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.


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

Thursday, November 3, 2016

2016 Puget Sound Action Agenda: Summary and Comments

U.S. Coastal Survey, 1867
In light of the recent federal announcement regarding formation of a federal Puget Sound Task Force and proposed major funding for the recovery and restoration of Puget Sound, it might help to see what the current Puget Sound Partnership Action Agenda entails in order to ponder whether and how the federal effort might dovetail with it. Skagit volunteer Peter Haase has independently provided a personal unpacking of his reading of the Action Agenda and his summary and comments are provided in whole below:

2016 Action Agenda
The Puget Sound Partnership

Summary and Comments  Nov. 2016    Peter Haase

“The Action Agenda is our region’s shared roadmap for Puget Sound recovery. The Action Agenda outlines the regional strategies and specific actions needed to protect and restore Puget Sound. The Action Agenda is a collective effort that is informed by science and guides effective investment in Puget Sound protection and
– From the Executive Summary.

Link to the entire Action Agenda


The 2016 Puget Sound Partnership Action Agenda was adopted by the Leadership Council in August, 2016. It is a 220 page major rewrite of the 2014 Action Agenda which was a minor update to the 2012 Action Agenda. It contains a Letter from the Leadership Council to “The People of Puget Sound”, an Executive Summary, a Comprehensive Plan, an Implementation Plan and three Appendices.

The Letter is 2 pages and signed by all the members of the Leadership Council.  It paints a rather bleak picture of the condition of Puget Sound and of progress for recovery to date.  It thanks the many efforts and people working hard and tells us – “There’s work to be done – let’s roll up our sleeves, together, and get to it.”  (The Letter has a Flesch Reading Ease rating of 12th grade.)

The Executive Summary is 4 pages and highlights the purposes of the various sections and chapters.  It contains links to them.  (Flesch Reading Ease rating of Some College.)

The Comprehensive Plan is about 60 pages long with six chapters.  It covers broad topics like how planning is done, what the various strategies are, and where funding comes from.

           Chapter 1 is 5 pages and is an introduction with some links into details.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating of Some College.)

           Chapter 2 is 15 pages and called Framework for Recovery.  It attempts to identify the parts of recovery and how they go together.  It reiterates the 6 Recovery Goals that are in the founding statute which are then divided into 25 Vital Signs.  The Vital Signs have 47 “Recovery Targets,” of which 19 are not yet set. Of the 28 that have been set, most have seen poor progress to date.  There are links into details.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating of Some College to Difficult.)

           Chapter 3 is 10 pages and called Managing Recovery.  It identifies many of the main players, what they do, and how they attempt to coordinate/manage the work of more than 100 different agencies, groups, tribes and committees.  There are links into further details.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Very Difficult.)

           Chapter 4 is 20 pages and called Planning Recovery.  It describes how planning is done and lists three Strategic Initiatives, 29 Strategies, and 106 Sub-strategies.  The Strategic Initiatives address Stormwater, Habitat, and Shellfish.  The links to further detail are not activated.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Very Difficult.)

           Chapter 5 is 8 pages and called Funding Recovery.  It lists many of the sources for funding, but does not give amounts. It states that the estimated total cost to complete the three Strategic Initiatives is $1 billion, of which $.5 billion is identified.  It also provides suggestions of how the shortfall can be addressed including better coordination between funders and a focus on the highest priority “Near Term Actions.”  There are some links to further details.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Very Difficult.)

           Chapter 6 is 4 pages.  It is a Glossary of 45 terms and includes links to much supporting documentation beyond the Action Agenda.

The Implementation Plan is about 113 pages long with 5 chapters.  It covers the next couple of years.  It describes 363 Near Term Actions prioritized within the three Strategic Initiatives from Chapter 4 of the Comprehensive Plan.  Near Term Actions were submitted by more than 106 different “Owner Organizations” including federal, state and local governmental agencies, tribes, non-profits, and committees, and were vetted, assigned to Strategic Initiatives, and prioritized by Strategic Initiative teams.  A Near Term Action … “can begin or achieve specific milestones within the next two years and is consistent with the strategies.”  The estimated cost to complete the current phase of all the Near Term Actions is $242 million with $23 million currently budgeted.

           Chapter 1 is 72 pages and lists and ranks all of the 363 Near Term Actions (NTAs).  119 NTAs are assigned to the Stormwater Strategic Initiative.  Of the top ranked 10% of these NTAs, 8 are for study/identify/review and 4 are for do.  204 NTAs are assigned to the Habitat Strategic Initiative.  Of the top ranked 10% of these NTAs, 6 are for study/identify/review and15 are for do.  40 NTAs are assigned to the Shellfish Strategic Initiative.  Of these top ranked 10%, 3 are for study/identify/review and 1 is for do.  (For the top ranked NTAs, about ½ are for study/identify/review and ½  for do.)  There are several links to supporting documents.  This chapter is almost all tables of Near Term Action summaries and was not reviewed for reading ease.

           Chapter 2 is 5 pages and is about the development, use, and measurement of the Implementation Plan.  The measures are: A Report Card to be produced periodically for each of the 363 Near Term Actions; The 2017 “State of the Sound” document; and Reports of progress towards the targets for the Vital Signs described in Chapter 2 of the Comprehensive Plan.  Primary uses for the Implementation Plan are to encourage the legislature and funders to prioritize available funds and to provide any legislation needed for Near Term Actions to succeed.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Very Difficult.)

           Chapter 3 is 8 pages and devoted to the Stormwater Strategic Initiative. It correlates this Initiative with 9 sub-strategies (of the 106) and several of the Vital Signs and the Targets associated with them.  There are a few links to supporting materials.  7 large “Gaps” are listed such as “Coordination between regulatory measures that drive Stormwater Management (Clean Water Act) and land use management (Growth Management Act.)” 3 “Barriers” are listed such as “Political Will for Regulatory Actions” and “Funding.” (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Very Difficult.)

