road improvement project can be expected to generate about 150 jobs: 85 direct jobs in the construction and materials fields and 65 indirect jobs, with actual construction estimated to begin within two years.

The tidal wetlands restoration project, made possible by the road improvements, will be the largest estuary wetlands restoration ever undertaken in Oregon, opening up more than 400 acres of diked former tidelands on the refuge to provide essential habitat for juvenile salmonids, including federally listed coho salmon. Migratory birds, particularly waterfowl and shorebirds, will greatly benefit from the restoration. The restoration project will also help protect against degradation numerous cultural resources sites of importance to the Coquille Indian Tribe, including remnants of a historic Indian fishing camp that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered to be one of the most important cultural resources sites in Oregon.

Safe, Affordable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users reauthorizes the nation's surface transportation programs. For the first time ever, the Act provides for cooperation between state transportation and resource management agencies during the long-range transportation planning process. It also encourages states to consider available conservation data and maps as well as impacts to wildlife and native plants in their 20-year transportation plans and then determine how best to mitigate those impacts.

In addition to the planning provision, the Act also supports conservation by funding conservation projects as part of the more than 5,000 demonstration projects receiving monies. This funding supports a variety of strategies at environmentally important sites across the country.

Article has been adapted from a news release issued by Nature Conservancy. Click here for the original news release.

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