Monday, January 16, 2017

Oil v. Orca

Guest blog by Shaun Hubbard

The San Juan Islands, smack-dab in the middle of the Salish Sea, attract thousands and thousands of summer visitors – the two-legged kind. One of the main reasons they choose to visit the islands is to see our other summer visitors – the finned kind. The Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), or orca whales, do not show up in the thousands however, but are fewer than 80 in number and, with the 7 reported dead or missing last year, are declining still.

In 2005, NOAA determined the SRKW to be in danger of extinction, and so added them to the Endangered Species List . The critical habitat legally designated under the Endangered Species Act for the SRKW is the Salish Sea, which reaches north across the Canadian border to Georgia Strait, south into Puget Sound, and west to the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. By definition, what makes the Salish Sea a habitat critical to the SRKW is that it “contains features essential for their conservation” and that it “may require special management and protection”. From San Juan Islanders’, and the orcas’, points of view there is no “may” about it.

Threats to the essential features of the Salish Sea, and therefore the whales, abound. One of the biggest threats is the recently approved Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project. This pipeline will transport Alberta tar sands crude oil (particularly heavy, toxic oil also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit”) to Vancouver BC where it will be loaded onto tankers. As approved, 348 more tankers per year will travel the west side of our islands on their way to US, and potentially Asian, refineries. Many Canadians are advocating for rerouting the pipeline to a Washington State refinery, which would export the tar sands through Rosario Strait, along our eastern and southern shores. Either way, the islands – and the orcas – are surrounded.

Ship noise pollution hinders the whales’ search for food. Ship strikes happen and may have been the cause of death for J34, a member of the J-pod found dead in Canadian waters on December 20. Oil spills of any size and form – be it a container ship’s propulsion fuel, or an oil tanker’s cargo – will decimate the whales’ food supply and our islands’ tourist economy because oil spill “cleanup” is impossible.

Of all the new and proposed terminal projects in the Salish Sea, the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion would cause the greatest oil spill risk: a 9-fold (800%) increase of a 20,000 barrel or larger spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait/Boundary Pass.

It wouldn’t take much of an oil spill to push the orcas over the brink or to devastate our islands’ economy and way of life, which is dependent on a healthy marine environment and unspoiled natural resources.

The San Juans aren’t the only community that would be negatively affected by the increase in shipping traffic due to this project. Imagine every city, town or village on or near the Salish Sea that relies on the marine environment for its livelihood. Imagine every company or community that identifies with the sea, and the orca in particular, and perhaps even uses the orca as its namesake, logo, or welcome sign. Now imagine every orca logo being replaced by a tanker logo.

If you live, work or play on or near the Salish Sea, if you have ever been a visitor to the islands (or longed to be), if you care about the future of the Sea and its inhabitants – two-legged, finned, or otherwise – and if it’s important to you to prevent any additional hazards to these inhabitants, then please write to Governor Inslee and our US Senators Cantwell and Murray and tell them.

Islanders and island-lovers need to urge our governor and representatives to engage with the Canadian government. We need to tell Canada that this project is not in our state’s or our country’s best interest. We need to remind them that oil spills know no borders.

Please write and urge them to enact strong legislation that will protect our waters from the threats that this pipeline and other such projects will bring to the Salish Sea – unless we want it to be known as a highway for tankers instead of a healthy home for orcas.

For more information on increased shipping in the Salish Sea, please visit the safe shipping page on the Friends of the San Juans’ website.

Shaun Hubbard

Shaun Hubbard is a 5th-generation San Juan Islander and co-founder of San Juan Islanders for Safe Shipping, a grassroots educational outreach and advocacy group in the San Juan Islands focused on shipping safety and oil spill prevention.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Us vs Me, We vs I — Farewell Obama, Hello Trump

[USA Today]
 Tuesday night I listened to President Obama’s farewell speech and Wednesday morning I listened to president-elect Trump’s news conference. I was sad listening to my president say good-bye and angry listening to the president-elect spout off but aside from policy differences in the speech and the news conference, what struck me was the shift from “We can do it” to “I can do it.”

