Carl Safina — scientist, teacher, author and documentary
filmmaker — will speak Wednesday on a topic of interest to many
killer whale observers, “Intertwined Fates: The Orca-Salmon
Connection in the Pacific Northwest.”
Following his speech, Safina will join a panel of experts on
salmon and killer whales to discuss the connections between these
two iconic species and what it will take for the survival of the
species. The experts are Ken Balcomb of the Center for Whale
Research, Jacques White of Long Live the Kings, Howard Schaller of
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Lynne Barre of NOAA
Safina’s newest book, “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and
Feel,” is winning acclaim for its description of animal culture and
even emotions in creatures such as elephants, wolves and killer
“We have long asked whether we are alone in the universe, but
clearly we are not alone on earth,” wrote Tim Flannery in his
review of “Beyond Words” in the
New York Review of Books. “The evolution of intelligence, of
empathy and complex societies, is surely more likely than we have
hitherto considered. And what is it, exactly, that sets our species
apart? We clearly are different, but in light of ‘Beyond Words’ we
need to reevaluate how, and why.”
“Safina comes to an unfamiliar but empirically based
conclusion,” Flannery continues. “Prior to the domestication of
plants and the invention of writing, the differences between human
societies and those of elephants, dogs, killer whales, and dolphins
was a matter of degree, not kind. Why, he asks, has it taken us so
long to understand this?”
Previously, in a PBS series “Saving the
Ocean,” Safina explored the effort to restore chinook salmon to
the Nisqually River. During a two-part segment, he interviewed
numerous biologists and talked to tribal leader Billy Frank before
Billy’s untimely death.
The newly formed Orca Salmon Alliance is a consortium of
environmental groups focused on supporting the recovery of orcas
and salmon. Proceeds from Wednesday’s event will support the
“We can’t recover the highly endangered population of orca
living off the Northwest coast without also restoring their primary
food source, the chinook salmon,” said Deborah Giles, Science
Advisor for OSA.
Sand sculptors from throughout the world continue to turn their
unique ideas into temporary masterpieces to be washed away with the
tide. Only memories and photographs remain of these intricate, but
fleeting, art objects.
Perhaps someone can tell me if this unusual art form is on the
increase or decline. Some sand-sculpture festivals keep going each
year; some have disappeared; and new ones have started up since I
started featuring this art form in 2009. Last year (Water Ways,
Aug. 25, 2014), I rounded up all the “Amusing Monday” pieces
about sand sculpture. I remain as impressed with the new work today
as I have ever been.
In June, Hampton Beach, N.H., was the site of the 15th annual
“Master Sand Sculpting Competition,” which is about as good as it
gets. The first two pictures on this page show opposite sides of a
sand sculpture created at the festival. The piece, which artist
Karen Fralich calls “Life,” took First Place at the festival this
Other top winners are featured in a very nice gallery
of photos on the Hampton Beach website. The artists discuss
their work in a series of videos by Newhampshiredotcom. Though the
sound quality leaves something to be desired, I did find it
interesting to hear these folks describe their very interesting
Coney Island held its 25th annual
Sand Sculpting Contest this past weekend. So far, few
worthwhile photo galleries have been posted, but reporter Kate
Cummings of Brooklyn TV News 12 had a report, which I posted in the
video player at the bottom of this page. Last year’s event was
featured nationally on
ABC’s Good Morning America.
Finally, coming in our state, Olympia’s annual Sand in the City festival
will be held this weekend. Sponsored by the Hands On Children’s
Museum, it should have some excellent sand sculptures, though the
event is not rated as a top-tier competition. Last year’s
sculptures can be seen on the museum’s website.
More than 466,000 animals — from seals to sea birds to salmon to
crabs — were found dead during the retrieval of “ghost nets” over
the past 12 years by the Northwest Straits Foundation, which
celebrated a major milestone today. In recognizing the end of a
significant program, I’d like to add a little personal history.
The celebration in Everett marks the completion of the intense
effort to retrieve nets lost from fishing boats in less than 105
feet of water — because the vast majority of the nets have been
removed. Future roundups may be planned if more nets are found or
reported by commercial fishers, who are now required to report lost
The removal program has pulled out more than 5,660 derelict
fishing nets and more than 3,800 crab and shrimp pots blamed for
killing all those marine mammals, birds, fish and other creatures,
according to statistics kept by the organization.
“Removing these nets restores marine habitat forever.” Joan
Drinkwin, interim director of the Northwest Straits Foundation,
said in a
news release. “Marine mammals like porpoises, diving birds, and
fish can now swim and dive in Puget Sound without the risk of being
entangled in these dangerous derelict nets.”