           Chapter 4 is 14 pages and devoted to the Habitat Strategic Initiative. It correlates this Initiative with 16 sub-strategies (of the 106) and several of the Vital Signs and the Targets associated with them.  There are a few links to supporting materials.  6 large “Gaps” are listed such as “Adequate tools and approaches to prioritize planning efforts.”  3 “Barriers” are listed including “Sustainable funding for ongoing progress” and “Political will.”  (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Some College.)

           Chapter 5 is 9 pages and devoted to the Shellfish Strategic Initiative.  It correlates this initiative with 19 sub-strategies (of the 106) and several of the Vital Signs and the Targets associated with them.  There are a few links to supporting materials.  This chapter also identifies 5 specific “Regional Priorities” such as “Reverse the declining water quality trends and protect water quality in shellfish growing areas classified as threatened or concerned.”
Chapters 3 and 4 do not identify such “Regional Priorities.”  7 large “Gaps” are listed such as “Projects addressing recreational shellfish beds.”  2 “Barriers” – “Funding” and “Political will” are listed.  (Flesh Reading Ease rating is Very Difficult.)

Appendix A is 8 pages and is a cross reference of the 29 Strategies and 106 Sub Strategies back to the numbering schemes used in the 2012 Action Agenda.
Appendix B is 4 pages listing 7 “Crosscutting Sub-strategies” such as “Monitoring” and “Regulation and Enforcement.”
Appendix C is 18 pages and lists more than 300 on-going programs (programs that are part of existing Puget Sound recovery efforts and include activities that align with the Implementation Plan priorities and timeline)
and relates each to one or more of the 29 Strategies.


1.    Many of the shortcomings with the 2012 Action Agenda were dealt with in this 2016 version.  It is 220 pages rather than more than 600.  There is a Table of Contents.  There are many hyper-links that allow you to jump about and navigate without endless scrolling.  Almost all complex and rather meaningless diagrams were removed. Many (many, many) local actions have been included, and more of the actions are of the doing sort rather than studies and meetings and reporting and reviews and assembling.

2.    Unfortunately the entire document is still very difficult to read and filled with scientific terms and organization names.  I doubt anyone not well involved in the Puget Sound recovery would get much out of it – not even the Executive Summary.

3.    Because of the many hyper-links, I have not always included a great deal of detail in my Summary above.  It is quite easy now for you to open the entire document with the link shown above and then jump immediately to any one of the sections and browse through it. Usually you can even jump on into much detailed supporting documentation if you like.  The very long sections are usually simple tables and quite easy to work through.  My suggestion is to set aside a couple of hours and start in.  See where you get.  But be forewarned – it seems the more you understand it, the more questions you have and it is very much work to meander around in there looking for an answer!  It probably could use some Frequently Asked Questions!

4.    I suspect most have seen persons at rest stops with a cardboard sign that says something like – “On Way from Vancouver to LA. Need gas money.”  You wonder what faith they must have to ever have started with so little gas and money.  That is what this Puget Sound Partnership effort is like. Several years in and we only have money in hand to get another 10% of the way – as the Implementation Plan states.  The “doing folks” must have tremendous faith; know something not in this document; or really like their job and the pay.

5.    There are Gaps and Barriers stated broadly for each of the major “Initiatives” – an “Initiative” is a way to sort of bundle up all the actions, strategies, sub strategies, data and planning that relate to a single broad topic like Stormwater.  Those gaps and barriers are frankly enormous – like “Lack of political will.” There is precious little in the Action Agenda that goes after closing the gaps and removing the barriers.

6.    There is perception that if your pet project is one of the Near Term Actions and highly ranked, then it will get money.  Or if you are at the bottom of the heap you won’t and if you never made it in at all, forget it.  But such is not the case.  Funders usually have their own criteria for funding a project and those may not be the same as the ranking criteria at all.  Everyone who has a project amongst the 363 Near Term Actions will still need to make a proposal to a funder, unless it has already been done.  I live in Skagit County and almost no Near Term Actions are in there from our County groups – we have no Local Integrating Organization to assemble and forward them.  But we have the Skagit River and the nasty Samish River and they guarantee a rather large and continuing source of money.

7.    There is overwhelming complexity in this effort: 47 “Recovery Targets”; 363 Near Term Actions that could help; more than 100 different named agencies, governmental bodies, tribes, groups and committees; 29 Strategies; 106 Sub-strategies; $242 million needed to finish what is going; $1 billion is current estimate for total job; 300 other ongoing projects that contribute to recovery but are not in this plan.  Boggling.

8.    The figure of $1 billion to fully complete the three strategic initiatives does not address other areas of work (beyond those strategic initiatives) that needs attention as well.  Probable sea level rise is an example.

9.    My personal main pet peeve of the entire Puget Sound Partnership effort is about Public Awareness and Caring.  I cannot fathom why there is not a professional and hard-hitting campaign to tell the public about the problems (the 25 Vital Signs and their 47 Recovery targets) and what they can do to help – problem by problem.  Instead we have had the “Puget Sound Starts Here” campaign that either paints quite attractive pictures or wanders far afield from the serious issues or else dwells on “Mickey Mouse” issues like dog poop. The general public is not engaged in real problem solving to any extent at all with that.  (“Here – you masses go pick up dog poop and plant trees while we experts get on with the big stuff.”)  At the very least I wish there to be a set of well vetted statements of problems/needs and companion ideas for an average citizen of Puget Sound to go do.  If Herring Recovery and expansion is important, what exactly is the problem and what things can I do to help? – Like maybe talk to my local state representative with some facts, figures and suggestions.  There are several ways to go about this idea – but none are being pursued. There is the following sub-strategy (of 106 of them):  Sub-strategy 27.1 “Implement a long-term, highly visible, coordinated public-awareness effort using the Puget Sound Starts Here brand to increase public understanding of Puget Sound’s health, status, and threats. Conduct regionally scaled communications to provide a foundation for local communications efforts. Conduct locally scaled communications to engage residents in local issues and recovery efforts.”  But not a single one of the 363 Near Term Actions is trying to do that.

