This is no time to retreat from our shared responsibility to invest in the health of this national treasure.
THE recently released White House budget takes a deadly ax to the EPA and NOAA, and threatens to kill the National Estuary Program and federal funding for salmon recovery.
This proposal jeopardizes Puget Sound’s health and the well-being of Puget Sound residents. President Donald Trump has proposed the estuary program funding for Puget Sound recovery be reduced to zero — from $28 million in the previous budget for the 2017-19 biennium.
His budget also zeros out NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research and education. These cuts likely include the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. We are shocked to see such deep slashes to programs that by all accounts ought to be favored by this administration.
Both the estuary and salmon recovery fund are voluntary and non-regulatory, with actions developed and executed at the local, regional and state level, in collaboration with the federal government. The programs are flexible so that the provided funds can be adapted to local needs. Over the past decade — as long as Puget Sound has been designated an Estuary of National Significance — both programs have received strong bipartisan support at the local and national levels. Why? Because leaders understand that the economic and environmental health of the region are inextricably bound.
To give just a few examples:
• Puget Sound supports a significant shellfish industry and plays a significant role in tourism and recreation, as well as in many other economic sectors. Washington leads the nation in the production of farmed shellfish with an annual value of nearly $150 million, giving rise to employment for more than 3,200 people and contributing approximately $184 million to the state’s economy. More than 80 percent of the state’s tourism dollars are generated in the Puget Sound region, much of it connected to marine activities. These industries rely on clean water and healthy and abundant wildlife.
• The estuary and recovery funds are sources of direct and indirect job creation. They directly fund projects to recover and protect Puget Sound and its salmon and support businesses that rely on a healthy Puget Sound. Indirectly, the two funds ripple through the region’s economy, serving as financial multipliers that attract ever more investment, creating ever more opportunity.
• To date, the money invested in Puget Sound recovery is showing success in several measurements of human and ecosystem well-being, and it has helped us hold the line in areas that otherwise likely would have dangerously declined. This success could all be undone very quickly, however, without the support of federal dollars to keep pursuing and sustaining recovery goals. And for each step backward that we retreat, the cost to regain the lost ground becomes many times magnified as time passes and problems grow.
• Recovering and sustaining the health of Puget Sound is a big part of what makes our area a place where highly skilled workers want to live and work. State and federal investments help protect the ability of businesses to attract these workers and foster economic growth.
Degradation of Puget Sound and its salmon runs has been occurring for more than 125 years. It takes ample resources and planning, courage and strength of will to turn that around. Hundreds of organizations and thousands of people have put their shoulders to the task. Together, they have poured their skill and energy into nurturing and repairing the Sound and bringing our salmon back from the brink. We have come far, but we still have a long way to go. This is no time to retreat from our shared responsibility to invest in the health of this national treasure. The federal government has been an essential partner in restoring and protecting Puget Sound — it would be destructive and shortsighted to walk away from that responsibility now.