Northwest Straits Foundation stepped up and tackled the huge
ghost-net-removal project with the first grant from the Washington
Legislature in 2002. Through the years, other funding came from the
federal government, foundations, fishing groups, tribes,
corporations and private individuals. In a separate project, U.S.
Navy divers removed derelict nets from selected underwater
“Just about every agency and organization in Puget Sound that
works to protect and restore our marine waters has contributed to
this effort,” Drinkwin said. “We have many people to thank, so this
is a celebration not just of our work, but of collaboration and
pulling together to achieve great things.”
I’d like to add some personal notes, giving a bit of early
credit to Ray Frederick, who headed up the Kitsap Poggie Club in
2000, when Ray first called my attention to the ghost net
It was right after a
state initiative to ban non-Indian gillnets failed at the
ballot box, leaving many sport fishermen upset with what they
viewed as the indiscriminate killing of fish, including salmon
listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Ray called me and said gillnet fishing will continue, but
something should be done about the ghost nets. I think that was the
first time I had ever heard the term. Here’s how I began the first
of many stories (Kitsap
Sun, June 30, 1999) I would write about this subject:
“In the murky, undersea twilight of Puget Sound, scuba divers
occasionally come face to face with the tangled remains of rotting
fish. Nearly invisible in the dim light, long-lost fishing nets
continue to ensnare fish, birds, seals, crabs and other creatures
that happen along.
“Divers call these hidden traps ‘ghost nets.’
“”It’s a little eerie, seeing fish like that,’ said Steve
Fisher, an underwater photographer from Bremerton. ‘You can see
that something has been eating on them, and the fish are a pretty
good size — bigger than you would normally see.’”
I reported that a few net-retrieval operations had been
conducted since 1986, but state officials were warning against any
ad hoc operations following the death of a volunteer scuba diver,
who became tangled in fishing gear and ran out of air.
Ray got involved in a campaign to seek state and federal funding
to eliminate ghost nets. He wrote to Gov. Gary Locke and select
legislators. I located
one of Ray’s letters, which expressed frustration about the
lack of action to remove the derelict gear he knew was killing sea
life in Puget Sound.
State Sen, Karen Fraser, D-Lacey, who had been pushing for
funding, was joined by then-Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge
Island, the late-Sen. Bob Oke, R-Port Orchard, and other
legislators to push through funding to develop new guidelines to
safely remove derelict gear. The Northwest Straits Commission,
which wanted to remove ghost nets in and around the San Juan
Islands, was chosen to conduct the study, which led to “Derelict
Fishing Gear Removal Guidelines” (PDF 2.3 mb).
Now that most of the nets have been removed in water less than
105 feet deep, the effort must turn to removing nets in deeper
water, where they are likely to snare threatened and endangered
rockfish species in Puget Sound.
NOAA Fisheries and the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife have listed abandoned nets as threats to rockfish and
recommend action. The most promising method of removal is remotely
operated vehicles. A report by
Natural Resources Consultants (PDF 1.4 mb) spells out the
When it comes to restoring the Puget Sound ecosystem, human
beings really do matter — in some ways that are obvious and in some
ways that are fairly subtle.
The Puget Sound Leadership Council, which oversees the
restoration of Puget Sound, acknowledged this fact yesterday when
adopting a new set of ecosystem indicators to measure how Puget
Sound influences the health and well-being of humans.
It’s often said that people have damaged the Puget Sound
ecosystem through years of abuse. They say it will take years of
restoration — by people — to return things to a healthy condition.
But why do we care? Are we spending millions of dollars on
restoration just to benefit fish and wildlife, or are we doing it
The answer, which comes from studies of economics and human
behavior, appears to be that helping fish and wildlife — by putting
the ecosystem back together — also benefits humans in a variety of
When the Washington Legislature told the Puget Sound Partnership
to go forth and lead the way toward restoring Puget Sound to
health, our lawmakers understood that people would be the primary
beneficiaries. The first two goals assigned to the partnership, as
articulated by RCW
A healthy human population supported by a healthy Puget Sound
that is not threatened by changes in the ecosystem;
A quality of human life that is sustained by a functioning
Puget Sound ecosystem;
The other three goals are related to native species, habitats
and water supplies.