Thank you.  Now, Back to Work!

Pete Haase is a happy volunteer for the natural environment in Skagit County with a deep frustration about lack of awareness and urgency. You can comment on his blog directly to him at pgypsy@wavecable.com and directly to his blog in the comment section below.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Whoa! Are We Going To Save Puget Sound— Again?

Headlines screamed last week: “White House, Washington state and federal leaders announce major new initiatives for Puget Sound recovery;” “New federal task force to identify Puget Sound’s top issues;” “The Obama administration steps up to the plate on cleaning up Puget Sound.” Are we done with the Puget Sound Partnership effort and its laboriously-derived Action Agenda?

Maybe not but it was hard to see what the fit was, if there was one, between the $600 million funding promise, the new task force partnership among federal agencies and tribes and the ongoing state effort to make Puget Sound fishable, swimmable and diggable... one of these days.

There were many fine words spoken about the new initiative which puts Puget Sound on the same federal radar screen as Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades. Nice official quotes from the White House Office of Environmental Quality, Senators Murray and Cantwell, Congressmen Heck, Kilmer and Larsen and Governor Inslee. (White House, Washington state and federal leaders announce major new initiatives for Puget Sound recovery)

Did anyone involved in the current ongoing Puget Sound recovery effort have anything to say? Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council chair Martha Kongsgaard in the Associated Press story is among those hailing the initiative as a significant step forward. "What we can't do alone as a state is get these huge projects done," she said. Todd Myers with the Washington Policy Center and a member of the Partnership’s Salmon Recovery Council is quoted as cautioning against complicating things with another task force. "Rather than doing what we know needs to be done, adding another political process wastes time and resources from what we already know needs to be done," Myers said. (New federal task force to identify Puget Sound’s top issues)

Kongsgaard must understand the federal initiative is focused on big earthmoving restoration projects. Big projects like the Elwha River restoration ($351.4 million) makes the $600 commitment look like pocket change but way outside the state’s league.

Myers, bless his devil’s advocacy, takes us back to the formation of the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, the reformulation of the Puget Sound Action Team and the rebirth of Puget Sound recovery as the Partnership effort. Maybe others recall as I do the listening-post sessions marking the beginning of the Partnership effort when folks were asked what needed to be done to recover Puget Sound. Three main points kept being raised: enforce existing laws, use local resources and adequately fund recovery efforts.

Will this new federal initiative and task force with $600 million (oh, the money still has to be approved by Congress) help us enforce existing laws, use local resources, adequately fund our recovery efforts? Don’t get me wrong: I love what’s been accomplished at the Elwha and Nisqually and similar earth moving projects. Even though there isn’t any deadline like 2020 to make Puget Sound fishable, swimmable and diggable, I still feel some urgency in enforcing shoreline rules and incentivizing alternative ways to protect the nearshore, cleaning up combined sewer overflows, retrofitting the built environment to eliminate runoff, enforcing best management for septic systems and agriculture, and a whole list of other actions to keep the crap from a growing population out of Puget Sound. Maybe you still feel the urgency, too.

Will this new task force, the tribes and the federal agencies united by the memorandum of understanding (BTW, did the military bases sign on, too?) put their money and their political will toward helping the Partnership get the work done? Is it reasonable to hope so?

One final note: Suquamish Tribe chief Leonard Forsman is quoted in the Associated Press news story as saying: "In order for us to reverse the tide of damage that's been going on in Puget Sound, we're going to need everybody... And that includes not only the government agencies and the state agencies and the nonprofits, but we also need all the people who live here and are moving here."

OK. Then who’s carrying the torch to organize the people? The Puget Sound Partnership? The Department of Ecology? The Treaty Tribes? Washington Environmental Council? Don’t be shy, speak up.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Since The First Time I Voted For President

This year, I’ll vote for Hillary and, having said that, won’t tell you how to vote but will tell you about the first time I voted for president.

That was 1968, a year in which I was angry about the Vietnam War, jeered Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for re-election, worked for Gene McCarthy in Oregon, was shocked and numbed by Bobby Kennedy’s murder in LA and Martin Luther King Jr.’s in Memphis, and watched on TV the Chicago police riot and Hubert Humphrey become the presidential nominee.

I was 21, idealistic, angry and disillusioned. I was registered to vote in Hawaii (yes, I was born there, too, not Kenya) and Hawaii’s open ballot allowed me to vote for Eldridge Cleaver, a vote in protest. Hawaii’s then-three electoral votes went to Humphrey so my vote didn’t help elect Crooked Richard.

I continued to protest the war but figured out that a vote in protest was a dead end. I stayed engaged enough at least to vote for George McGovern against Richard Nixon in 1972. I got more engaged in energy and local land use issues and vote for Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Over the years I’ve come to understand that the truly scary thing about the Republican Party’s national strategy has been to foster fear among constituencies as a way to build its coalitions. Fear of blacks, fear of Hispanics, fear of communists, fear of terrorists, fear of unions, fear of abortions, fear of godlessness, fear of crime, fear of government... Cultivating and organizing that fearfulness has worked ever since the modern version of the Southern strategy emerged 50 years ago and spread to the nation’s suburbs and rural areas.

In the 1980 election my father, a lifelong Democrat who was retiring, voted for Ronald Reagan because he was afraid for his Social Security and believed Reagan would protect it. I told him that was a terrible reason— but he was afraid.

