HARTFORD, CT — As part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors Initiative, officials from the Department of the Interior (DOI), the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Army (Civil Works) today announced that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed outlining collaborative efforts to enhance conservation, restoration, outdoor recreation and environmental education in support of the 7.2 million acre Connecticut River and Watershed National Blueway — covering areas of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“The Connecticut River and Watershed National Blueway is a model project for enhancing outdoor recreation and land and water stewardship, as part of the Administration's America's Great Outdoors Initiative. Revitalizing and reconnecting with the rivers that flow through our communities is a great way to create jobs, strengthen local economies, enhance quality of life for our citizens, and provide close-to-home outdoor recreation opportunities for families,” said Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes. “The Department of the Interior is proud to be a partner with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Army (Civil Works) to bring federal resources to state and local partners and committed stakeholders, who for the past 60 years, have worked hard to transform the Connecticut River from “America's Best Landscaped Sewer” to America's first National Blueway.”
“This Memorandum of Understanding will help USDA work more effectively with agricultural and forest landowners to implement voluntary conservation measures that improve water quality, restore wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat and sustain agricultural profitability in the Connecticut River Watershed National Blueway,” said Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment. “Our technical experts will collaborate with professionals from other federal agencies and partner organizations to put forth a cooperative, watershed approach to land and water conservation in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and New Hampshire.”
“The Corps of Engineers is proud to be a part of the National Blueways program,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Terrence “Rock” Salt. “Together with local stakeholders and our federal partners we are conserving our river systems and watersheds. We are eager to share our watershed studies with our partners to help make decisions for the future stewardship of this system.”
The MOU, which was announced today by federal officials in Connecticut, will build on a partnership with the Friends of Conte Refuge and the Connecticut River Watershed Council to strengthen current agency efforts on conservation and encourage the sharing of resources and ideas that address the needs of the Connecticut River National Blueway, which serves as a model for the National Blueways System. Prior to the announcement, local residents participated in the Connecticut River Watershed Council's 16th annual “Source to Sea” cleanup of the rivers, streams and banks along the Connecticut River system, as part of National Public Lands Day – the largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands in the United States.
In May of this year, Secretary Salazar designated the Connecticut River and Watershed as America's first National Blueway, a new election for rivers and watersheds of national significance designed to promote and conserve the economic, recreational, and natural value of healthy river systems.
The Connecticut River and its watershed include about 2.4 million residents and 396 communities. The Trust for Public Land estimates that the 1.4 million people who visit the Connecticut River watershed every year contribute at least one billion dollars to local economies.
The MOU will leverage additional support and collaboration for projects such as Interior's pending Online River Atlas for the Connecticut River National Blueway that will help residents locate opportunities for recreation and education along the Connecticut Basin and on rivers across the country. The agreement will also help federal agencies to share information, best practices and resources while encouraging collaborative stewardship of rivers and their watersheds.
For a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding, click here.