Sunday, November 12, 2017

Hello? Puget Sound Partnership?



Guest blog by Pete Haase

Hello?  Puget Sound Partnership?  Do you suppose you could take a little break from meetings and planning and strategizing and round up some ammunition to send my way?

I am a volunteer, a “Salish Sea Steward.” I’m just one of probably thousands like me, all over the greater Puget Sound region, on the very front lines of the daily battle for the protection and betterment of our special environment.  During our “work” we collectively see and visit with hundreds of regular folks, every day, and do our best to help them learn to “do the right things.”  They always want to know more about what those “right things” are and they always thank us for the efforts we put forth.  But we rarely have satisfying or proper answers.

It would be a big help if we had some crib notes or cheat sheets or little reminder cards that explain the “right things” in a few words and catchy graphics.

Instead, right now, we are needing to attend talks, read long documents, articles and papers, or try to find someone to enlighten us.  That takes a lot of time and some of the material is awfully complicated. It is too much to ask of volunteers.  I know my brain is already too full.  I wind up “winging it” quite a bit!  So, for me, it needs to be concise, attractive, and stick to the big “Vital Signs – Targets.”  Tell us what we “citizens” need to do to help get to those targets.

I know it is not easy to create these material.  Everything is complex and interwoven and you do find out new things all the time.  Many of the actions the common citizen can take mean advocating for policy and regulation changes and better enforcement of existing regulations – not just rethinking their own behavior.  Sometimes the whole solution is not yet known.  Most things are very costly.  Besides that there is this terrible need to overload every piece of literature with more pictures and more words.

But you did not sign up for the easy work, and some few examples could be done for us to try out and critique.  Possibly the work can be farmed out to regional groups so that the local perspective comes through but with you assuring that the style, the message, and the prescription is consistent everywhere.  Certainly key things for citizens to get active about in King County are not the same in San Juan County.

It is well recognized that the “general public” around the Salish Sea must become much more educated, excited about, and engaged with the betterment of it.  Here is one of many possible ways.  Give it a try.  Guys like me will do our best to make it work.  These things could become collector’s items!!!

(Pete Haase is an environmental volunteer in Skagit County doing citizen science with others in the hope that it will make a difference.)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Throwing In the Towel on Puget Sound’s 2020 Goal



Guest blog by Kathy Fletcher

The Puget Sound Partnership has now officially thrown in the towel on the goal of restoring Puget Sound to health by the year 2020. From press accounts of this latest report, one might have concluded that the 2020 goal was set only 10 years ago, when the current version of the Partnership was established. Actually, the goal was set more than 30 years ago by Washington State, in 1985 legislation that created the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority.*

Coincidentally, a new report on the status of one piece of the job to save the Sound--the cleanup of Port Angeles Harbor's toxic sediments--has announced a new timeline for completion: 2029 or perhaps 2032. Does anyone besides me find it shocking that 20 years after the polluting mill closed, the responsible agencies have not even come up with an approach to the cleanup?

Governor Inslee seems genuinely concerned, and wants to inject "urgency" into the restoration of the Sound. Great. But we have been here before. Governors Gardner, Lowry, Locke and Gregoire all pledged before him to do right by the Sound. But throughout these decades there has been a huge gap between words and actions, between promises and the guts to make it happen.

What, if anything, will be different this time?

(Kathy Fletcher served as Chair and Director of the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority and was founder and Executive Director of People For Puget Sound.)

* RCW 90.71.300
PUGET SOUND WATER QUALITY PROTECTION
Action agenda—Goals and objectives.

(1) The action agenda shall consist of the goals and objectives in this section, implementation strategies to meet measurable outcomes, benchmarks, and identification of responsible entities. By 2020, the action agenda shall strive to achieve the following goals:
(a) A healthy human population supported by a healthy Puget Sound that is not threatened by changes in the ecosystem;
(b) A quality of human life that is sustained by a functioning Puget Sound ecosystem;
(c) Healthy and sustaining populations of native species in Puget Sound, including a robust food web;
(d) A healthy Puget Sound where freshwater, estuary, nearshore, marine, and upland habitats are protected, restored, and sustained;
(e) An ecosystem that is supported by groundwater levels as well as river and streamflow levels sufficient to sustain people, fish, and wildlife, and the natural functions of the environment;
(f) Fresh and marine waters and sediments of a sufficient quality so that the waters in the region are safe for drinking, swimming, shellfish harvest and consumption, and other human uses and enjoyment, and are not harmful to the native marine mammals, fish, birds, and shellfish of the region.