Fear has been used against the presidency of Barack Obama and it characterizes how the Republican presidential candidate and his party this year conducted their campaigns. It doesn’t have to be that way.  Bernie Sanders touched a wellspring of progressive sentiment without using fear. Should I be afraid of Hillary taking my gun away, socializing my medical care (oh, Medicare), and opening our borders to immigrant terrorists?-- No.

As hard a slog as the last eight years have been, the Obama presidency has remained positive and inclusive.  So has Hillary’s and Bernie’s despite a bruising primary and ugly final months before November 8. Nevertheless, some of my colleagues and readers may feel like I did in 1968 so they will cast a protest vote or not vote at all.

But like I said, I’ll vote for Hillary. Because what’s different since the first time I voted in 1968 isn’t opposing political visions (we’ve always had that); what’s different is that Donald Trump is a culmination of Republican strategy, the grotesque embodiment of resentment and fear— about gun control, socialized medicine, immigration, terrorism, globalization-- and the prospect of salvation by the singular solution of a “strong man” in power.

You will decide how you will vote. For me, no candidate is perfect in all the policies and positions he or she takes or has taken; those birds all bear careful watching. But to fan the flames of resentment and fear is a poison that blights our civil society. Compassion and inclusion moves us forward, fear and resentment do not.

The real work of governing begins the morning after the election and it will be hard work. I will vote for compassion and inclusion, moving forward together, no matter how difficult. And I hope many, many others do, too.

How about you?

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Salish Sea News and Weather Begins 6th Year

Good morning, Salish Sea. Here's your news and weather.
Salish Sea News and Weather enters its sixth year of weekday compilations. It actually began in 2007 as Puget Sound News and Weather when the real People For Puget Sound was in action and became Salish Sea News and Weather after I was fired in 2011. So, has anything changed over the years?

The format has gone through some changes but the editorial focus has remained the same: to educate, inform and activate folks about environmental issues in the Salish Sea basin by compiling news from print and broadcast media. The inaugural issue of September 1, 2011 contained news clips about hot weather, stormwater pollution, an elephant seal stranding, bluebirds, a youngster fighting dolphin hunting, fake sea bass, Dupont gravel mining, China’s coal appetite, and how fish may have made the leap to colonize the land. And the marine (tug) weather forecast for the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca where all incoming and outgoing vessels pass in the Salish Sea.

This year’s September 1 compilation contained news clips about Canada premier Justin Trudeau, a BC fuel spill, the value of forage fish, a fine for selling endangered abalone, the value of razor clams, shellfish harvest closure, pier construction, wolf kill controversy, radio station KNKX, new Pacific marine national monument, and a job posting for a new director of the Northwest Straits Commission. And the marine (tug) weather for the west end of the Juan de Fuca Strait.

Over the years, the landscape of environmental reporting has changed. Profit margins make it increasingly rarer to have reporters dedicated to environmental science, policy and activism issues and events. There is always the media frenzy over “big” stories like an oil spill, dam removal, killer whale death and mass protest but we’re less likely to get knowledgeable reporting about ongoing land use, water quality, research and policy issues.

At the same time, those who might serve as “newsmakers” like government agencies and environmental not-for-profit groups do their jobs but say less and less about the state of the Salish Sea. The Puget Sound Partnership and the restoration of Puget Sound has faded from public view. Attention has shifted to ocean acidification, global warming and climate change, and it’s rarer to hear anyone speaking on behalf of the Salish Sea.

During the last few years, however, a most notable exception has been the emerging role of Treaty Tribes and First Nations in the Salish Sea. As government and non-profit advocacy voices for the health of the Sound and Straits have ebbed, native leaders have spoken and acted decisively in fossil fuel issues, sustainable harvest, and habitat protection and restoration-- as sovereign nations.

That’s welcomed. We cheer the successful restoration of the Elwha River and the Nisqually Delta. We watch for results from expensive cleanup of our bays and harbors and new stormwater infrastructure. We worry about vessel mishaps coming from increased vessel traffic, dying sea stars, fish and shellfish toxins... Since there no longer are timelines for the Sound’s recovery, we wonder, in a time of changing climate and ocean chemistry whether our progress in habitat restoration, pollution removal and toxic chemical reduction exceeds, or at least equals, the Salish Sea’s growing population, economic growth, impervious surfaces and consumer consumption and waste.

As readers might have noticed, some days there’s a lot of Salish Sea news, some days not. What’s reported depends on what editors and reporters think important enough to write about and what there’s time and resources to research and write about. Nobody expect a full feature article every week about the state of the Salish Sea but it would be good for news to be reported with a fuller understanding of the interconnectedness of the land, water, plants and animals and human activities in the Salish Sea basin. A killer whale story is as much about our activities on land, the nearshore environment, toxic chemicals and forage fish as it might be about salmon prey availability. A local land use or development issue is as much a story about climate change, runoff, salmon and forage fish. You know the drill: it’s all one ecosystem, connected, vulnerable, wonderful.

We rely on some good reporters doing their jobs and you will see their bylines in the clip compilations: Lynda Mapes and Hal Bernton at the Seattle Times, Bellamy Pailthorp at KNKX, Phuong Le at Associated Press, Allison Morrow at KING, Jeff Burnside at KOMO, Tristan Baurick at Kitsap Sun, Noah Haglund at Everett Herald, Kimberly Cauvel at Skagit Valley Herald, Samantha Wohlfeil and Kie Relyea at Bellingham Herald, Derrick Nunnally and Jeffery Mayor at Tacoma News Tribune, Paul Gottlieb at Peninsula Daily News, Chris Dunagan at Watching Our Water Ways, Bob Simmons at Cascadia Weekly, Floyd McKay at Crosscut, Martha Baskin at Green Acres Radio, Amy Smart and Bill Cleverley at Times–Colonist, Larry Pynn at Vancouver Sun, Mark Hume at Globe and Mail, and a whole slew of spot news folks at the CBC.

