One of the recent grant-funded salmon recovery projects has been the purchase of a conservation easement by the San Juan Preservation Trust to "protect" land on Stuart Island. Just to be clear, grant money is coming from the State to our County, and then our County is providing the money to the San Juan Preservation Trust, who is purchasing a conservation easement from some private citizens who own land on Stuart Island ... who get the money and then get reduced taxes too because of the easement (yes, the State and County are giving out grants to lower their own tax base). The Guardian has the financial details, but the grant is for $800,000 ... with matching, the cumulative total amounts to a little over $1 million being spent on salmon recovery ... on that project alone.
Reportedly, this Reid Harbor project was highly rated by technical and citizen reviewers associated with our MRC. However, by my estimate, this project "protects" about 0.1% of our county's potential intertidal salmon habitat, assuming it was "threatened" at that location to begin with. Furthermore, the Guardian quotes Governor Inslee as saying,
"these projects will provide construction jobs and help countless numbers of Washington families and businesses, including tackle shops, charter operators, restaurants and hotels, that rely on the world-renowned Pacific salmon.”Another official says,
"Puget Sound Chinook are about one-third as abundant as they were a century ago,” said David Troutt, chair of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. “As we have developed our urban and rural landscapes, we’ve damaged many of the estuaries, floodplains and rivers that salmon need to survive. These projects have been selected as ones that will make big impacts on Puget Sound and salmon recovery."Does this Reid Harbor project provide construction jobs (nope)? ... protection (well, "they" say it does, but nope)? ... in Puget Sound (nope)? ... increase salmon populations (nope)? ... estuary, floodplain, or river (nope)? ... big impact on Puget Sound and salmon recovery (nope)? Does this project do any of the things talked about? Is it anything more than vacuous "save the environmental bureaucracy" PR messaging?
Mostly, San Juan County has intertidal salmon habitat rather than salmon spawning habitat. We don't have the really important "estuaries, floodplains, and rivers that salmon need to survive." State law provides a statutory path forward for counties that do not have "sufficient" intertidal habitat, and RCWs 77.85.220 & 230 set forth the requirements for an Intertidal Salmon Enhancement Plan. However, we don't have such a plan ... not one that follows the statutory requirements anyway. So, by inference, it would seem that the State thinks we probably have "sufficient" intertidal habitat already.
There's a disconnect. We're spending millions to protect intertidal habitat here despite not having a proper Intertidal Salmon Enhancement Plan, which the State (the sugar daddy of habitat "protection" millions) would require if we had insufficient intertidal habitat.
How do we know when we're done with salmon recovery here? Is our goal to make intertidal habitat more than sufficient? How do we know if any of our salmon recovery efforts are doing anything? Do we know if we're making any progress?
Answer: We don't know.
|Barbara Rosenkotter, Salmon Recovery Lead Entity Coordinator for San Juan County|