(2) The action agenda shall be developed and implemented to achieve the following objectives:
(a) Protect existing habitat and prevent further losses;
(b) Restore habitat functions and values;
(c) Significantly reduce toxics entering Puget Sound fresh and marine waters;
(d) Significantly reduce nutrients and pathogens entering Puget Sound fresh and marine waters;
(e) Improve water quality and habitat by managing stormwater runoff;
(f) Provide water for people, fish and wildlife, and the environment;
(g) Protect ecosystem biodiversity and recover imperiled species; and
(h) Build and sustain the capacity for action.

[ 2007 c 341 § 12. <http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2007-08/Pdf/Bills/Session Laws/Senate/5372-S.SL.pdf?cite=2007 c 341 § 12.> ]

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Little Progress Made Towards A Puget Sound "Fishable, Swimmable, Diggable," Says Partnership After 10 Years

[Encyclopedia of Puget Sound]
Governor Christine Gregoire 10 years ago coined the awful clunky phrase "fishable, swimmable, diggable" to describe the progress to be made to Puget Sound recovery by the year 2020. Sadly, the next State of the Sound Report presented to the Partnership’s Leadership Council late last month pretty much tells the same story of previous progress reports: "We have done many good things, but the system has not yet responded positively." Why not?

In brief: Not enough money, not enough popular awareness of problems, not enough protection of what exists, and not enough attention to a growing economy and population.

Here in the Partnership’s own words from the September 15 draft State of the Sound report (with thanks to the indefatigable Pete Haase of Skagit County who actually attends Leadership Council meetings as a concerned citizen and reports back on what he hears)--

“1 . We are not investing at a level necessary to achieve recovery. We simply have not prioritized Puget Sound recovery at a level that results in adequate spending on restoration and protection projects.

2 . Too few people understand that Puget Sound is in trouble. We must do a better job of providing credible, hard-hitting information to our citizenry, whom we are confident cares deeply about Puget Sound—and will demand a recovery effort that is successful.

3 . While we have appropriately focused much on restoration projects, we have not focused enough on programs designed to protect what we have. We must support our local governments and state and federal agencies as they go about the extraordinarily difficult task of preventing projects and activities that will harm the Sound.

4 . We have to ramp up our effort to keep pace with our booming economy. It has been reported that 1,000 people a week are moving into the Puget Sound basin. That means housing, roads, and other supportive infrastructure, all of which has the potential to destroy habitat, degrade water quality, reduce stream flows, and lower groundwater tables.”

Such frankness and plain-speaking are appreciated but after 10 years a bit ironic. There’s always the problem with funding but how has the money been spent to make the Sound healthier? And why hasn’t the Partnership effort raised public awareness, focused on protection as well as restoration, and developed strategies to deal with growth?

For at least the last 20 years we’ve known Chinook salmon and resident killer whales were in trouble and that recovery required a spectrum of unified actions dealing with pollution prevention and cleanup, habitat protection and restoration, land use and catch management changes, and an active, involved public constituency that kept the issue of the Sound’s health on the front burner.

There once were non-governmental organizations watchdogging this effort and jumping up and down about what needed to be done for the Sound. Where are they now?

Now there’s an action agenda, a constellation of goals and multiple indicators of success.  So how about sparking some urgency to take action for a Puget Sound whose health is slipping away. Show us the leadership that finds funding, educates and involves the public, enforces existing laws, and grapples with population growth.

The treaty tribes will do what they can but they cannot save Puget Sound. It’s also up to state and local elected officials, agency staff and businesses. That’s what these years of “saving Puget Sound” have been all about. And when there are enough people involved, speaking out and voting for candidates and issues supporting a healthy Sound, action follows. Maybe when that happens, reporters will begin covering Puget Sound issues and Pete Haase will have other citizens joining him at Partnership meetings.

The author of the State of the Sound reports says that “we simply need to summon the will— at multiple levels, all across Puget Sound” to “chart a course for where we must go next.”

Better get going. It’s urgent.

--Mike Sato

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse— At Least Once In A Lifetime

[JPL/NASA]
July 11, 1991, Honolulu, was my once in a lifetime (thus far) experience with a total solar eclipse. It began mid-morning and aunts and uncles and family friends gathered at my parents home in Manoa Valley. In the gradual darkening of the totality, I walked down the steep steps to the back yard to watch, using the proper protective lenses (which must have been sufficiently protective since I can still see).