A couple of housekeeping notes: Folks have asked ‘why tug weather?’ and the answer is:  to maintain a focus on one of the most vulnerable areas in the Salish Sea, where thankfully there is now a full-time rescue tug stationed but where ships proceed unescorted by tugs. The other high risk area, as more fossil fuel exports are proposed is the narrow channel of Haro Strait where all Canadian traffic enters and exits the northern Salish Sea.

Folks have asked how long it takes to put the weekday clipping together. Maybe there’s a handy app that compiles news clippings efficiently but, because I enjoy the task and am a news junkie, it only takes about an hour to scan publications and broadcasts online. The most problematic part is oftentimes finding an appropriate photo and story to lead the day’s blog, an image and story at least mildly informative, relevant and engaging to get your early morning read started.

I’ll keep compiling; I hope you will keep reading.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

What’s Upstream Generally Comes Downstream

Guest blog by Pete Haase

I have followed the “What’s Upstream” campaign – website, Facebook, and billboard campaign-- that argues for more water pollution regulation of agriculture. I’ve seen pop-up ads for it in several online news sites over many months.  On its web site it has a lot of information about water pollution caused by some agriculture-industry players because of minimal regulation or oversight.  I say “minimal” because I am well aware of the extensive water pollution regulations and inspections that almost any other industry, port, or municipality is subjected to.

For example:  If a marine repair shop is sanding paint off a boat in their boatyard, the sander must be equipped to suck up the sanding dust, and most likely the boat is shielded with tarps to prevent any that might escape from blowing away.  However: Airplanes and helicopters often fly over my house and dive down into the berry fields and out comes a huge plume of who knows what. A major slough runs right through those fields and soon drains into Padilla Bay.

Another:  When herds of cattle graze in fields that border a stream or ditch, it is common practice to set the fence as close to the top of the bank as possible, without it falling in. Farmland is precious.  Some places have hundreds of cattle loitering along those fences, rain or shine.  However: When a big construction project is going on, you will see barriers, fences, pumps, blue water-storage and treatment tanks, and covered dirt piles.  Sometimes the big trucks have their wheels washed before driving out. You might even see the person who is there to make sure that all those “best management practices” for erosion control work, and that no dirty water flows from the site, rain or shine. You’ll see porta-potties, too!

The “What’s Upstream” campaign points out examples like those instances of agricultural pollution and highlights a lot of damage done.  It urges folks to write to their elected officials to ask for more stringent regulations and inspections.  There is a way to send “letters” right from their web site.

It was a pretty quiet affair until up went some big, blatant “What’s Upstream” billboards with cows on them in Olympia, and similar signs showed up on buses in Bellingham. It was sort of like poking a bee’s nest with a stick.  The agriculture advocates jumped and protested and got the insulting billboards and signs removed pronto.  The argument was that the campaign is largely funded from a Federal Environmental Protection Agency grant, and those grants do not allow campaigning directly.

In the meantime I regularly see on online news outlets three different pop-up, rolling “advertisements” from my county Clean Water Program.  One reminds dog owners to “Keep picking up after your dog.”  Another reminds me that there is a law requiring septic tanks be inspected regularly and I should be sure I am current.  The third shows a man with a “two-pickup load” pile of what appears to be manure and he is covering it with a blue tarp that is maybe 10’ x 10’.  “Cover your manure piles.”  It felt a bit like “arm twisting” with public money.

(There are none of these ads about the farmer and the 100 cows in a waterlogged field with the fence next to the stream.  There are none talking about a tractor pulling a spouting sprayer through a big berry field near the stream or a dairy having 50 pounds and more of manure and urine a day from each of hundreds of cows.)

Further, the whole “Save Puget Sound by 2020” campaign, overseen by the state Puget Sound Partnership agency, is quite a bit of advocacy to get us to stop everything that might possibly harm Puget Sound, like building bulkheads, dumping waste overboard from boats, or driving a car that leaks oil.  It is not private money funding that.

I once saw a small trucking firm that was pressure washing the truck engines in their concrete driveway.  The water flowed down to a storm drain that was about 100 feet from, and emptied into, Fidalgo Bay.  I took a picture and reported it to the hot line phone number.  They don’t wash there anymore.

I also recently saw about 30 cows grazing in a field in heavy rain.  There was a little ditch in the field with water running down it and some of the cows were standing in it.  The ditch drained through a road culvert, over the side of a bluff, and into Padilla Bay.  I took a picture and reported that to the hot line number.  One of the responding agencies is trying to find out who owns the cows and the other is waiting to be able to take water samples. The cows and the ditch are still there.

I, too, think it is time to regulate agriculture for water pollution just like other industries, cities, ports, and counties.  The farmers will survive.  Everyone else did.

[Pete Haase is an energetic environmental volunteer in Skagit County.  He likes being in the field with teams, doing things that he hopes will make a difference.  Much of what he does is citizen science.  Pete also likes engaging the public, helping them appreciate volunteer efforts and getting them to add their voices in support of protection and restoration. Pete has been named by RE Sources as a 2015 environmental hero.]

Thursday, April 21, 2016

How Many More Earth Days Until The Earth Is Saved?

Friday is the 46th Earth Day and hundreds of thousands of people young and old will be doing something good for the Earth. That’s a good thing because every act of recycling, reusing and restoring helps. But honestly, it’ll take a lot more to make our Earth a healthy place.

Hurrah for Earth Day volunteers and weekend warriors but the big, big threats to our planet aren’t addressed by the kinds of incremental actions that supposedly lead to full scale activism. That’s a hard pill to swallow for us educators and activists but, honestly, aren’t 46 years time enough to show some major progress in creating an environmental constituency among the majority of our nation’s people?-- especially given the urgency of the problems?

