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3 thoughts on “Facing challenges that could save chinook salmon from extinction

  1. “No net loss” is a status quo sliding the wrong way, and as long as we are only concerned with not making things worse we will never recover. Impaired waters, degraded habitat or polluted landscape will never recover if we are only interested in not making it worse, but still maintain the degraded condition. We need a “net improvement” standard if we hope to see recovery.

  2. I greatly appreciate Christopher Dunagan’s reporting. We need more like it.

    We seem to be assuming that if we have “no net loss” across the state and then engage in some large scale restorations, such as removing dikes along a few river estuaries, we’ll have general improvement. As I see it, there are several things wrong with this thinking.

    Mitigating damage in one estuary by making improvements in another estuary is a net loss. It’s all the same water. Allowing an area like East Bay to continue to remain degraded doesn’t bode well for any of the sound.

    There’s an interrelationship between physical, chemical and biological parameters. That’s lesson one in any oceanography textbook. The interrelationship can work both ways. Physical parameters, the permeability of the benthos for example, are to some extent impacted by the organisms that live there. If we have a drop in dissolved oxygen (chemical parameters), we can have a reduction in benthic organisms (biological parameters) and ultimately more compacted benthic soils (physical parameters) that don’t allow the same proliferation of benthic organisms (biological parameters again) and so on, round and round, back and forth. The same kinds of things can happen with phytoplankton and zooplankton in the water column. If we allow estuaries to remain in culverts, we’re likely to see an ongoing, continuing decline. We have an ongoing net loss not just from destroying something but from not fixing it as well.

    Although all parties concerned will deny it till the cows come home, we’re operating on the belief that there is no ecological value to be protected or restored in urban areas. This fortunately isn’t true. If it was true, all is already lost. The Puget Sound lowland watersheds are already heavily urbanized. Here again we’re lumping things into wrongly delineated groups. The upper, middle and lower watersheds are completely different in every way. Maps and GMA and other attempts to limit growth should consider the lowland watersheds as a separate entity.

  3. Harry,

    I can’t argue with the ecological concepts. “No net loss” is an intellectual construct derived from an understanding that development will take place. If you don’t believe that a net gain is achievable by mitigating for new development while restoring degraded areas on a large scale, then we are left with two options: stop all development while restoration takes place, or else accept that Puget Sound is destined to become a dead sea. Good luck in trying to convince politicians to stop growth. At the same time, I believe most people would love to see a more healthy Puget Sound.

    If “no net loss” rubs you the wrong way, maybe we should come up with a new name for a mathematical construct that compensates for losses from development — if not in a strict ecological sense then at least in a way that helps maintain the total amount of habitat required by key species.

    I don’t think anybody will deny that early settlers chose to develop some of the most important habitats in Puget Sound, eventually displacing them with urban areas. While some of these areas are being restored, the cost of working in urban areas is very high. With limited dollars, the first priority has been to protect the remaining functioning habitat. At least that is the generally accepted approach, not always carried out in practice.

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. You forced me to rethink how land-use policies affect natural systems in a very real way.

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