It never got completely as dark as night but the July mid-morning, Hawaii temperature noticeably dropped and a stillness enveloped the back yard. I quickly hurried up the steps to report to those gathered in the living room only to find them comfortably watching the eclipse on television. I could at best describe poorly what could be seen clearly, without protective lenses, on the bright screen.

There is no experience quite like watching a total solar eclipse outside in real time. Use a little imagination and try to see it through the eyes of a pre-scientific person, try to make up a story that makes sense of what you see. What filled me with amazement and still does every time there is a solar or lunar eclipse is how we have learned the physics and mathematics to predict with great accuracy the places and times these wonderful celestial events occur. We’ve come a long way from making up stories. Think about that relationship between what’s inside our heads and what’s outside in the natural world— pretty profound.

This morning I’ll be watching an 88% totality with my grandson and joking that he can use the protective lenses while I watch the eclipse on television. But I’ll be outside with him as will millions of others coming together for a few hours, sharing the experience of a lifetime.

So, that’s my story. Send me yours to share.

--Mike Sato

Friday, July 14, 2017

NEWS RELEASE: Orphan Orca Springer Gives Birth To Second Calf

Springer & new calf [PHOTO: Lisa Spaven, DFO]
NEWS RELEASE

July 14, 2017



 

ORPHAN ORCA SPRINGER GIVES BIRTH TO SECOND CALF BEFORE
15TH ANNIVERSARY OF RESCUE CELEBRATION 
JULY 21-23 AT TELEGRAPH COVE, BC
 

The heroic rescue in Puget Sound fifteen years ago of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and her return home 300 miles north to Johnstone Strait is celebrated July 21-23 at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia.

Just in time for the celebration, Springer has a new calf! The calf was first spotted by CetaceaLab on BC's north central coast on June 5th and confirmed by a Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) research survey. Springer's first calf, Spirit, was born in 2013.

“Celebrate Springer!” brings together the 2002 rescue team to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.

“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab.  “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”

Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and now has given birth twice. They are most often seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.

The public is invited to Telegraph Cove at 11 AM on July 22 to hear “Springer’s Story,” a slide show narration by members of Springer’s rescue team, followed by a panel discussion. At 4 PM, the new Telegraph Cove Whale Trail sign will be dedicated and at 5:30 PM, the public is invited to join in for a salmon dinner on the Boardwalk.

“We can hardly believe it has been 15 years since Springer was reunited with her family.  We encourage everyone to come and celebrate this milestone with us at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove,” said Mary Borrowman, director of the Center. “The most exciting news is the confirmation that Springer has had another calf and we hope we will be fortunate enough to see this famous mother with her family this summer.”

“Fifteen and half years ago Springer was orphaned, 300 miles from home, starving, sick and completely alone,” said Dr. Lance Barrett-Lennard, director of the Cetacean Research Program at Ocean Wise. “Her rescue, relocation, reunification with relatives and transition to motherhood is an incredible story. I see it as testimony to both the resiliency of killer whales as a species and to the wonderful things we humans can do when we work together on behalf of — rather than against — nature.”

"The few, well-documented records that we receive of Springer each year are testament not only to the success of her rehabilitation and reintegration with her population but also to the dedication of cetacean researchers up and down the more remote regions of our coast," said Jared Towers, DFO’s killer whale research technician.

 “The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer's rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”

“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and co-organizer of “Celebrate Springer!” Telegraph Cove event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer's fate.  We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”

For more information, check out Springer Facebook Page   and The Whale Trail.

# # #

CONTACTS:
Paul Spong, OrcaLab (250) 974-8068
Lara Sloan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (250) 363-3749
Mary Borrowman, Whale Interpretive Center (250) 949-1556
Deana Lancaster, Ocean Wise (604) 659-3752
Michael Milstein, NOAA Fisheries  (503) 231-6268
Donna Sandstrom, The Whale Trail (206) 919-5397 




Monday, July 3, 2017

Merlins

Merlin [Photo: Barb Deihl]
Merlins

Guest blog by Barb Deihl

Right now, at the end of June and into July, the young Merlins are getting bigger and bigger and almost ready to head out of their reused crow nests, mostly in 100-foot firs or pines.  Fledging has started for some of the broods.

How do you find them?  Listen for loud, persistent calls high up in sky or tree and, with the help of binoculars and even better, a spotting scope, you may be treated to views of a swift-flying, 11-inch adult falcon.  Following its flight, you may see it engage with another and execute a prey transfer (usually a small bird), deftly execute a small bird, or chase away a crow or an eagle.