I sat this week with a group of lively black kids about the age of my grandson who had just got out of the Baltimore’s National Aquarium and they shared with me all the things they saw and did with the kind of detail and enthusiasm that made me want to enlist them in my marine crusade. But what will happen next? They will move into adolescence and young adulthood where the future of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean will join other interests and concerns in a grand hierarchy of being alive. How do we keep the flame burning once it is lit in the young?

I sat with scientists and environmental colleagues last week at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, B.C., heartened that there was a strong mix of men and women participating but disheartened by the vast preponderance of Caucasian faces. Despite periodic hand wringing, the environmental movement continues to be white. How does environmentalism progress when the white population of this country becomes a minority in the next couple of decades?

I’m not sure how the information that comes out of the Ecosystem Conference will inform public policy and translate into the kinds of concerns that most people have when they think about their environment. In  our everyday lives, the environment comes down to public health, safety and access— our food, our water, streets, our parks and our beaches. In other words, environment and community need to go hand in hand to be relevant and meaningful.

The environmental movement need to become racially diverse if we are to progress beyond annual Earth Day events. The movement needs to speak directly to class differences and address issues meaningful to more than just educated, economically comfortable people. The movement needs to speak with many voices for each of us in the individuality of our ethnicity and our social standing. In doing so, it can speak to our individual responsibility for our environment. It can speak to the opportunities our environment provides us. It can speak to our legacy we leave for our children and their children.

Now let’s go pick up some trash, dig some weeds and plant a tree.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What’s In A Name?

Referring to the inland waters of Puget Sound and the Georgia Strait as the “Salish Sea” makes a difference, I believe, as I wrote about last week in "The Salish Sea— What’s In A Name?" So, how about “Jap” and “Nigger” Islands?

Knute Berger in Crosscut reports on how place names are important, full of meaning and capable of firing up intense passions. [Politically correct maps: Damn right.]

Berger writes:

.... In an article about the [Pramila] Jayapal-led name change effort, the Longview Daily News reported that a Wahkiakum County commissioner, Dan Cothren, signaled his dismissal of changing the name of Jim Crow Point there by saying he “would probably tell the person, ‘Well you need to get a life’ ” and calling the ideas “ridiculous.” He later told a writer for the Wahkiakum County Eagle in Cathlamet, “I just don’t like it that folks from the urban setting telling us from the rural setting what to do.”

.... The goods news is that no one is telling the people of Wahkiakum or any other Washington county what to do. Reconsidering a place name allows plenty of room for historical research, local values, debate, public input and disagreement to take place before a decision is rendered at either the state or federal level. It’s an opportunity to learn more about our heritage. Jayapal says she has heard from some folks in Wahkiakum Co. who didn’t know the term “Jim Crow” was at all racial. Another man told her he’s often been embarrassed when tourists visit and ask about the name.

Name discussions can educate all sides in the discussion, and in some cases they result in updated maps that reflect who we are now as opposed to who we were then.

The writer of The Wahkiakum County Eagle’s article, Rick Nelson, supports changing references to Jim Crow. “In my lifetime, the county has had some other name changes. We once had ‘Jap Island’ and ‘Nigger Island’ off the shores of Puget Island, and changing those names was a welcome move to change the heritage we will leave for future generations,” he writes. “Getting rid of Jim Crow in Wahkiakum County would be another welcome move to define our heritage.”

Rick Nelson is publisher of the Eagle and my brother-in-law. I know if you’re running a community newspaper you have to serve your community. That means taking every opportunity to inform and educate that community to move beyond the prejudices of race, class and gender.

Do people living there think “Jim Crow” was a brand of whiskey? It was a black-faced minstrel character created around 1830 who was a slave owned by Mr. Crow and who sang: “"Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."

Laws passed to limit black people’s rights were called “Jim Crow Laws” and the term “Jim Crow” is a derogatory reference to African Americans with the connotation of foolish, uneducated and lazy.

Got it? Is that what county commissioner Cothren wants to preserve with his wrong-headed local pride? One Facebook comment suggested that Jim Crow Point could be renamed to honor James Saules who was being honored originally. (How Mr. Saules could have been honored by “Jim Crow Point,” however, is another story, another time.)

No doubt this discussion should go on for a long time in Cathlamet and Wahkiakum County; maybe long enough for me to offer to boycott my next Mother’s Day visit like others have been doing to North Carolina and Mississippi.

But innocent folks get hurt that way. Although it does give me pause to learn that one letter writer to the editor said: “Nazi Socialism succeeded so well in Germany because local newspapers spread it, according to the writer, and Wahkiakum County is so fortunate to have a newspaper doing the same thing.”

“Nazi Socialism?” Who are the innocent? Education opportunities abound.

--Mike Sato

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

#SSEC16— Hold On To That Blue Marble

Canadian astronaut and scientist Roberta Bondar gave an inspired and inspiring keynote address to kick off the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, BC, on Wednesday. Capacity attendance of 1200 folks will be sharing information and experiences during the three-day meeting.

From space, it’s a whole different perspective on the problems and opportunities the conference is addressing in jam-packed concurrent sessions throughout the days. Keeping that perspective is good because I sat and listened to how rising water temperature correlates with sea star wasting disease, learned how higher water temperature correlates to increased shellfish toxins, and how we’re don’t know why tufted puffin populations are plummeting in the Salish Sea while auklet populations are doing OK. And, after all these years, how we still don’t know what works to change people’s behavior to save and restore the Salish Sea.

Sharing knowledge and networking with others are good stuff and the conference does a great job in bringing folks together in that respect. But the urgency of preserving the healthy parts of the Salish Sea and restoring the health of what’s damaged requires concerted actions on both sides of the shared waters, now, more than ever.

Before the next conference in 2018, we should send everyone to outer space to see the world the way Roberta Bondar has seen it. Meanwhile, as long as I’m here at the conference, I’ll do my best to hold on to that blue marble.

