Kongsgaard departs Puget Sound Partnership; Manning assumes chair

Martha Kongsgaard, chairwoman of the Puget Sound Leadership Council, has always spoken with a voice of both reason and passion while guiding the Puget Sound Partnership in its efforts to restore Puget Sound to health.

Martha Kongsgaard
Martha Kongsgaard

Yesterday and today, Martha attended her final meeting as a member of the Leadership Council, the governing body of the Partnership charged with coordinating Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.

While listening to presentations on technical and financial issues, Martha always seems to quickly focus discussions on the key issues of recovery while asking how to help average people understand the complex problems.

As a reporter, I’ve enjoyed speaking with Martha, who not only answers my questions in a direct and revealing way but also indulges my curiosity. Our discussions often take tangents onto other interesting subjects, sometimes leading to new stories or old stories told in a new way.

Nobody doubts Martha’s love of Puget Sound, expressed by her willingness to spend countless unpaid hours working for a better future.

Martha is the last of the original members of the Leadership Council, which was formed in 2007 under Gov. Chris Gregoire through an act of the Legislature . When Bill Ruckelshaus, the council’s first chairman, resigned in 2010, Martha took over as chairwoman.

The next chairman, taking over next year, will be Jay Manning, former director of the Washington Department of Ecology who was appointed to the Leadership Council in 2013 by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Jay Manning
Jay Manning

In a news release, the governor said, “I appreciate Martha’s leadership on the council and thank her for being part of this incredible effort and organization. We still have so much important work to do, and I know Jay Manning will be a direct, pragmatic and action-oriented leader who will help us accelerate our collective effort to protect and restore Puget Sound.

“Jay also understands the importance of documenting our results to ensure accountability to the people of Washington,” Inslee added. “I look forward to working with him in his new role.”

Jay Manning, a native of South Kitsap, served in the Attorney General’s Office before becoming director of Ecology. He later became chief of staff for Gov. Gregoire. He also has been deeply involved in state climate change and ocean acidification issues.

During yesterday’s meeting, Jay Manning said he knew Martha as an environmental advocate before she joined the Leadership Council, but he came to appreciate her as a charismatic leader able to make personal connections with all kinds of people.

“My admiration has only grown during these past two years,” Jay said, referring to his time as a member of the Leadership Council.

Rob Duff, the governor’s senior policy adviser on natural resources, said one thing he most appreciates about Martha is her reliance on science before advocacy, as demonstrated by her strong deference to the Partnership’s science advisers, known as the Puget Sound Science Panel.

“It is easy to advocate, advocate, advocate and drift from the facts — and there is too much of that going on,” Rob said, adding that it is hard to describe how important Martha has been to the Partnership.

In a letter to Martha, Gov. Inslee recognized that she had put her heart and soul into Puget Sound recovery and preservation for the past decade, working alongside Ruckelshaus and the late Billy Frank Jr., a tribal leader and powerful advocate for salmon, shellfish and other natural resources.

“You’ve never shied away from immersing yourself in the hard issues facing the Sound and have always been there to experience needs firsthand, whether it was swimming the Duwamish or mucking around in shellfish beds and farm manure,” the governor said in his letter to Martha. “Over the past 10 years, your energy and insight have buoyed the Partnership and the broader environmental community, and we have all benefitted immensely from your eloquence, generosity and true talent for building productive relationships, particularly with Indian nations.”

In a letter to the governor, Martha said it had been an honor to serve and help the Partnership advance the critical understanding that “ecosystem recovery and a thriving economy are not antagonistic forces but rather each preconditions for the other.”

Efforts by many “partners” have protected and restored more than 45,000 acres of estuarine and wetland habitats, connected more than 1,000 acres of floodplain habitat, protected 500 acres of prime farmland and increased flood protection for 25 communities.

Meanwhile, as Puget Sound’s Indian tribes contend, “we are losing the battle for salmon recovery, because the rate of habitat loss continues to outpace our restoration efforts,” she said.

Indian tribes signed treaties giving up most of the land that is now Western Washington while reserving their rights to harvest salmon and other natural resources, she continued.

“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,” she said.

“Some of the outcome trajectories are turning in the right direction; many require a lot more investment,” she said. “But we have in 10 years created a nationally recognized collective governance system that is central to our ability to safeguard these ‘troubled but treasured’ waters going forward.”

4 thoughts on “Kongsgaard departs Puget Sound Partnership; Manning assumes chair

  1. Well done to Martha Kongsgaard!

    But this statement triggers my curiosity: “Meanwhile, as Puget Sound’s Indian tribes contend, “we are losing the battle for salmon recovery, because the rate of habitat loss continues to outpace our restoration efforts,” she said.”

    Since the State has implemented the Shoreline Management Act requirements and there are no shortage of permits needed to do any work around the State shorelines, I have not been seeing the habitat loss, but I’ve seen significant restoration efforts.

    Be informative to have the Kitsap Sun do a show and tell where the habitat losses have been occurring since 2007 since the PSP was formed … the restoration efforts seem to be getting all the media coverage.

    1. Robert,

      I’ll have to ask Martha where this idea comes from. I have not seen the data, although I have heard this comment about habitat loss from many people. This is what the 2015 State of the Sound report says:

      ACCOUNTING OF HABITAT LOSS AND GAINS

      Five Vital Signs are classified under the Protect and Restore Habitats goal that provide measures of habitat extent, restoration activities, and pressures. However, for a given habitat, the Vital Sign indicators often present a somewhat incomplete portrayal of the gains and losses of habitat over time. For instance, the indicators of riparian and estuary restoration help gauge habitat gains over time. However, there are no Vital Sign indicators accounting for the degradation or loss of these key habitats. As a result, there is no information in this report on whether these types of habitats are disappearing faster than are being protected or restored. Knowing the net impact of restoration, protection, degradation, and loss of habitat over time is essential not only for understanding the status of other indicators such as Chinook salmon and forage fish, but also the overall accomplishments of Puget Sound recovery efforts.

      There are important nuances to each Vital Sign indicator that are not conveyed in the high-level indicator summaries in Table 1 and Table 2. These summaries can mask important local improvements resulting from successful protection and restoration efforts. The opposite is true as well: local declines as a result of pressures damaging to the environment may be occurring and should be revealed to better inform recovery efforts.

      1. Thank you Chris. I have the 2015 State of the Sound report and asked about habitat loss and where it was happening during one of their open house presentations, and I got what I would call a blank answer. My point to them was regulations control habitat loss, and if habitat loss is in fact happening on a significant scale, then PSP needs to know what needs to be changed in the regulatory world to either stop or slow the degradation. I was pretty much met with a blank stare and an un-huh.
        I too hear consistent claims of habitat loss especially related to the salmon population issue, but but I suspect it might be more of a “follow the money” issue. There are multiple million$ being spent on habitat restoration each year, and to keep the money flowing, there has to be a problem to solve. Habitat restoration is fine, but the public integrity question is whether habitat is being lost faster than it is being restored, or if that’s “fake news” that the public is being fed to keep consultants and contractors who are employed in habitat restoration employed, and the tribes perhaps deflecting some attention to the real reasons salmon populations have been declining.
        Realize this is also a tangent issue to the real story of the quality work done by Martha Kongsgaard … I don’t want this one issue to detract from her dedication and quality efforts to improve Puget Sound.

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