The President looked back to his early days as a community organizer and how he “learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”

And: “After eight years as your president, I still believe that.  And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.”

In closing: “I am asking you to believe.  Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.... Yes We Can. Yes We Did. Yes We Can.”  [Full transcript of President Obama's farewell speech]

Maybe you would dismiss all that as pretty rhetoric but it was hard not to be struck by the vulgarity of the next morning’s news conference.

By contrast, president-elect Trump was boisterously selling his Trump brand throughout his news conference, pledging what he was going to do, who he liked (his people, ‘brilliant’) and who he didn’t like (the ‘fake’ news media, intelligence agency leakers, Lindsey Graham, Chuck Schummer). With president-elect Trump it’s all about Trump and the American people will get what he’s promised because Trump and ‘his people’ are successful people and they are successful because they are smart. [Full transcript of Trump press conference]

After I watched President Obama’s speech, I wondered whether he had expected too much of us citizens, asked too much for our engagement in the civil process of self-government. A thoughtful friend also pondered: “I fear we are a nation of greedy people, and that is the most depressing. You are right, he asks more than the country is made up of. Maybe the next generation? We keep talking about what went wrong - maybe that declaration of independence was taken too literally and people are too independent and not enough dependent on each other.”

But after I listen to the bully braggart who promises he will “Make America Great Again,” I wondered what my part would be in his America. Where would teamwork and inclusiveness and diversity and cooperation be welcomed and not looked upon as impediments to the success of those in power? If what President Obama asked of us citizens was too hard, then maybe folks would just rather sit back and let Trump and his cronies turn the United States of America into Trump America?

I doubt it. Not without our say-so. Our America. We the people. We can. We will.

Thank you, President Obama.

--Mike Sato

Monday, January 9, 2017

Are You Willing to Work 150 Years For Salmon Recovery?

from State of Salmon 2016
In 1998, Washington Governor Gary Locke declared, regarding Puget Sound Chinook salmon, “extinction is not an option.” The recent State of Salmon 2016 summary issued by the state says, “It took more than 150 years to bring salmon to the brink of extinction; it may take just as long to bring them all the way back.” And it’s gotten worse for Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead over the last 15 years. Keep working?

Before answering that question, take a look at the summary report on the progress of salmon recovery efforts and read Kimberly Cauvel’s account in the Skagit Valley Herald, “State: More work needed to save the salmon.”

According to the state report, $516.55 million has been spent on Puget Sound salmon recovery (out of $883.95 million total statewide, 1997-2015).

According to the report, the condition of Endangered Species Act-listed Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead is getting worse. Major barriers to salmon recovery in Puget Sound come from rapid population growth and development: Shoreline armoring, water quality, stormwater, in-stream flows, impervious surfaces, loss of forest cover, fish passage barriers, and development in floodplains and estuaries. Put bluntly, “There is a clear need for increased habitat protection for salmon in Puget Sound.”

But we’ve known for years that it is habitats for salmon and salmon-prey spawning and rearing that are major limiting factors in salmon recovery.

According to a provocatively argued paper now in publication by Robert T. Lackey at the Oregon State University Fisheries and Wildlife Department, salmon recovery is not a matter of science but one of policy and politics.

“Efforts to restore declining wild salmon runs in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have evolved into a “salmon recovery industry” with multiple local, state, and federal government bureaucracies and the associated contractors. Overall, the recovery industry employs thousands of scientists and other technical experts. Over many years and after hundreds of millions of dollars spent for scientific research, salmon are arguably the most studied group of fishes in the world. The vast bureaucracy and massive quantity of science have, however, failed to reverse the long-term decline of wild salmon.

