The Obama administration on Tuesday stepped up efforts to protect Puget Sound, including forming a new federal task force to identify priorities for restoring one of the nation’s largest estuaries.
The Obama administration Tuesday stepped up efforts to protect Puget Sound, including forming a new federal task force to identify priorities for restoring one of the nation’s largest estuaries.
The task force of federal agencies will work with tribal governments to come up with a draft action plan to better coordinate programs focused on Puget Sound.
The federal action represents the latest in a string of efforts over the decades to tackle pressing environmental problems in the region, including dwindling salmon runs, water pollution and the rapid loss of wetlands and other wildlife habitat.
“We understand we have a critical role to play here in the Puget Sound in delivering on that commitment to the tribes and the communities around the Puget Sound,” said Christina Goldfuss, managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, at a news conference in Seattle.
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Goldfuss also announced an agreement signed by nine federal agencies that aimed at improving coordination between them.
The federal action builds on decades of efforts from state, local, tribal and federal governments and is similar to recent federal efforts to protect other ecosystems including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, she said.
Goldfuss was joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, American Indian tribal leaders and U.S. Reps. Denny Heck and Derek Kilmer, who co-founded the Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus.
Many of them hailed the move as a significant step forward, saying it will give a much-needed boost to state, local and tribal efforts.
“In order for us to reverse the tide of damage that’s been going on in Puget Sound, we’re going to need everybody,” said Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, who talked about the importance of salmon to his and other tribes in the region. “And that includes not only the government agencies and the state agencies and the nonprofit, but we also need all the people who live here and are moving here.”
“What we can’t do alone as a state is get these huge projects done,” said Martha Kongsgaard, who chairs the Puget Sound Partnership’s Leadership Council. The state Legislature created the partnership in 2007 to come up with a plan to protect Puget Sound.
The task force will include members from federal agencies, such the Navy, Homeland Security, Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.