Salish Sea recovery: We have a way. Can we find the will?

December 13, 2019

If you’ve read anything by me, you know that I abhor the status quo, especially when it comes to inaction on restoring the Salish Sea. When we choose to tolerate things that are broken, corrupt, or just plain wrong as the new normal, we shift the baseline of what is acceptable — we become apathetic to what needs to be done to improve our town, our county, our state, our country, ourselves.

I just read the Puget Sound Partnership’s 2019 State of the Sound report. I had to take it in small doses. As someone who works at an environmental non-profit, it isn’t really surprising to see, in writing, that we are failing Puget Sound. The report is clear: “habitat degradation continues to outpace restoration.” My job tends to be a balancing of bad news and hopefulness. Luckily when you dig into the State of the Sound, it outlines, very clearly, what we can all do to turn the tide on the status quo — be bold and make protection, restoration, collaboration and resilience the new normal. We’ll circle back to these actions below.

There are several critical takeaways from State of the Sound. The Puget Sound Action Agenda (which the report is based on) was developed by the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) evaluates 50 total indicators, though not all have targets or goals for recovery. What we know from the report is that, “of the 31 indicators with targets, 27 are below their 2020 target (3 indicators, included in the 27 below their 2020 target, lack the data needed to evaluate status) and most, if not all, are unlikely to meet it by next year.

Perhaps most difficult to read is that three indicators are “getting worse”. Those are marine water conditions, Southern Resident orca population numbers, and numbers of spawning Pacific herring (salmon eat herring, orca eat salmon…). Furthermore, “Near Term Actions” — the projects underway all over the region to advance the Action Agenda’s priorities — are also falling short of their intended targets. Only 23% of the 362 NTA’s are “fully implemented or on schedule.” The main reason for the shortfall on NTAs? Lack of funding and staff resources.

I know, I know, no one likes to read just bad news. But from what I can tell, there is one essential thing needed to turn this whole situation around. Willpower. We need it on all levels, but it truly is the only thing. Will to take bold action and will to invest lots of resources in the Salish Sea’s future.

What you can do

So, this brings us back to action — what you and I can do right now to make a difference. The PSP clearly outlines the actions for: the state legislature, state agencies, local governments, congress, federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, the partnership itself, and the public. I can summarize those calls to action: we need to use what we know to work faster, work together and start funding restoration and protection efforts at higher and more appropriate levels.

RE Sources and our North Sound Baykeeper team can connect you with all sorts of ways to engage and take action to restore Puget Sound. One way anyone can start changing our collective legacy of inaction: Become a citizen scientist. The State of the Sound report calls on the public to, “Volunteer in a community-based science project,” our North Sound Stewards program is just that! RE Sources and partners offer dozens of Salish Sea habitat monitoring events each year. You are an essential part of collecting data that Washington agencies use to better protect especially valuable shorelines.

Become a citizen scientist

You can also advocate for stronger protections while Washington State’s lawmakers convene in January through March 2020 for the legislative session. We need good clean water laws in place if our efforts are to build momentum. Join 300+ RE Sources supporters and take the legislative action pledge. Our policy analysts will send you one email per week as they track the progress of legislation, January through March, with easy-to-use tools to urge lawmakers at pivotal moments to pass protections for Puget Sound.

Join the Legislative Action Team

Now is your chance to act boldly and quickly — if we want unprecedented change (which is what we know we need), we must take unprecedented action. As the PSP says, “Each of us can, and must, do more to accelerate recovery, and we are committed to our partnership with you. Together, as we look to the future, let us be bold in our intent and actions to build a healthy, resilient, and economically prosperous Puget Sound for all.” I look forward to working with you all!

By Ander Russell, Senior Environmental Advocate