“Successful wild salmon recovery, if it ever occurs, rests squarely in the realm of the political process. Despite well over a century of failure to recover wild salmon, however, many in the salmon recovery industry insist that science continue to play a privileged, even dominant role in helping to decipher and decide key elements of this highly contested, complex, policy problem. The preference for science appears to be supported by both traditionally Democratic and traditionally Republican constituencies; in short, policy advocates from all parts of the political spectrum usually champion science as a critical or determining factor in policy decisions.”  [Science and salmon recovery. In: Sc
ience and Problem Solving Under Post-Normal Conditions: From Complex Problems to New Problem Solving Strategies, Edward P. Weber, Denise H. Lach, and Brent S. Steel, editors, Oregon State Press, Corvallis, Oregon.[In Press] ]

For salmon recovery to be successful, Lackey argues that the inadequacies of using a normal science approach to salmon decline need to be overcome:

Salmon Policy Lesson 1 — Efforts of recovery wild salmon will continue to struggle because of conflicting policy priorities and the constraints of the ESA’s approach to species protection.

Salmon Policy Lesson 2 — Current institutional and political dynamics limit our ability to deal effectively with salmon recovery.

Salmon Policy Lesson 3 — Market incentives and the rules of commerce tend to work against increasing wild salmon numbers.

Salmon Policy Lesson 4 — Competition for critical natural resources, especially for water, will continue to increase and will work against recovering wild salmon.

Salmon Policy Lesson 5 — Dramatic increases in the human population of the Pacific Northwest will work against wild salmon recovery.

Salmon Policy Lesson 6 — Individual and collective life-style preferences are important and substantial changes must take place in these preferences if long-term downward trends in wild salmon abundance are to be reversed.

He concludes: “To succeed, a wild salmon recovery strategy must change the trajectory of the major policy drivers or that strategy will fail. If society only continues to spend billions of dollars in quick-fix efforts to restore wild salmon runs, then in most cases these efforts will be only marginally successful... In the opinion of this author, the billions spent on salmon recovery might be considered “guilt money” — modern-day indulgences — a tax society and individuals willingly bear to alleviate their collective and individual remorse. It is money spent on activities not likely to achieve recovery of wild salmon, but it helps people feel better as they continue the behaviors and choices that preclude the recovery of wild salmon. It also sustains a job program for scientists and other technocrats by funding the salmon recovery industry.”

What do you think? Keep working? Work smarter, work tougher? Let me know.

--Mike Sato

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

“Happy New Year”-- No! “Fight On”-- Yes!

It’s been difficult this holiday season to wish others “Happy New Year” without it sounding like a prayer. In closing out 2016, I need to focus on how I enter 2017.

The Brexit vote for the UK to leave the EU was reported the morning I flew into Edinburgh in June. I spent the week in Scotland (which had voted to remain) listening to people’s shock, anger and uncertainty. Now I know how they felt, at least the anger part. After the November federal elections I listened to friends and family express their own anger, shock and uncertainty.

Like many others, I’ve read and discussed and analyzed why Trump won— and grew angry and weary of the second-guessing and blaming. Many folks I know, young and old, felt disgust, dismay and foreboding at the prospects of a Trump presidency. Here was a liar, a bully, a crotch grabber now president. Deplorable man.

For a while, I went around declaring Trump “not my President” until I was gently but firmly reminded that Trump will be the President of the United States and, as such, like it or not, is the chief executive of the nation of which I am a citizen. That made me angrier (well, I’ve been angry since the election) but it gave my anger a focus: Donald Trump is the president of my United States, my Washington state, my city of Bellingham, my Salish Sea (the Puget Sound part, at least). Donald Trump now represents me and you, as well as all the Trumpists and Strumpets who in the minority voted for him.

Silly? That’s not the way politics works? That’s exactly the way politics works: Leaders and their appointees are held accountable to represent their constituents and when they don’t— by word or by deed— they are to be held accountable.

As of January 20, the buck stops with Donald Trump. He now “owns” all the world and the nation’s problems. Trump and his cronies ran— and won— a campaign fueled by resentment, hatred and bigotry.  He has no mandate for resentment, hatred and bigotry. After all the talk now comes responsibility— and for that we hold him accountable. He has no place to run, no place to hide.

