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 and directly to his blog in the comment section below.