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FLORIDA BAY WATCH PROGRAM WINS GULF GUARDIAN AWARD

It's Time Graphic
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 3, 2002

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss.
The Gulf of Mexico Program recently announced that the Florida Bay Watch Program in Summerland Key, Fla., will receive a second place Gulf Guardian Award for 2002 in the Nonprofit Organization Category. The award will be presented to representatives of the organization at the Clean Gulf Conference scheduled for Nov. 5-7, in Galveston, Texas.

Three years ago the Gulf of Mexico Program developed the Gulf Guardian awards as a method of recognizing and honoring the businesses, community groups, individuals, and agencies that are taking positive steps to keep the Gulf healthy, beautiful and productive. The Gulf of Mexico Program began in 1988 to protect, restore, and maintain the health and productivity of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem in economically sustainable ways. Award entries were received from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. A first, second, and third place award are given each year in six categories individual, business, youth and education, nonprofit organizations, government, and partnership efforts.

The Gulf Guardian Awards take on special significance in 2002 as we celebrate 30 years since the passage of the Clean Water Act, said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. The efforts of those being recognized as Gulf Guardians are key to our success as we address water issues. These award winners accepted the challenge and have joined us as we restore and protect our nation's waters for future generations."

"The water samples collected by Florida Bay Watch volunteers have documented the need for investment in restoration of water quality in the Florida Keys, said Bob Bendick, vice president and director for the Southeast Region of the Nature Conservancy. The partnership with EPA has proved that people can make a difference in their own back yards and waters," he added.

Since 1994, The Nature Conservancy has trained volunteers to collect daily water samples and environmental data in the nearshore waters of the Keys and Florida Bay. Several volunteers have been in the program since its inception. Ecological changes in Florida Bay and the Keys have been documented in the last ten years. Scientists and local fishers raised the alarm in the early 1990s and asked for more information about nutrient sources in these waters. Thus began Florida Bay Watch. The program has the only long-term dataset on nearshore nutrient concentrations in the Florida Keys

Gulf of Mexico Program Office Director Jim Giattina said, The Gulf Guardian Award exemplifies what the Gulf of Mexico Program is all about innovative solutions that come about when we pool resources and look for creative ways to positively impact our quality of life and economic well-being. We are all one Gulf community and have only one Gulf of Mexico. Projects like these are helping to protect our local coastal waters, which significantly contributes to the Gulf's beauty and value, said Giattina.

For a list of all the Gulf Guardian Award winners for 2002, visit the Gulf of Mexico Program web site at http://www.epa.gov/gmpo and click on the Gulf Guardian Award button on the left.

The Gulf of Mexico Program is underwritten by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and is a non-regulatory, inclusive consortium of state and federal government agencies and representatives of the business and agricultural community, fishing industry, scientists, environmentalists, and community leaders from all five Gulf States. The Gulf Program seeks to improve the environmental health of the Gulf in concert with economic development.

Editor's Note: For more information about the Gulf Guardian Awards and the Gulf of Mexico Program, call Terry Hines Smith at 228-688-1159. For more information about the Florida Bay Watch Program, call Jody Thomas at 305-745-8402, ext. 106.

Gulf of Mexico Program Office
Mail Code: EPA/GMPO
Stennis Space Center, MS 39529-6000
228-688-3726
FAX: 228-688-2709


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