--Mike Sato

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Salish Sea— What’s In A Name?

The Salish Sea (NASA/WikiCommons)
It’s not a good idea to read a Wikipedia entry and think that makes me smart, but it’s not a bad idea to read an entry to remind myself that I don’t know everything. For example, about how the Salish Sea officially got its name.

I’d followed over the last couple of decades efforts to gracefully refer to the shared marine ecosystem shared by Washington state and British Columbia and cheered Bert Webber on in his successful crusade to have these shared waters named “The Salish Sea.”

Reading Wikipedia, “The name was endorsed by the Washington State Board on Geographic Names in late October, 2009... [and] was approved by the United States Board on Geographic Names on November 12, 2009.”

What I’d forgotten or maybe never even knew was that the Stz'uminus First Nation (formerly known as the Chemainus First Nation) in March 2008, according to Wikipedia, proposed the name “Salish Sea” and B.C.'s Aboriginal Relations Minister Mike de Jong championed the name formally to the British Columbia Geographical Names Office which, in August 2009, recommended adoption to the Geographical Names Board of Canada, which adopted the name contingent on the approval by the United States Board, which was forthcoming on November 12, 2009. [Isn’t bureaucracy amazing?]

Does it matter? I think it does as an important recognition of the First People in this place where we now live sharing resources. And saying “Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference” feels a lot more graceful than the mouthful of “Puget Sound/Georgia Basin Research Conference” or parsing that awful word, ‘transboundary.’

Maybe “The Salish Sea” is a start. When Washington participant travel north to this year’s Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in Vancouver, let them practice saying “Tahoma” and “Komo Kulshan” and “Shuksan” before reaching the border.

Bienvenue a la Mer de Salish.

--Mike Sato

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2016— What Do You Know?

(Map: WWU)
It’s been just about two years since the last Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference brought together scientists, governments and activists and in a week we’ll see how much smarter and resolute we’ve become in preserving and restoring the health of the shared waters of Washington state and British Columbia.

Over the years, the biennial conference has endeavored to bring science and policy together with themes titled,  "The Salish Sea: Our Shared Responsibility,” "The Future of the Salish Sea… A Call to Action,” "Knowledge for the Salish Sea: Toward Collaborative Transboundary Solutions,” “Science for the Salish Sea: a sense of place, a sense of change,” “Applying Science and Information to Sustainability in a Shared Transboundary Ecosystem,” and "Many Voices, One Sea.” You get the idea. Science, projects and people (policy) but no politics. [Proceeding of these conferences are archived at Conference Archives]

Two years ago, one of the big stories coming out of the conference was about pteropods, sea butterflies with delicate calcium structures, being destroyed by an acidifying sea. [New Study: Acidifying Ocean Destroying Sea Butterflies ] There were news reports of a bad oil spill in Virginia when a tanker train derailed. And the Squamish First Nation was in the news with their Liquified Natural Gas project. Seems like we’re still dealing with ocean acidification and fossil fuel transport.

In a series of blogs from the conference last year I wrote about how David Marshall of the Georgia Basin Council gave an example of how science informed a restoration project. He challenged attendees to answer three questions when the conference was over: Give another example of how science and policy went together, identify a specific project that could influence policy, and predict what the Salish Sea would look like in 10 years. [#SSEC14 Day 1: Will Science Inform Policy and Politics? ]

Outgoing Western Washington University president Bruce Shepard laid down another challenge to attendees, one that today is a front-burner issue: He said, “... If in the decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we shall have failed as a university.” Western has just named Sabah Randhawa its new head, but I think Bruce Shepard’s challenge is one for the environmental movement as well and I’ll be looking forward to seeing the complexion and cultures of those attending this year’s conference. [#SSEC14 Day 2: What Will It Take to ‘Save’ the Salish Sea? ]

At the end of the three-day conference in 2014, I tried to channel David Marshall, looking ahead to the next conference in 2016 and asking this year’s attendees, “Did what we learn at the 2014 conference make a difference?” and seeing a sea of hands raised. Then: “Tell me your story about how it made a difference.”

See you in Vancouver at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2016. [#SSEC16]

--Mike Sato

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Future of The Puget Sound

"Return to the Land of the Head Hunters" (Edward Curtis)
“The” Puget Sound. Does reading or hearing that make your skin crawl, your ears ring? How about riding “the” Metro? Go to “the” Husky Stadium to watch the Huskies play? Blame those Californians for polluting the Puget Sound stylebook; they should go back to where they came from. Maybe then we can go back to calling this place "Whulge."

When I edited copy at People For Puget Sound, removing the offending “the” before Puget Sound was a simple line indicating deletion. These days, I hear “the Puget Sound” said every once in a while but I hear all sorts of strange pronunciations and syntax from folks who have moved here and from folks who grew up here. Not being a sensitive-eared native but a local resident for only about 45 years, I guess I’m still trying to fit in with the real Northwestern natives.

Mossback Knute Berger at Crosscut [ Did you just say ‘The’ Puget Sound? ] and KUOW’s Bill Radke [ Stop Calling It 'The' Puget Sound ] seem to be some of the sensitive-eared types living and making pronouncements in Mighty Seattle.

Does it matter? “Puget Sound” and “the Puget Sound” are, for practical purposes, abstractions, a name on a map, a verbal description using one’s hands. I sat through years of focus group discussions listening to participants grapple with describing where Puget Sound is. Folks on the Peninsula live on the Juan de Fuca Strait. Folks in Bellingham live on Bellingham Bay or Rosario Strait. People think of themselves as living on Birch Bay and Budd Inlet, on Hood Canal, on Rich Passage, in Eagle Harbor and, even in Seattle, most likely on Elliott Bay instead of Puget Sound. One woman meekly asked whether she was crossing “Puget Sound” when she went to and from work over the I-90 bridge.