Sometimes goals related to human values conflict with goals to
restore ecological functions. For example, one cannot build a house
on undeveloped land without altering the ecosystem in some negative
ways. Sometimes human values are aligned with ecological values,
such when we reduce pollution to clean up streams and drinking
water. In any case, these new ecosystem indicators will help people
understand the tradeoffs and opportunities of various actions.
As I pointed out last month in
Water Ways, the Hood Canal Coordinating Council has completed a
plan and associated website
that highlights connections between human well-being and natural
resources in the Hood Canal region. Hood Canal became a pilot
project for the indicators approved yesterday for all of Puget
Sound. Some of the same folks — including social scientist Kelly
Biedenweg of the Puget Sound Institute — were involved in creating
nine new “vital signs” with indicators to track human-related
changes in the Puget Sound ecosystem.
Unlike the original human health and human well-being indicators
adopted in 2010, these new indicators have undergone an extensive
review by scientists and other experts to ensure their validity and
reliability. That is, these new indicators have real meaning in
connecting human beings to the ecological functions of Puget
In yesterday’s meeting, Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the
Leadership Council, said the human dimension is often ignored in
favor of empirical science.
“This is a hard thing to do,” she said about developing the new
indicators. “This is sort of a brave new world, and I think it is
true that we live in this world whether we call it out like this or
Council member Stephanie Solien said she would like to see more
discussions about human health and well-being issues — not because
they are more important than species and habitats, but because they
make connections to average people.
“People are self-interested,” she said. “They care about their
health, their family’s health, the health of their communities. The
more we can draw those connections to Puget Sound and healthy
watersheds, I think we will be more successful in our work around
ecosystems and saving species.”
Here are the four new vital signs and associated indicators
related to human health:
1. OUTDOOR ACTIVITY: Measured by 1) Percent of
swimming beaches meeting bacterial standards (one of the existing
indicators), 2) Average hours people spend having fun outdoors, 3)
Average hours people spend working outdoors.
2. AIR QUALITY: Indicators to be determined
from existing data.
3. LOCAL FOODS: Availability of wild foods,
such the ability to catch fish, collect shellfish, harvest plants
and hunt for game.
4. DRINKING WATER: Indicators to be determined
from information about water systems.
Here are the five new vital signs and associated indicators
related to human well-being:
5. ECONOMIC VITALITY: Measured by 1) Value of
natural resources produced by industry, including commercial
fishing, shellfish harvesting, timber production, agriculture,
mining and tourism; 2) Value produced by natural-resource
industries compared to gross domestic product of all other
industries in the region; 3) Number of jobs in natural-resource
6. CULTURAL WELL-BEING: Percent of residents
who feel they are able to maintain traditions associated with the
7. GOOD GOVERNANCE: Percentage of people who
feel they have 1) the opportunity to influence decisions about
Puget Sound, 2) the rights and freedom to make decisions about
managing natural resources, 3) trust in local and regional
governments to make the right decisions about Puget Sound, 4) been
well represented by government leaders, 5) access to information
about natural-resource issues.
8. SENSE OF PLACE: Percentage of people who
feel: 1) a positive connection to the region, 2) a sense of
stewardship for the watershed, 3) a sense of pride about being from
9. PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING INDEX: Percentage
of people who experience: 1) inspiration from being in nature, 2)
reduced stress, calm or relaxation from being in nature, 3) Overall
life satisfaction based on criteria in national studies.
Leadership Council member Jay Manning, former director of the
Washington Department of Ecology, said he supports the indicators.
His only concern is that some are beyond the control of the Puget
Sound Partnership, and some may have nothing to do with people’s
connection to Puget Sound.
Jay makes a good point, but the social scientists who developed
the indicators stressed that there will be no targets or goals
associated with human values. What will be interesting to watch is
whether people feel better or worse about the restoration effort as
time goes on, and how the leaders choose to respond to any changes
in public opinion.
Much of the information that will fit into the new indicators
will be the result of phone surveys yet to be conducted. Other
information will be teased out of ongoing research studies. The
partnership has received funding from the Environmental Protection
Agency to hire a consultant to continue work on the human-related
indicators until the numbers are finalized.
None of the new information about human health and well-being
will be included in the State of Puget Sound report to be issued
later this year, according to Kari Stiles, staff scientist for the
partnership. But some information could go into the Vital Signs wheel within
the next year.
I’m not a big fan of compilation videos that show a series of
accidents in which people get hurt and are obviously in pain. I
tend to wince and just want to know if the person involved is OK.
I’m sure I could laugh if only I was assured that the person didn’t
die or get laid up in a hospital — although this kind of video does
not normally convey this kind of information.