You can often follow an adult to the spot where it enters the nest tree and then find the nest after that, and a few young standing on it or jumping or flapping or racing around in the nest.  Soon (in about 2 weeks), you'll notice dark lumps out on branches (still coated with some sprinkles of down).  Then, in the first weeks of July, they will be taking short flights, playing and learning some important life skills.  The parents now provide and even prepare their food.  By late July, the fledglings will have to start using their own hunting skills, often first on small 'summer birds', dragonflies!

Numbers of suburbanizing Merlins living among us have certainly increased in the past decade up an down the coast, from northern California to British Columbia. They adapting well to living around humans.

Click here to view a set of photos of nestlings, fledglings and adults, most of which were taken by me, and one by another person.

Kee-kee-kee!

Writer and photographer Barb Deihl is a Neighborhood Merlin Liaison, naturalist, educator, and environmentalist.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

"Celebrate Springer!' Marks 15th Anniversary of Orphan Orca Rescue

Springer and calf Spirit, July 2013 [PHOTO: Graeme Ellis]
NEWS RELEASE
May 3, 2017

RESCUE OF ORPHANED ORCA SPRINGER 15 YEARS AGO
TO BE CELEBRATED AT SALISH SEA PROGRAMS AND EVENTS
“Celebrate Springer!” marks the 15th anniversary of the dramatic rescue in Puget Sound of the orphaned orca Springer (A-73) and the heroic efforts by Washington and British Columbia teams working together to return her safely to her home 300 miles north in Johnstone Strait at the north end of Vancouver Island.

Fifteen years later, Springer is still healthy and in 2013 had her first calf, Spirit. They are most often
seen on the north central British Columbia coast and occasionally return to Johnstone Strait in summer.

The 2002 Springer rescue team will reconvene in programs and events in Puget Sound, Georgia Strait and Telegraph Cove in May, June and July to give first-hand accounts of how Springer was identified, rescued and rehabilitated. She was taken by jet catamaran to the north end of Vancouver Island and reunited with her Northern Resident family.

“The Springer success story continues to be an inspiration for all of us working on conservation in the Salish Sea,” said Lynne Barre, the lead for orca recovery at NOAA Fisheries’ West Coast regional office in Seattle. “The partnerships created during Springer's rescue provide a strong foundation for international cooperation as well as coordination between government, state, tribal, and non-profit groups to benefit both Northern and Southern Resident killer whales.”

“Celebrate Springer!” begins on May 20 on Vashon Island near the waters were Springer was found. The Vashon Theater program of “Springer’s Story” will feature members of the rescue team, a dance performance by Le La La Dancers, who were present at Springer's release, and followed by a late afternoon Whale Trail sign dedication at the Point Robinson Lighthouse.

“Springer’s reunion is an unqualified success – the only project of its kind in history,” said Donna Sandstrom, director of The Whale Trail and organizer of the Vashon Island event. “To get the little whale home, we had to learn how to work together, as organizations, agencies and nations. Above all, we put her best interests first. Community members played a key role in shaping Springer's fate.  We hope her story inspires people to join us in working on issues facing our endangered southern resident orcas today, with the same urgency, commitment, and resolve.”

“Celebrate Springer!” will continue in June and July with programs at NOAA Fisheries, Whale Trail Orca Talk, Whale Trail sign dedications, and conclude with a three-day program at Telegraph Cove, British Columbia, where Springer was released in 2002 and rejoined her Northern Resident family.

“Springer’s story is an inspiration on many levels,” said Paul Spong of OrcaLab.  “It proved that an orphan orca, alone and separated from her family, can be rehabilitated and returned to a normal productive life with her family and community; and it showed that disparate parties with diverse interests can come together and work together for the common goal of helping one little whale.”

“Celebrate Springer!” partners include NOAA Fisheries, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, OrcaLab, Whale Interpretive Center, Vancouver Aquarium and The Whale Trail.

For more information, check out the Celebrate Springer Facebook page,  and The Whale Trail.

# # #

CONTACT:
Donna Sandstrom, The Whale Trail (206) 919-5397
Michael Milstein, NOAA Fisheries  (503) 231-6268)
Paul Spong, OrcaLab (250) 974-8068
Lara Sloan, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (250) 363-3749
Mary Borrowman, Whale Interpretive Center (250) 949-1556
Deana Lancaster, Vancouver Aquarium (604) 659-3752