climate science

A Path Forward on Carbon

Written By Mo McBroom, Government Relations Director for The Nature Conservancy Washington Chapter. Photographed by John Marshall

The people of Washington want to act on climate

Washington voters overwhelmingly understand that climate change is affecting us now and want our state to take action to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

A post-election poll commissioned by The Nature Conservancy and partners found that four-in-five voters think climate change is happening; more than three-in-five attribute it primarily to human activities; and a consistent one-half of Washington voters think climate change will cause them at least moderate personal harm.

Read a Seattle Times op-ed by the Conservancy’s Washington State Director Mike Stevens, and Brenna Davis, chair of Washington Business for Climate Action.

Although Initiative 732 did not pass, Washington voters clearly have an appetite for state-level action to address carbon pollution. Over two-thirds of Washington voters support climate action at the state level – nearly half “strongly support” it.

We must come together to craft smart climate policy that protects our natural resources and works for all of Washington.

Even those who opposed I-732 still want the state to take action on climate. In response to a direct question about I-732, 38 percent characterized the measure as an important step forward in fighting climate change; while nearly three in ten said it was too flawed – but that they support action on climate change. Taken together, this demonstrates the broad appeal of state-level climate action, despite the results of the I-732 vote.

Washington voters also agreed that they want revenue generated by any carbon-pricing measure to be spent on protecting our natural resources like clean water and healthy forests, to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The survey showed that 73 percent of voters thought it was either Extremely or Very Important to prevent pollution of rivers, lakes and streams, including Puget Sound. And 56 percent said it was Extremely or Very Important to restore forest health to reduce wildfires.

The poll was conducted by the bipartisan polling team of FM3 Research (D) and Moore Information (R). They interviewed Washington voters who participated in the November 2016 election to examine their perceptions of I-732 and appetite for future state action on climate change.

So where do we go from here?

The Nature Conservancy is committed to working with every community in Washington that wants to take action on climate change. We will continue our efforts to craft and champion smart carbon policy with a wide and varied coalition of voices, including business interests, health, social justice, labor, faith and environmental groups.

By developing a comprehensive and broadly supportive climate policy, Washington can lead the nation, protect our natural environment and our way of life, and create a prosperous economy for our businesses and our families.

We define success as a carbon-pricing policy that significantly drives down emissions over time and invests in clean energy and natural infrastructure to prepare our communities for the future.

Maps are our DNA

Maps by Erica Simek Sloniker, GIS & Visual Communications
Written by Julie Morse, Regional Ecologist

Here at The Nature Conservancy, we love maps.  So much so, that one of the best features of our new office is a big beautiful conference table made of reclaimed 100 year old fir timbers and recycled steel beams from the building.  And welded into the steel beams table legs are perfect cubby holes, just for maps.   While admittedly we don’t use big paper maps like we used to, they still seem to be infused in our culture and even made their way into the design of our new office.

Maps help us tell a story.  They help us see the story.  They guide us to the story.  Maps help us interpret the story.  

These new climate maps illustrate just how powerful maps can be in helping us tell a story about how climate change will impact Puget Sound.  While we know climate change will affect all of us, these maps help us get smarter and sharper about where and when impacts will be the greatest.   They help us plan accordingly and make smarter decisions.

Unfortunately, these maps don’t give us a crystal ball into the future.  They can’t tell us exactly where abig flood in 10 years will be, and how deep the waters will get.  They don’t tell us how many salmon will survive warmer waters and lower flows during a summer drought 30 years from now.   But they do help inform our conversations with agencies, in for example, moving towards better regulations that addresssea level rise.  They do catalyze conversations with local communities who are grappling with the magnitude of change in water availability or increasing flood risk.  

These maps are our bread and butter.  Conversation starters. And insights into stories of our future.  


Preparing for fire in Washington


How communities are working to increase their resilience in the face of fire.

Written and Photographed by Mary Sutton Carruthers, Tapash Collaborative Coordinator and Reese Lolley, Eastern WA Forests Program Director

We are in the midst of what is now the largest wildfire season on record in Washington with forecasts of dry lightning potentially igniting new fires. All corners of our state are burning or have burned this summer. Most residents have felt the effects of smoke and many are reeling from the destruction of personal property, and most devastating of all is the tragic injury and loss of life of those bravely protecting what we value. Washingtonians are realizing that there is a collective and individual responsibility to increase the resiliency of our communities, forests, grasslands, and our ability to proactively live with wildfire.

This type of disaster resilience is built at the community scale and with that in mind, The Nature Conservancy and its partners has supported the establishment of Fire Adapted Communities both regionally and nationally. From a homeowner clearing out brush around their house and making exterior improvements to resist fire, to county residents and organizations coming together to create a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, to county governments and builders working together to make homes safer and less likely to burn, to businesses developing disaster resilience plans, to state, federal, and private organizations working together to achieve landscape scale forest restoration, Fire Adapted Communities assume responsibility for living in a wildfire prone landscape by taking pro-active steps towards increasing resiliency before, during, and after a fire. While firefighters have an immensely important and sometimes dangerous role, individuals and communities can take responsibly and make investments before fires that make wildfire response safer and more effective.

Fire Adapted Communities also incorporate many existing programs to help residents better prepare for wildfire including the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities program and the International Association of Fire Chiefs Ready, Set, Go! program.

The Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network (WAFAC) was launched earlier this year and provides member communities with resources to engage with other WAFAC participants so that they can share information, resources and lessons learned. Learning networks connect and support people and organizations that are leaders in their communities, passionate problem solvers and want to share what makes a difference with the goal of accelerating existing and developing new approaches to preparing before, during and after wildfire. Currently, the communities in Washington include Okanogan, Chelan- Leavenworth, Yakima, Kittitas, San Juan, and Lincoln counties, as well as the Flowery Trails Community Association in Stevens County and the Seattle City Light-Skagit Hydroelectric Project in Whatcom County. These communities are educating residents on what they can do to prepare for the inevitable wildfire. They are reaching out to builders, home owners associations, county commissioners, businesses, and insurance companies to spark the discussion about how to collaborate to increase resiliency, and they are engaging landowners over best management practices following wildfires.

This year, we grieve for the lives lost in the act of protecting us from wildfires. We are in shock that north central Washington is leading again with an unprecedented amount of wildfire. Fire has touched us all, from the Idaho border to shrub-steppe lands around Moses Coulee to the San Juan’s to the outskirts of the Hoh Rainforest, and in many places and communities in-between. The importance of working to make these great places and landscapes more resilient and neighboring communities safer have never been more apparent. The Nature Conservancy is leading these efforts by supporting Fire Learning Network, Fire Adapted Communities, Washington Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network and through their membership in forest collaboratives working to increase the pace and scale of large watershed restoration, and through their support of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.

While current trends and climate science indicate that wildfire season is lengthening and acres burned will continue to grow in orders of magnitude compared to last century, there are actions we can take to increase our resilience and reduce the costs to people and nature living in a landscape that is on fire. Let’s not wait this time. Read more about two solutions we believe can provide relief from the worst of today’s megafires: through funding & improving management.