Monday, May 4, 2015

Whither Puget Sound Starts Here?

Governor Inslee proclaims the month of May as Puget Sound Starts Here month. The Puget Sound Partnership laments that, due to funding cuts, Puget Sound Starts Here needs to find another home. Do you care?

A reader last week pointed out that the Puget Sound Partnership home page announced coming changes in staffing and program focus as a result of earlier EPA funding decisions. (Hard to tell when this was “announced” by the Partnership since the home page entry isn’t dated, nor is there any news release associated with the “announcement.”)

Earlier in the year, the Partnership sent out a news release expressing its support of EPA’s “new framework for distributing federal funding directed toward Puget Sound recovery.”

According to the Partnership’s web page, upcoming changes include:

  • Realignment of staffing: some positions will not be funded in the future and other positions will be added to meet new demands.
  • Transition of programs funded by the expiring Stewardship Grant: the end of this grant requires the transition of many of these efforts to sources of support outside the organization.
  • Enhanced board support: for the Leadership Council, Ecosystem Coordination Board, Science Panel, and Salmon Recovery Council to meet increased responsibilities under the new model.

At the end of last week, Skagit County’s EcoNet coordinator posted an email from Partnership executive director Sheida Sahandy. Sahandy said that the end of the Stewardship grant required finding other sponsor “homes” to take over stewardship programs like Puget Sound Starts Here, that the EcoNet program would be integrated into county Local Integrating Organizations, and that, for now, two positions in the Partnership’s Stewardship and Policy Integration section were eliminated.

According to Sahandy, there are many details to be worked out but, “Most of the operational changes will be in place by July 1.”

Do you care? Maybe the legislature in its special session budget deliberations has already taken care of Puget Sound stewardship funding. Maybe Microsoft and Amazon and Starbucks are ready to step up as new program “homes.”

“I want my grandchildren and their grandchildren to be able to swim in Puget Sound, catch a salmon to roast over the campfire, and enjoy shellfish grown right here in Washington. I want them to inherit an economy that is thriving. When it comes to a sustainable environment or a sustainable economy, it’s not one or the other,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “Join me in creating a Puget Sound legacy we can be proud of.” ( Governor Inslee proclaims May as Puget Sound Starts Here )

Puget Sound: swim-able, fish-able, dig-able. An educated and engaged constituency. Who cares?

--Mike Sato