Here is where I will take my anger in 2017 and what I ask you to do with me: Hold Trump and his cronies accountable to what is true, what is just and what is fair. Do it with facts because Trump lies. Do it with history because he and his cronies have special interests and weird and dark pasts. Do it with humor because we now have a president who cannot tell a joke or take a joke.

These are not normal times. There is no Happy New Year. We fight on!

--Mike Sato

Monday, November 28, 2016

Chair Martha Kongsgaard resigns from the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council

November 28, 2016

Dear Governor Inslee,

It is with no small measure of both accomplishment and regret that I ask you to accept this letter as my formal resignation from the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership. It has been my singular honor to serve two Governors on the Leadership Council for nearly a decade and as its Chair for well over half of that. The best management of any board of directors calls for an occasional leadership refresh, and I feel very comfortable now, at the end of 2016, to step away and allow for that.  I have been throughout hugely supported and inspired by the incomparable and virtuosic staff of this small backbone organization, awed by their ability to creatively and with great passion (and on a shoe string if we are honest) imagine and then work toward a more resilient Salish Sea, always punching ‘well above their weight,’ technically, strategically and with great decency. They are the glue that binds this consequential work.

After 30 years of collective effort to protect and restore Puget Sound, the creation of the Partnership in 2007 was a game changer:

§ We made real the advanced understanding that ecosystem recovery and a thriving economy were not antagonistic forces but rather each preconditions for the other.

§ For the first time ever, we enacted science-based targets for Puget Sound recovery to help guide, prioritize, and assess the region’s restoration and protection work, from the top of the watershed, through the urban landscape to the estuarine and salt water below.

§ We have worked with partners in support of groundbreaking statutory changes like banning copper from automobile brake pads and boat paints while working with our sister agencies to support some of the most protective and innovative storm water solutions in the nation.

§ Over the past decade, the biennial – binational Salish Sea Conference which we co-host with our Canadian partners, has become a prodigiously important actor, in science and policy realms, in our bilateral understanding of this complex system.

§ We have also incorporated into the region’s Action Agenda the nation’s first science based – industry blessed blueprint for understanding and addressing the emerging threat of ocean acidification.

§ We have protected and restored over 45,000 acres of estuarine and wetland habitats in this majestic basin, from the vast expansion of the vitally important Billy Frank, Jr. Nisqually Wildlife Refuge in south Sound to the complex and historic Qwuloot and Smith Island and Fir Island restorations to the north.

§ The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe and hundreds of partners managed, after decades of effort, the largest dam removal on earth, restoring thousands of acres of near shore and tens of miles of riverine habitat allowing for the return of the ‘June hogs,’ prohibited for decades from access to their river. At the Partnership and among the citizenry, this herculean effort also ignited the human imagination around what is possible for creatures and people when sights are set high and focus is brought to bear on projects that match the scale of our challenge.

§ In difficult economic times, we more than doubled Puget Sound capital funding for critical projects to protect and restore habitats.  In 2012, we re-energized the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration (PSAR) fund, creating the Large Capital Program to fund the large, complex, important projects needed to restore and protect salmon habitat.  In the first biennium that included the Large Capital Program, PSAR projects restored and protected 2,024 estuary and nearshore acres, 1,682 floodplain acres, and 189 river and stream miles.  We also used public/private partnerships to innovate funding for recovery work.  The Partnership along with The Nature Conservancy and the Department of Ecology helped the Legislature create the innovative Floodplains by Designs capital program.  Since July of 2014, that program has connected more than 1,000 acres of floodplain habitat, protected 500 acres of prime farmland, and increased flood protection for 25 communities.

§  On the federal level, we have supported the creation of the Puget Sound Caucus and their push for a comprehensive Puget Sound Restoration Act. For a decade, we have at least annually made the trip to our nation’s capital with tribes, agency heads, and lovers of this estuary to make our case to the federal government. Just last month, after extensive work with the Executive Branch, the federal agencies involved with Puget Sound recovery signed a reenergized Memorandum of Understanding, elevating the protection and restoration of Puget Sound to the national priority it should be.

