July 17, 2003
Charting a sustainable course for the Sound
By BRAD ACK
Puget Sound Action Team
The good news is that Puget Sound continues to provide society with critical services, such as food, recreation, resources for industrial, commercial and residential development, as well as the natural beauty and splendor that are hallmarks of this region.
Many people have invested enormous effort over the past two decades to recover Puget Sound and important progress has resulted from their work.
We are reopening commercial shellfish areas that were once closed due to pollution at a faster rate than we are closing shellfish beds. Some species of salmon, such as coho, appear to be returning to Puget Sound at small, but increased numbers this decade, compared with returns in the late 1990s.
In addition, we are wiping out infestations of spartina, an aquatic nuisance species, in nearly all areas of Puget Sound. Spartina chokes out native plants and harms native habitat.
The quality of water in many places and the health of some marine animals have improved in Puget Sound.
The bad news is that many indicators of the Sound’s health continue to decline.
Significant declines in salmon, orcas, marine birds and rockfish, continued hard-armoring of shorelines and loss of habitat, identification of “hot spots” of highly contaminated sediments, and the ongoing problems associated with stormwater runoff all contribute to an ecosystem at risk.
So while we have done a great deal, there is still a great deal more to do. In order to protect Puget Sound as a living natural system today and for future generations, we need to work smarter.
The Puget Sound Action Team is the state’s partnership for Puget Sound: we coordinate, integrate and implement the state’s conservation agenda for the Sound. The Action Team Partnership bridges diverse jurisdictions, responsibilities and mandates.
The Action Team is made up of 10 state agencies and representatives from tribal and local government. The Puget Sound Council, which advises the Action Team, has representation from business, agriculture, the shellfish industry, environmental organizations, local and tribal governments and the Legislature. The Action Team has a staff of 21.
Over the coming years, the Action Team Partnership will concentrate on the highest priority conservation challenges, where integrated and collective action by the state agencies can make a significant difference in solving problems. These priorities include:
The Action Team’s staff is working with the people and groups throughout the region — those who meet, tackle and struggle with the difficult challenges to protect and improve water quality and plant and animal life in Puget Sound.
The Action Team is committed to engaging diverse interests and fostering an interest-based approach to our conservation agenda. We all share an interest in a healthy, functioning natural system. Our experience has shown that pragmatic solutions, based on these shared interests, and crafted in collaborative processes, are the most enduring and effective.
We plan to continue working closely with members of the business community, along with people and groups representing other interests, to do our part to secure the future of this beautiful and bountiful place, our home, Puget Sound.
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