Getting wet is quite survivable, which is why I get a real kick
from videos showing mishaps involving boats. I keep returning to
the blooper videos by TV fisherman Bill Dance, who I blogged about
Water Ways two months ago.
America’s Funniest Home Videos put together a nice compilation
of minor incidents involving people on the water. The pacing is
just right, and the accompanying music, “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”
by Frank Sinatra, couldn’t be better. This video is in the first
video player on this page.
I don’t know if a person is more or less likely to be hurt on a
large ship than a small boat when things go awry, but property
damage from a ship can be enormous. I can easily forgive myself for
laughing about terrible property damage as long as nobody gets
hurt. Don’t ask me why. Check out:
Shifting gears a little, have you ever wondered what it would be
like if Weird Al Yankovik were performing on the Titanic at the
time the historic ship went down? I find this video funny, despite
the human tragedy that occurred. I think it is because the story
itself has become nearly a cliché. The video is called “Weird Al
Yankovic On A Boat (And The Band Played On).”
Finally, there’s a commercial for Nitro boats featuring a
fisherman guy who finds himself choosing between his boat and his
new girlfriend. His answer to the question is simple, as you can
see in the video below.
It isn’t the rare man-bites-dog story, but a humorous
dog-sprays-man video has created a major buzz on the Internet since
it was posted last week on YouTube and Facebook. Watch as the
speedy dog chases his owner around the yard with a garden hose.
a website affiliated with the television show America’s Funniest
Home Videos, posted the video, and lots of people passed it on,
adding their own headlines. Among them were: “Revenge-seeking dog
drenches owner with hose” and “This dog demands that his owner stay
hydrated in the summer heat.”
It turns out that the video was shown on “America’s Funniest
Home Videos” back in 2007, when the announcer made this comment,
“Max is a little bitter that he is not a Dalmatian with a swanky
I understand the notion of a dog getting revenge, after
reviewing dozens of videos in which the dog’s owner sprays his pet
with a jet of water. The dogs seem to love it, and it becomes a
game between the human hose-bearer and the canine on the other
The video that went viral last week is not the only one showing
a dog using a hose to chase a man. In fact, one video, posted by
in 2010, seems to be less staged than the one that launched this
blog post. You can hear the camera operator laughing and asking at
the end, “Is this payback for all the time we sprayed her with a
And we must not mention dogs without offering at least one cat
video. That’s exactly the number of videos I could find showing
cats having fun playing in water. Chloe posted a video last year
Cat Playing With Water Hose” (video player below), along with
the following comments on her YouTube Channel Clover
“I recently discovered that my cat likes to play with the water
that comes out of my garden hose. He gets really wet after playing
with the water. He hates getting wet, but he doesn’t seem to care
if the hose wets him. I think he only likes to get wet on his
Brown bears are still actively fishing at Brooks Falls in
Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. I wish I had more time
to sit and watch them, as there is almost always something going on
at this time of year — although the salmon run is expected to
decline soon. See live video from three cameras on
The looping video on this page was captured from one of the live
cameras by national park staff, who posted the action with this
note: “Wow, fishing gets intense! Bear brawl!”
For this and other live wildlife cams from across the country,
check out my “Amusing Monday” blog post in
Water Ways from June 29.
Actors and comedians are talking about water in a new video
campaign to raise awareness about the value of clean water and the
importance of keeping pollution out of waterways.
Waterkeeper Alliance brought together celebrities to share their
feelings and memories about water uses. They include Neil Patrick
Harris, Susan Sarandon, Bobby Moynihan, Taran Killam, Ray Romano
and Brad Garrett.
Locally, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance is affiliated with the
national Waterkeeper Alliance. Puget Soundkeeper Chris Wilke, based
in Seattle, is featured in an earlier video
that explains the goals of Waterkeeper Alliance and the actions of
affiliates across the United States and throughout the
The new campaign, called “Keep it Clean” is directed by Rachael
Harris and produced by Kids at Play.
“We want to get people thinking about what water pollution means
to them — to their drinking water, their surf break, their favorite
fishing spot,” Harris said in a prepared statement. “But
it’s a dirty and heavy topic! So we brought together some of the
most brilliant and passionate voices in entertainment to put their
own spin on it, to get a little silly, to make people think about
why this issue is important, and what they can do to help.”
The videos presented here were announced as the “first round” of
the campaign, which I presume means that more will be coming later.
