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Noaa Celebrates Stimulus Projects On Earth Day; 'Investing In Nature Through Restoration Pays High Dividends'

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ARLINGTON, Virginia -- As part of Earth Day, The Nature Conservancy welcomes visitors from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to three of its projects funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.

Last year, The Nature Conservancy was selected by NOAA to lead eight coastal restoration projects in coastal U.S. states. These eight projects will employ nearly 450 people and help restore and protect coral reefs, oyster reefs, sea grass beds, salt marshes, salmon streams and floodplains – important habitats that provide essential benefits to people such as fisheries, clean water and storm protection, as well as jobs related to tourism and recreational opportunities.

"We are honored to have Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA dignitaries visit our project sites to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day," said Lynne Zeitlin Hale, director of Global Marine Initiative at The Nature Conservancy. "Investing in nature through restoration pays high dividends by both creating jobs and ensuring that healthy coastal habitats continue to feed and protect people"

On Friday, April 23rd NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco will visit the Coral Recovery and Restoration Project in the Florida Keys. NOAA provided $3.3 million in Recovery Act funding to The Nature Conservancy for this project. It will support an estimated 57 jobs; workers will aid in the recovery of threatened Acropora coral species by transplanting nursery-grown coral fragments to 34,000 square meters of reef that have been damaged by grounded ships.

"It's great to see the Recovery Act making a difference for the environment and the economy here in the Keys," said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "This project is creating immediate blue and green jobs and also making a long-term investment in healthier coral reefs, which provide habitat for the fish populations that are so valuable to commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and the local economy."

On Earth Day, April 22nd, The Nature Conservancy hosted visitors from NOAA at projects sites in Louisiana and Hawaii.

Monica Medina, Senior Advisor for NOAA visited Grand Isle, Louisiana. NOAA provided $4 million in Recovery Act funding to The Nature Conservancy to restore oyster reefs for shoreline protection. This project is supporting more than 50 jobs employing skilled laborers who are building five acres of oyster reef, which will protect 3.4 miles of Louisiana shoreline and 350 acres of marsh habitat. Laborers from the local community, as well as students from the local university, are building a bio-engineered oyster reef. The reef will protect shorelines and marshes along the coast, providing habitat for more than 100 marine species.

Andrew Winer, director of external affairs for NOAA, visited the project site in Maunalua Bay, Hawaii where The Nature Conservancy is working to remove invasive algae from more than 22 acres of coral reef, while employing more than 70 area residents to design, manage, and implement the effort. NOAA provided $3.4 million in Recovery Act funding to The Nature Conservancy for this project, which is working to restore coral reefs through manual removal of invasive algae from 22 acres of near shore waters. This restoration will also allow for new coral growth and for sea grass to re-establish and expand throughout the area.

NOAA received more than 800 proposals from organizations across the country totaling more than $3 billion in requests for restoration funding. This overwhelming response demonstrates the profound need for increased restoration and stewardship of our oceans and coasts, far surpassing the $22 million in NOAA's annual budget for coastal habitat restoration projects or the $167 million available in stimulus funding.

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