Saving Puget Sound: A Conservation Strategy for the 21st Century

Chapter 14. Choosing an Alternative Future

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569834.ch14

The social structures and institutions [of ]…the Pacific Northwest have proved incapable of ensuring a long-term future for salmon, in large part because they do not operate at the right time and space scales. [NRC 1996:360]

The above statement, from the advisory body of the National Academy of Sciences, is now more than 10 years old. Despite much good work since then, it remains accurate today—all the more so when we look beyond salmon to include the rest of the Northwest’s extraordinary natural heritage. Part II of this book describes why the statement is accurate. Part I proposes a way to meet the academy’s challenge.

To elaborate on the academy’s vague reference to “time and space scales,” if we want to conserve our natural heritage, we must recognize the scales at which our ecosystems function and act accordingly. In the Puget Sound ecoregion, this primarily means treating Puget Sound itself as an ecosystem, extending from the crest of the Cascades to the heart of the Olympic Mountains. Watershed councils and the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound are a start toward this approach, but, unfortunately, a relatively feeble start. Neither has the authority to require elements of their plans, just as regional land-use planning bodies lacked enforcement authority prior to the Growth Management Act. Watershed councils and the Shared Strategy also have raised little money for implementation. They are no match for the forces of population growth and climate change over the next 50 to 100 years.