Talk to British Columbia neighbors about the waters of the U.S. Northwest Straits that border their Strait of Georgia and they’ll be quick to point out that those are the Southwest Straits as far as they are concerned. And the folks in the San Juan Islands and the Canadian Gulf Islands? They live surrounded by the Sea of Paradise.

The fact that the Puget Sound and Puget Sound are abstractions has been a challenge and an obstacle faced by folks who worked and are working for the future of Puget Sound: The Puget Sound Water Quality Authority, the Puget Sound Action Team, the Puget Sound Partnership, People For Puget Sound. The future that people care for is the future that touches them. Our environments are local.

I honestly don’t care if somebody calls it the Puget Sound or Puget Sound as long as they put their mind and their heart and their hands around doing all they can to protect and restore the lands and waters they care for. Judging how people talk is basically off-putting, especially if you think you’re right and others are not. It’s also arrogant to forget that this place had names for its places long before Captain George Vancouver sailed into these waters.

Before Vancouver, this place was called “WulcH,” ( Anglicized to “Whulge” or “Whulj”) from the Lushootseed name. These days, thanks to the efforts of Bert Webber, I like to call the land and the waters of this great place the Salish Sea. And if we’re not all planning to go  back to where we came from, it might deepen our appreciation for living here if we think about living on the flanks and at the feet of Komo Kulshan, Shuksan and Tahoma.

--Mike Sato

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Monster of the Deep

Grant Jones in his skiff (Kaija Jones photo)

Guest blog by Grant Jones

It was early August in 1953 at Richmond Beach. I was rowing out after breakfast on the high tide to drift along the drop off about a half-mile out. I had caught a big English Sole fourteen inches long on a strip of frozen herring. As the tide ebbed out and the farthest-out sandbars came into sunlight, I came up with a plan.

I wanted to find out if there were still big Halibut in Puget Sound. In my fishbox I carried a huge halibut hook four inches on the shank. I tied it securely with a bowline knot onto the loose bight of a twelve-inch spool of thick, waxed handline a thousand feet long. I baited it with the whole body of that big sole, working the hook through the back so its white blind side would be exposed to the sunlight filtering into the deep. I then rowed out over a mile beyond the drop off and played out the handline that coursed through my fingers, drug down by a two-pound lead. It took more than a minute, maybe two, for the weight to pull that big flounder all the way down six‑hundred feet to the bottom below. The tide had turned and was flooding back toward Seattle. I hauled the line in a few feet and quickly dropped it so I could feel the lead bounce along the bottom.

Nothing happened for over an hour as I drifted southward from Point Wells toward Duffy’s Point bouncing that flounder off the sandy channel, six-hundred feet or sixty stories below. Then, almost imperceptively, the line, which had been holding almost straight down, slightly aft from the bow, started to slowly pull between my thumb and forefinger and then play out ahead like a walking dog toward the west. Was I just imagining this?

I let out twenty or thirty feet of slack and tied it off around the front seat, to see if it was just a snag and would hold me suspended in one position, fishtailing me slightly back and forth in the current. Instead the line jerked violently and the skiff veered westward at about three knots, faster than you can walk. Oh, crap!

At six o’clock, after being pulled south in zigzags three miles almost to Jefferson Head, past the Degaussing Station, for two-maybe-three hours, I was getting into the shipping lanes heading for Elliott Bay and would be a threat to navigation. This fish didn’t act like a halibut, didn’t want to head for the beach; it was heading for the deep canyon that reaches 800 feet out in the middle of this great estuarine Puget River. If I wanted to get home that night, I’d have to give up my prize. When I touched my fish knife to the thick, trembling handline, it snapped like a bowstring against my cheek. I noticed that there were two, deep friction grooves in the gunwales of my skiff, one on each side of the bow.

With the severed handline hanging loose in my hands, fear suddenly pressed around me. I started to tremble and the back of my neck felt like burning ice with electric nettles. Had I been experiencing the whole adventure with a friend, this moment would have brought hoots and hollers, but being alone out there was something else, like an all-engulfing prayer, as I fell to my knees out of the wind and felt the warm and fragrant cedar floorboards under my hands to clear my head, as the wind gently rocked the skiff in the riptide.

It was like time had crashed and some huge power of nature held me in its arms. That deep-channel monster fish released me, but in the process became my friend and protector.

It took three hours to row back with the outgoing ebb tide. After dragging the skiff up the beach and over the logs and heaving it on top of the car, I drove the old Falcon station wagon two blocks up the hill to the house and rolled into bed at ten o’clock. It was still light and I couldn’t fall to sleep until after midnight. It was a quarter moon, and its crescent drew a silver line across the Sound out to where I had met my fifteen-foot Sixgill Cowshark, my own real monster of the deep.

Every landscape can surround you if you’re alive to it. It can embrace you with its monstrous spirit, reaching out to both scare and honor you. In my monster fish, I had discovered an earth-mate partner. I would never be the same or even think the same way again about my mission. I hope something like this has happened to you. If it hasn’t, maybe you can go out looking for it. A monster fish like this is your guide to powerful spirits residing in the landscape of the Salish Sea. They can awake your heart. For me, this experience with another being made the land and sea breathe. It made rivers talk and mountains groan. And their heartbeats have been with me forever.

Grant Jones was born a “beach kid,” which means he grew up on the tide flats at Richmond Beach in the North Central Sound Region. This childhood experience helped him become deeply attached to estuaries and rivers of the Salish Sea and to become a landscape poet, environmental designer and steward. He co-founded Jones & Jones in 1970, the award winning architectural and landscape architectural and planning firm, with their first job being to design a conservation plan for the Nooksack River. Now retired, he lives on his farm in the Okanogan Valley of North-Central Washington where he is creating a native plant nursery-arboretum with his wife, Chong-hui.