The three videos shown in players are compilations of comments on
What’s your favorite use of water? (top video)
Heartfelt memories (middle)
What does Waterkeeper Alliance do? (bottom)
The other videos show either celebrities speaking alone or with
The beautiful and powerful brown bears have arrived at Brooks
Falls in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and everyone
in the world can enjoy the convenience of watching these giant
bears and other amazing wildlife live from the comfort and safety
of their home.
Lots of people have been going out to falls this year to watch
the bears from nearby viewing platforms, but I get the feeling that
far more people have been watching them from home via the
live webcams. I say that because of the number of
comments generated on the website. More than a few commenters
seem to know the area well and even call the bears by their
nicknames. (Park biologists use a numbering system, identifying
each bear by coat and claw colors, scars, body size and shape, ear
size and shape, sex, facial features and disposition.)
Brooks Falls is one of the first streams in the region where the
bears have easy access to bright salmon soon after they leave the
saltwater and before spawning. The falls provide a partial barrier
to their travels, making fishing easier for the bears. By sometime
in August, the fish runs will dwindle and the bears will be
Operators of the multiple live webcams do a good job of zooming
in when something interesting happens. Occasionally, so much is
going on that they don’t know what to show. Other times, we wait
and watch the beautiful scenery, which is especially dramatic at
sunrise and sunset.
When the bears are actively fishing for salmon, I find it hard
to break away and get back to daily life. One video trick I’ve
learned: If you don’t see anything interesting in the live view,
you can use your cursor to scan across the timeline to see what has
happened for the past few hours and watch that instead.
Park officials have identified the various fishing methods used
by the bears in an interesting
Q&A section on the national park’s website.
Birds and marine mammal cams
Besides watching bears, it’s a good time of year to watch other
wildlife as well via live webcam. Birds are typically active on
their nests, raising their young.
Chesapeake Conservancy is featuring the osprey couple,
Tom and Audrey, who perennially nest on Kent Island in
Maryland. Audrey has taken up with a new “Tom” this year and
produced three babies. They also received two foster chicks from
nearby Poplar Island, according to information on the website.
Another good osprey cam was installed this year in Belwood Lake
Conservation Area near the Great Lakes in Ontario, Canada. Three
eggs reportedly hatched, but I see only two chicks in the nest.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife also has an osprey
cam that updates still photos every 12 seconds.
cam at Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine shows a
fuzzy chick tucked into a burrow where its mother comes and goes to
feed her baby. Other views shows puffins on a ledge where they
often hang out. Wildlife biologists are trying to establish a new
colony at this location after hunters wiped out the puffins in the
If you would like to see a colony
of walruses, (also in video player below) check out the live
camera installed on Round Island, Alaska. Sometimes only a few of
the large mammals can be seen. Other times, like this morning,
large numbers were pushing and shoving each other for space. The
comments are often entertaining.
Two members of the Washington’s congressional delegation — Reps.
Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, and Dave Reichert, R-Auburn — are
expressing confidence that the Land and Water Conservation Fund
will be reauthorized.
But with so many dollars on the line for conservation purposes,
many supporters are growing nervous about when it will happen and
what the final bill will look like. After all, what could possibly
go wrong in a Congress famous for getting nothing done, with less
than 100 days left to go before the law expires?
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a major source of money
for recreation and habitat-protection projects across the country,
ranging from building local swimming pools to buying land for
national parks. Since 1965, more than 41,000 grants have provided a
total of about $4 billion, divided among every state and five U.S.
territories. For a list of completed projects in Washington state,
check out “50 Years of
Success” by the Washington Wildlife and Recreation
The current law places $900 million a year into the fund, but in
recent years only a fraction of that ever gets appropriated —
roughly between one-fourth and one-half. If not appropriated, the
money disappears into the general Treasury for other spending.
Revenues put into the fund come from royalties paid by energy
companies for drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf, so
no tax dollars are involved. As President Obama and others have
stated, the program allows money coming from the extraction of
natural resources to go into protecting natural resources.
In a conference call yesterday, Kilmer recounted how the fund
has helped bring businesses to Washington state, as employers look
for places with natural beauty and recreational opportunities. He
noted that in his previous life he worked for the Pierce County
Economic Development Board helping employers site their
“Just like in real estate, location matters,” Kilmer said.
“Access to natural beauty matters. Something our region has is a
natural environment that you won’t find anywhere else, and
innovators and employers are attracted to the Pacific
Kilmer said it is “hard to overstate the importance” of the Land
and Water Conservation Fund. He promised to work hard to have it
Reichert delivered a similar message, saying he helped gather
signatures in support from more than 200 representatives from both
“I want to reassure everyone… we are going to continue to fight
this fight back here,” he said. “We think it is absolutely critical
to invest in the LWCF … and support public land conservation
I did not get a clear picture of how the political battles are
shaping up, nor whether reauthorization is likely before the fund
expires at the end of September. But we can get some clues from
remarks by key leaders in the House and Senate, as well as
testimony in public hearings.