We as a community are working together on building resiliency into our increasingly urbanized and populated region congregated on the shore of the nation’s second largest estuary. Is this gigantic experiment possible – to grow the nation’s most dynamic economy while living in eye sight of the iconic southern resident killer whales and the endangered Chinook runs who feed them—and us? In 2007, lofty goals were set out in PSP’s formation statute, importantly sweeping given the scope and scale of the undertaking: by 2020, the Partnership was to oversee the restoration of the environmental health of the basin and to strive to achieve a recovery that includes healthy human populations, quality of life, native species and a robust food web, habitat, water supply and water quality.  Some of the outcome trajectories are turning in the right direction, many require a lot more investment, but we have in ten years created a nationally recognized collective governance system that is central to our ability to safeguard these ‘troubled, but treasured’ waters going forward.

We agree with the 20 treaty tribes of Puget Sound that we are losing the battle for salmon recovery because the rate of habitat loss continues to outpace our restoration efforts.  Salmon, that iconic species that sits at the center of our recovery work, is emblematic of the interrelationship among ecosystems, natural resources and people, indigenous and the newly and yet to arrive. As sovereign nations, Indian tribes in western Washington signed treaties with the United States in 1855-56, giving up most of the land that is now western Washington, while reserving their rights to harvest salmon and other natural resources. For those rights to have meaning, there must be salmon to harvest. If salmon are to survive, and if treaty rights are to be honored, there must be real gains in habitat protection and restoration. We are committed to this work because the rule of law requires it but also because we as a region understand salmon to be a defining feature of our future as well.

During my tenure on the Leadership Council, I had the distinct privilege of working alongside a wonderfully dedicated group of people among whom were two of our nation’s towering leaders: Billy Frank Jr., and Bill Ruckelshaus, trailblazing pioneers whose day to day commitment, well into their 80’s, to the public good and to the ecosystem on whose future it rests was matched only by their formidable moral authority flexed over their lifetimes for the good of every Washingtonian.  We as a Leadership Council have always tried to emulate their simple directives to “speak the truth,” “tell your stories,” and to realize that to maintain the health and resiliency of anything, one must “work everlastingly at it.” I also have had the great privilege of working collaboratively and deeply with the Puget Sound Indian Tribes, the leaders and talented staffs of our sister state agencies and our federal partners, without whom this work does not get done.

Similarly, I have had the great deep pleasure to work with and learn from the NGO community and industry who work so effectively in this space, without whom in large part government would not find the support (or the urging) to do what is right and often difficult.  There is uniquely in Puget Sound a vast citizenry of citizen scientists, students, agitators, neighbors, immigrants, multiple generations of recreational anglers and barefoot little clamming kids who make up a virtual army of the committed, of the selfless, of the often impatient.  These are people whose experience outdoors place a memory baseline line in the sand every time a fish is caught or isn’t; every time a whale plies the water or doesn’t; every time the snow pack accumulates to feed the rivers on time in the spring or doesn’t.  This loose affiliation of witnesses and actors is strung across the landscape like a shield, protecting and advocating for this singular place on earth, the Salish Sea, Salmon Nation, this ‘universe in a mountain cradle,’ Puget Sound. During this time of civic discord and division across the country, that seems no small feat and a cause for hope.

Thank you for your leadership and the opportunity to work on something so significant and central to the well-being of all Washingtonians, present and future. In my capacity as a Leadership Council member, I’ve found myself in front of the White House with a bullhorn and snorkeling the Duwamish in a wetsuit. I have spoken to 4th graders, educators, Rotary and county commissioners; urged on Cabinet members and members of Congress; testified in Olympia and exhorted city councils. I have sung, recited poetry, and tried to use language carefully in an effort to capture the majesty and significance of this place, to inspire action to protect her.  I have listened intently to farmers and storm water engineers and generally rallied the faithful.  I’ve countlessly told stories to the media and been warmly embraced by Tribal and First Nation elders on both sides of the 49th parallel.

