By Mike Stevens, Washington state director
Americans rely on our nation’s leaders to support the healthy lands, waters and air we all need to survive and thrive. Yet the president’s FY 2018 budget released today axes many programs that conserve natural resources, address climate change and invest in science.
Our state and our country have reaped great benefits from many of these programs. They support restoration of our vast forests and conservation on Washington’s farmlands. Programs such as the Land and Water Conservation Fund support our iconic national parks and wildlife refuges.
I want to talk about two of these critical programs. The proposed budget zeroes out federal funding for Puget Sound restoration as well as for salmon recovery throughout the Pacific Northwest. This is shortsighted and poses a real threat to our future.
Why does it matter?
It matters for our economic future, and it matters for our quality of life.
The Puget Sound region is teeming with life, with more than 200 species of fish, nearly 200 species of seabirds and more than 13 species of marine mammals. Recreational fishing in Puget Sound is valued conservatively at $57 million a year. Shellfish harvest is valued at $100 million a year. Outdoor recreation contributes more than $10 billion a year in the 12 Puget Sound coastal counties.
Today, 4.5 million people live in the Puget Sound region, including 19 federally recognized tribes and nations. By 2040, a population of 7 million is projected, the equivalent of adding approximately four cities the size of Seattle to our watershed. Now is not the time to back off from recovery efforts, but rather to forge ahead.
Federal investments are carefully integrated with significant investments by local, state, for-profit, non-profit and tribal partners — all producing a greater impact than each investment on its own.
Puget Sound recovery efforts are a national model for innovation and effective partnerships. Fishermen, tribes, farmers, shellfish growers, businesses and local communities all recognize the value of a healthy Puget Sound and are finding new ways to work together for a clean and healthy Puget Sound that supports our way of life.
Nature Conservancy CEO Mark Tercek spoke for all of us this morning when he said:
“We hope Congress will not follow this budget, and are encouraged by signs that they understand clean air, clean water, resilient communities and a healthy economy must be priorities. Thanks to years of bipartisan congressional support for conservation and science funding, we believe our representatives can and will continue to invest in nature through conservation and science programs.
“Investing in nature simply makes sense for our security, our economy and our communities and families. If we don’t make these investments now, we’ll leave future generations on the hook for costly efforts to clean the water and air, repair damaged communities after floods and fire disasters, and more.”
We’re fortunate in this Washington to have strong champions in Congress who support many of these at-risk programs. We look forward to working with them to ensure continued robust federal investments to protect land, water and air for people and nature. Add your voice to the call