At one end of the spectrum, Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell has
proposed legislation, S. 890,
that would not only reauthorize the law but require permanent and
dedicated funding at the full amount of authorization. If Congress
fails to appropriate the funds, presumably the money would stay in
the fund unless redirected to another program.
Separate bills in the Senate and House (S.
338 and H.R.
1814) would not go as far. They would make the fund permanent
but would not change the appropriation process. A provision would
be added to the law to require that 1.5 percent of the
appropriation, up to $10 million, would be set aside for opening up
public access to recreation.
In the Senate, an amendment to the Keystone XL pipeline bill,
which would do what S. 338 proposes, nearly passed with 59 votes,
one vote shy of the required 60 votes to pass in today’s Senate.
That is seen as decent support in the Senate, but nobody is
predicting what will happen in the House.
Republicans, who are in control of the committees, could shape
any bills that they decide to bring to a vote and move to
Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from California, chairs the
Subcommittee on Federal Lands Oversight of the House Natural
“This 50-year old act expires in September, offering the 114th
Congress an opportunity to thoroughly examine its mission and
impacts and to make adjustments accordingly,” McClintock said in a
hearing in April on the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
McClintock raised objections about buying more federal land when
there is a serious backlog of maintenance projects needed to meet
standards for fire prevention, fire suppression, wildlife
management and facilities maintenance. Money that goes to states,
on the other hand, comes under greater accountability because of
the funding match provided at the local level, he said.
The funding is entirely discretionary, he noted, so it is
“incumbent upon Congress” to decide whether to support additional
funding for the purchase of federal lands.
Similar views were expressed by Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski,
Republican chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural
“I fully support reauthorizing this act, this year, in a way
that reflects changing needs and evolving viewpoints about
conservation in the 21st century,” Murkowski said during a
hearing in April.
“As we look to reauthorize LWCF, I believe that it makes sense
to shift the federal focus away from land acquisition, particularly
in Western states, toward maintaining and enhancing the
accessibility and quality of the resources that we have,” she said.
“This is the best way to put our nation’s recreation system on the
path of long-term viability.”
She stressed her support for state programs and for increasing
public access to federal lands.
In that same hearing, Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell, the
Democrats’ ranking minority member on the committee, said it is not
necessary to choose between maintenance and purchase. Maintenance
is already authorized, she said, and Congress decides how much to
spend on maintenance.
“Nearly half of the National Park Service’s estimated backlog is
attributed to needed repairs for roads and highways within the
national parks,” she said. “The single biggest improvement we could
make in reducing the maintenance backlog would be to increase the
funding level in the transportation bill for park roads.”
The Land and Water Conservation Fund is flexible, she argued. It
provides money for states to buy and develop local recreation
projects and to protect habitat for endangered species.
The fund also provides money for the Forest Legacy Program to
purchase development rights from private timberland owners to keep
the property in a forest condition.
On that point, more than 2,100 acres of forestland adjacent to
both Green Mountain and Tahuya state forests in Kitsap and Mason
counties were protected from development in 2009 with a $3.3
million purchase of development rights from Pope Resources. See
Kitsap Sun, Aug. 12, 2009.
In the latest round of funding, an effort is moving forward to
protect 20,000 acres of forestland between Shelton and Allyn in
Mason County. The plan is to take up to 10 years to buy the
development rights from Green Diamond Resource Company, which will
continue to manage the land under a federally approved habitat
As for extra money for state projects, Cantwell pointed out that
a relatively new program, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act,
provides a dedicated source of funding for state grants. Money from
drilling in the Gulf of Mexico places up to $125 million a year in
the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In a column published by the
Kitsap Sun, Washington State Sen. Christine Rolfes,
D-Bainbridge Island, said the Land and Water Conservation Fund is
important for protecting public property in every corner of the
state, including a land purchase to improve degraded water quality
in Lake Quinault near the coast.
Rolfes said she worries that in this “highly charged political
climate,” opponents of public lands could block spending from the
fund by failing to authorize its renewal.
“If they succeed,” she said, “the loss won’t be abstract — it
will be real and immediate.”
The video below, produced by The Nature Conservancy, makes an
argument for continuing the purchase and protection of public