-----1997 and Beyond--------

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

 One of the greatest challenges to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is to ensure both the Nation's economic prosperity and healthy coastal environments for future generations. This complex mission is evident in the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NOAA Fisheries') work to protect, conserve, restore, and create habitat for fish and protected resources. Twenty-five years of NOAA Fisheries leadership have set the stage for NOAA to renew its commitment to habitat science and management programs and to the partnerships that are so vital to successful stewardship.

 This publication is an important milestone in those efforts. I congratulate NOAA Fisheries on completing this first National Habitat Plan for its National Habitat Program. My appreciation begins with NOAA Fisheries leadership, Rolland A. Schmitten and Nancy Foster, and extends to the entire National Habitat Program, encompassing scientists and managers from around the Nation. The plan and this summary are vibrant symbols of our obligation to the public, the resources, and our colleagues who share our commitment to the habitats of living marine resources.

 This plan marks 2 years of extensive work with our partners to determine future directions for NOAA Fisheries habitat programs. The dialogue with the general public, the environmental community, industry, state governments, and other Federal agencies will continue.

 Now, I ask that you join us as we shift our attentions to implementation. NOAA recognizes the value of partnership. We invite your ideas and encourage your assistance.

 I am proud to witness this milestone. Please join us in the pursuit of our mission!

D. James Baker
Under Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce

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