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4 thoughts on “Report reveals struggles and strategies to recover Puget Sound ecosystem

  1. Chris,
    Not only do I agree with most of what you said, but I want to applaud you for continuing for so long to keep a finger on the pulse of this issue, and summarize things in a way that those of us who don’t speak “bureaucratese” can understand. I know you have been doing this for a long time now, certainly over a decade, has it been multiple decades yet?

    As someone who has also been concerned and involved in raising awareness about Puget Sound ecosystems since long before the Puget Sound Partnership, I have some perspectives to add to your summary.

    First, I also wouldn’t belabor the 2020 deadline, except that I think that the “process” surrounding the treatment of that deadline points out some lessons. I agree that “everyone who has followed the issue has known from the beginning that Puget Sound would not be restored to health by 2020”. What does it say about the Partnership that for a decade they have continued to make the 2020 myth a part of their public outreach? To be brief, I’d say that we need a Partnership that says what it means, and means what it says. For the Partnership to be playing mind-games with its constituents is unconscionable, and illustrates that misleading “spin” was as much a part of its playbook as were restoration and protection.

    I think that many of us sighed a breath of relief when Jay Inslee appointed a new Executive Director for the Partnership. However, PSP Executive Director Sheida Sahandy’s statement that you quoted leaves a lot to be desired, “Thousands of projects have been successfully completed, and more are taking place every day…However, investment in recovery has been a fraction of that needed to reach targets, and it is clear at this point that the work of recovering Puget Sound cannot be completed by 2020.”

    That may sound good, but it is clearly just manipulative spin. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of projects have been completed if the job is not on track. And stating that the investment is a fraction of what is necessary is equally meaningless rhetoric: 8/3 is a fraction, as is 1/3. But both have very different implications. Simply saying that something is a fraction is meaningless. And it’s pretty difficult to believe that Sahandy just discovered “at this point” that 2020 is not a realistic date.

    I do agree with her that “The work of maintaining ecosystem health…is never ‘done’.” Duh! That’s why she or her predecessors should have refined their stated goals a long time ago. I know for certain that it would have been possible to for ecosystem specialists to have schooled them about that back in 2007, or any time since.

    I also think that it is essential, though seriously belated, to establish new goals, objectives, and ecosystem indicators. True, there may be a loss in continuity of indicators, but if we know that the previous indicators were poorly conceived and inadequate, some loss is warranted. And while the political indicators might see some discontinuity, scientists are really smart, and if there are data that were relevant before and after, they will be able to craft meaningful scientific continuity.

    I think that another key observation is that Fisheries scientists have been saying for decades that species-based management is obsolete, and that ecosystem management is necessary. However we continue to hear about keystone and charismatic and threatened species, and we just don’t seem to be hearing about robust and comprehensive models of ecosystem functions. It’s not like computer power hasn’t been increasing exponentially. But it seems that the will to model ecosystems, and to base our projections on such models is seriously lacking.

    Of course I understand that ecosystems are infinitely complex, and that any such modeling will just be primitive approximations. While true, that argument is only an excuse. Weather is also infinitely complex, and modeling it was one of the big drivers for the development of computers in the first place. Even when computers were in their infancy in the middle of the last century, they allowed people to predict weather better than they ever had before. Sure, the predictions are often too vague, or sometimes just plain wrong. But the point is that the computer-model based weather predictions have been far more useful and have saved far more lives and property than any other previous methodology.

    We need to embrace ecosystem modeling with that same attitude: imperfect but a big jump forward and continuously improving. Similarly, we need to formulate our goals and objectives (as well as the related public outreach) in terms of ecosystem health, not the success of keystone species or charismatic megafauna.

    I do agree that funding is a huge issue. However, no matter how much funding is available, if it is being dedicated to projects because of their “optics” rather than their ecosystem relevance, we can’t count on any real progress.

  2. I don’t think most people around Puget Sound think there is much of a problem. When I ride one of the ferries I don’t see problems – just beauty. Certainly none of the Partnership publications or talks or fact sheets are useful to the general population – most of them are dense and long and not tested for ease of reading. While the graphic about the benefits of healthy floodplains is helpful, it is buried in a 90 page document that very few will read. The folks who created it have moved along to the next task, and it does not involve extracting such helpful tidbits and using them to spread a lot of simple messages about issues and what the average citizen can do to help.

    Without that “general public” “average citizen” concern and support, the battle will be long, difficult, and with disappointing results I fear.

    And thanks much for all the coverage and perspective. There is none other anywhere throughout the Washington part of the Salish Sea.

  3. I fear that at least in South Puget Sound we are still far off the mark. There are uncontrolled sources of dioxin and PCBs entering Budd Inlet that have not been identified. After the Sediment Characterization everything came to a stop. Developments are proceeding on top of historic stream estuaries that remain in long intertidal culverts. Water quality and primary production are in the tank. We might consider taking some control back from places like the City of Olympia and resuscitating the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority.

  4. Meanwhile, the march to build a mega development on the shores of Puget Sound continues at Point Wells in Snohomish county. I can’t understand why.

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