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

Chapter 4. How We Get There

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569834.ch4

The idea of rebuilding the salmon runs of an industrialized ecosystem is heroically optimistic—a hope that might not have occurred to anyone except those who had rehabilitated the Willamette River Basin in Oregon or Lake Washington near Seattle. [NRCC 1996:7]

My proposal faces three major practical challenges:

Funding. Over the first 20 years, I estimate that my proposal would cost about $10 billion to implement, primarily for land conservation and compensation to property owners. As discussed in this chapter, I believe these funds can be raised in a way that could lower general taxes.
Governance. Some form of regional governing body, intermediate between local governments and the state, would be needed to set land-use policies across the ecoregion and to raise and allocate billions of new dollars. In this chapter, I discuss how this could be accomplished with a minimum of new bureaucracy.
The urban/rural political divide. A successful conservation strategy for the region requires long-term cooperation between urban and rural areas, based on widespread consensus on goals and actions that crosses the political parties. Over time and across the region, both Republicans and Democrats will control conservation decisions that must stay consistent for decades if they are to succeed. This is asking a lot, but there is evidence for hope. More than 15 years after the Growth Management Act was originally adopted (with bipartisan support), both parties still generally share its goals, particularly in the Puget Sound area. Leaders from both parties participate in the Shared Strategy and the Cascade Agenda. We live in one of the world’s most beautiful metropolitan areas—an enormous asset, since political support for conservation ultimately depends on shared love of place. We must build on that love and on good will wherever we find it. How governance is addressed can also help heal political divisions, especially between urban and rural areas. I will take up these challenges in order.