The access as Chair to the universe of all things Puget Sound has been for me a kind of free university. It has been both humbling and inspiring.  And whether I have earned quite yet a PhD in all things Salish Sea, I do understand and thank you for affording me the opportunity to do the most consequential work I will have ever had the honor of being a part of.  Fortunately, you have appointed the current Vice-Chair of the Leadership Council and well known environmental leader, Jay Manning, to step up to Chair on December 7, 2016.  We are in superb and experienced hands.

As I step down off of the Leadership Council, I can’t help but feel extreme confidence and optimism in the ongoing work of the Partnership. For as we ask often, where else has the same profound indigenous land ethic, passionate environmental brain trust, and optimistic entrepreneurial depth as the Northwest?   We are in good hands but will have to ratchet up our work to manage the footprint of the incoming population, the traffic on the Salish Sea, the effects of climate change and the resultant ocean acidification that is changing our ocean’s condition, threatening industry and our very way of life.

This is certainly not the end for me. I will continue to be a champion for our state’s conservation efforts and for Puget Sound, in particular. My heart, my passion, lie with this great estuary.

Sincerely,

Martha Kongsgaard
Chair, Leadership Council
Puget Sound Partnership

Monday, November 21, 2016

Remembering Polly Dyer

Guest blog by Tony Angell

Polly Dyer (North Cascades Conservation Council)
Amid the SALISHSEANEWS the reference to Polly's death [Polly Dyer, driving force for Northwest conservation, dead at 96] was the most evocative and powerful in it's own way -- a match for Polly herself.  Quite unlike another leader in the environmental movement, Hazel Wolf, Polly was content to remain a subtle but a pervasive force and never sought center stage.  She had a great influence on me as many educators began the environmental education programs here in Washington.  She advised, wrote letters and invited my presence at meetings and events that fashioned and strengthened my abilities in the field.  I saw her influence on environmental matters well into her nineties or so it seemed.  How timely that her death is a reminder what an individual can do to contribute time, energy and ideas toward restoring, preserving and stewarding nature -- the very foundation of our being.  With the challenges ahead Polly's memory will be called upon again and again for inspiration and determination.  We will prevail.

Artist and author Tony Angell was head of the Office of Environmental Education of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction of Washington State for over thirty years. He was active in the Nature Conservancy as chairman and as a member of the board of its Washington State chapter.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Safety Pins: More Than A Fashion Statement

After last week’s election, some cheered, some were in shock, some were scared, some were resigned. I was just angry, deeply pissed off, not a very good frame of mind to figure out next steps. There will be next steps but in the meantime I thought about a positive, non-partisan, non-ideological way to take a stand: wear a safety pin.

After the election, folks started wearing safety pins to show solidarity with racial, gender and religious minorities who feel threatened. According to news accounts, the trend began in the Great Britain after the Brexit vote to leave the European Union because after the vote attacks on minorities increased.

You don’t need to wear a safety pin to protect minorities from attacks but I will wear one to show everyone I will speak, stand and act for minorities to protect them under the full extent of the law. That, I believe, is non-partisan, non-ideological and a message of safety that can be extended to and by everyone who voted in the last election— and to and by those who didn’t vote.

But there’s a deeper and more insidious form of attack that pervades our social fabric and divides rather than unites us in our human condition. I’m wearing my safety pin to show I will speak, stand and act for anyone being bullied, whether it be in a classroom or on a playground, in a workplace, in families, in public meetings, on the campaign trail... Using physical, social or economic power to make someone do something they don’t want to do or to keep someone from doing something they want to do can be as blatantly overt as physical harassment or as subtle and insidious as being labeled and stigmatized. Bullies keep other people in their places; that’s how bullies keep their power.

Wearing a safety pin and saying “no more” to this is non-partisan, non-ideological. It doesn’t matter what race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion or whatever you are and your tribe might be, bullying is not acceptable. Bullying divides, does not unite. It demeans and debases, does not make us better people.

So, I wear my safety pin to stand against bullying in all its forms and stand with those bullied against the bullies wherever they might be and whenever they might bully and say, “No. Stop. No bullying.”

That’s more than a fashion statement.

What do you say?

--Mike Sato