Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Interior requested
photographs of veterans enjoying America’s public lands. Many
responded, and the result is the following video, which covers the
entire nation. In Washington state, veterans are featured at three
Margaux Mange, Army veteran, Mount Rainier National Park
Mike Polk, Air Force veteran, Grand Coulee Dam, and
Maxine Gresset, Army Nurse Corps veteran, Olympic National
As one YouTube commenter said, “A perfect combination — all
those spectacular places and the brave people who defended
Since tomorrow is Veterans Day, entrance fees are being waived
at most national parks, national forests, national monuments,
national wildlife refuges and other
federal lands in Washington state. For details, visit the
website of the agency in charge.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday announced that $20
million in grants will go to 24 coastal wetland projects throughout
the United States.
Fully one-third of those grants will go to Washington state, and
seven of the eight will be used for projects in the Puget Sound
“This just goes to show that Puget Sound is recognized as one of
the most important estuaries in the country,” Michelle Connor,
chief program officer for Fortera, told me for a story in
today’s Kitsap Sun.
I believe this focus on Puget Sound also could say something
about state and local priorities in a time of economic
Former Gov. Chris Gregoire often said the effort to preserve and
protect Puget Sound must not let up, regardless of the economy, or
we could lose the precious ecosystem under the pressure of ongoing
development. Here’s what she told me in an interview before she
left office (Water
Ways, Dec. 12, 2012).
“I think we have held our own and made some improvement, but not
the improvement we should have. We have to kick it up. The
population continues to grow. We’re going to have to kick it up or
we are going to lose ground. I’m not proud of the fact that we are
kind of treading water right now.”
Gov. Jay Inslee has his hands full trying to fully fund
education. As far as I know, he has made no specific funding
commitments for Puget Sound. Meanwhile, priorities for both the
Legislature and Congress are evolving.
As for these new coastal grants, the total local and state match
for all these projects nationwide is $21.3 million — more than the
total of the federal grants. Fortunately, the local share for most
of the projects in Washington state are considerably smaller than
the federal share.
I’m not sure how many grant proposals were submitted, but it is
clear that only those states and communities willing put out their
own dollars in these tough economic times would even apply for the
My story in today’s Kitsap Sun deals mostly with a project that
would buy 1.8 miles of undeveloped shoreline along Port Gamble Bay,
but some of the other projects in Puget Sound are equally valuable.
For a brief description of those projects, read the
news release (PDF 147 kb) I received from the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. The nationwide
list (PDF 66 kb) contains only funding information.
It’s the water, or maybe it’s just the nasty stuff that’s in the
A new series of studies by federal researchers is delving into
the question of which pollutants in urban streams are killing coho
As I describe in a story in
today’s Kitsap Sun, the new studies involve coho returning to
the Suquamish Tribe’s Grovers Creek Hatchery in North Kitsap.
Of course, pollutants in streams are just one factor affecting
salmon in the Puget Sound region, where development continues to
alter streamflows and reduce vegetation, despite efforts to protect
and restore habitat. But pollution may play a role that has gone
largely unnoticed in some streams.
The new studies continue an investigation that began more than a
decade ago with the involvement of numerous agencies. By now, most
of us have heard about the effects of copper on salmon, but the
latest round of studies will look at the collection of pollutants
found in stormwater to see how they work together. It may be
possible to pinpoint the chemical concentrations that result in
critical physiological changes in salmon.
The latest work involves a team led by David Baldwin of NOAA
Fisheries and Steve Damm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The
Suquamish Tribe is providing the fish, along with facilities and
For information on the ongoing effort to understand how toxic
chemicals affect salmon, review these pages on the website of the
Northwest Fisheries Science Center:
A page called “Coho Pre-spawn Mortality in Urban Streams”
presents a series of videos that show the advance of an apparent
neurological disease that first causes disorientation in coho
salmon and then death. The video is taken in Seattle’s Longfellow
Creek, an urban stream.
UPDATE, Jan. 27:
Since I first posted this item, Scott Veirs pointed out that the
recovery of Atlantic salmon is under the joint jurisdiction of the
National Marine Fisheries Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service. I was not aware of this, and it could help explain the
president’s statement. Thanks, Scott. See below for
Scott’s comment and my response.
President Obama made a joke about salmon in his “State of the
Union” speech last night, but his statement didn’t ring true to me,
so I did some checking.
Obama used salmon as an example of redundancy in government and
the need for reorganization. His point was valid about how a
confusing number of agencies are involved in salmon and their
habitat, But I’m afraid he’s mistaken about who’s in charge when it
comes to these migrating fish. Here’s his statement:
“… Then there’s my favorite example: The Interior Department is
in charge of salmon while they’re in freshwater, but the Commerce
Department handles them when they’re in salt water (laughter). I
hear it gets even more complicated once they’re smoked (laughter
The truth is the National Marine Fisheries Service is in charge
of most salmon
listed under the Endangered Species Act, no matter where they are.
NMFS, of course, is an agency under the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration, which is under the Department of
Commerce. Continue reading →
Environmental education has undergone a revolution since the
first Earth Day 40 years ago, as I describe in a story I wrote for
Sunday’s Kitsap Sun, which I called “The Evolution of
The word “sustainability” is emphasized in the new “Integrated
Environmental and Sustainability Education Learning Standards.”
Unlike other educational standards, this new approach does not
include specific grade-level expectations.
The standards call for an understanding of: 1) Ecological,
social and economic systems, 2) the natural and built environment,
and 3) sustainability and civic responsibility.
I hope you’ll read
the Sunday piece, which includes an interactive map of
environmental programs and projects across the Kitsap Peninsula.
You’ll meet Lisa Hawkins, a first-grade teacher who built an
outdoor classroom — a certified wildlife habitat — in a courtyard
at Poulsbo Elementary School.
This amazing young teacher has a special relationship with her
students, especially when they are exploring freely and finding
connections among living things.
Here are some links for creating habitats to foster
environmental learning at all grade levels.