Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the western United States, and largest by volume. It is a complex system of connected waterways and deep basins, fed by thousands of seasonal rivers and streams from the Olympic and Cascade mountains. Puget Sound is part of a larger marine ecosystem called the Salish Sea, which also includes the Georgia Basin in Canada and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which is the major connection to the Pacific Ocean. Puget Sound generally refers to the marine areas south of the United States-Canada border and east of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Settlement in the area began in 1833, as a fur trading post. Population soon expanded due to hunting, logging, trading, shipbuilding, and seafood industries.
Why is this system important?
The Puget Sound Estuary and surrounding lands are made up of wetlands, salt marshes, bays, beaches, and rivers. Thousands of species of invertebrates, fish, birds, mammals, and vegetation rely on the system. Endangered and threatened species impacted by the health of the Puget Sound area include orcas, the gray wolf, Chinook salmon, and the marbled murrelet. Aquatic vegetation is a key component of the ecosystem, including 26 species of kelp, which make Puget Sound one of the highest sites of kelp diversity in the world. The Puget Sound water area covers over 1,016 square miles, and the watershed covers over 13,700 square miles. About 4.8 million people live in the 12 counties around Puget Sound, many of which depend on the watershed for drinking water. Puget Sound’s natural resources are directly tied to the area’s economy through industries including seafood, lumber, recreation, shipping, aerospace, and recreation, which generate up to 194.2 billion of annual dependent economic activity and hundreds of thousands of jobs for the State of Washington.
What are major challenges?
Urbanization and industrial development have led to numerous environmental challenges in and around Puget Sound. Historical poor management of dangerous chemicals, as well as numerous oil spills and stormwater and wastewater discharges have led to contamination. Another challenge is hypoxia (low-oxygen) in some marine waters, caused by natural and human-made sources, which can lead to wildlife “kills” either locally or over a wide area. Excess nutrients, which originate from wastewater discharge, storm water runoff, agriculture, and other sources, lead to algal blooms that consume oxygen and exacerbate hypoxia. Combined sewage overflow (CSO) occurs when runoff in combination with raw sewage overflows the pipes. CSO carries pollutants, pathogens, and excess nutrients into Puget Sound, threatening wildlife. Other challenges include sharp declines in aquatic vegetation, including eelgrass, a keystone species; shoreline modifications that contribute to degradation and loss of important habitat; invasive species that threaten biodiversity, natural habitats, and irrigation systems; and sea-level rise, which is predicted to threaten critical wildlife habitats and make habitats and infrastructure more susceptible to damage from storms.
How is restoration and scientific research organized?
Multiple overlapping efforts to advance Puget Sound recovery and long-term protection are managed by federal and State agencies. The Puget Sound Partnership, a State agency formed in 2007, leads a broad restoration and protection effort, responding to assignments from Washington State statute for Puget Sound ecosystem recovery and recovery of threatened and endangered salmon and related species in the Puget Sound region. The state’s approach to Puget Sound ecosystem recovery dovetails with the designation of Puget Sound as an estuary of national significance and its inclusion in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) National Estuary Program (NEP). The Puget Sound Partnership (and other regional entities elsewhere in the State) implements Washington State’s innovative, watershed-based approach to recovery of threatened and endangered salmonid stocks, which is overseen by NOAA Fisheries.
To develop a restoration program for nearshore habitats, federal, State, tribal, and local governments, non-governmental organizations, universities, and private industry created the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project in 2001. This effort generated a State-funded restoration program – the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program – and may lead to authorization of a Puget Sound nearshore restoration program by the USACE.
In its work to connect the hundreds of partners to further the collective effort to restore and protect Puget Sound, the Puget Sound Partnership has described (but not fully developed) a strategic science program and prepares (but is not able to fully implement) biennial science work plans.
In 2011, a Puget Sound ecosystem monitoring program was launched to coordinate monitoring and assessment activities in the region. This program is managed independently of the Puget Sound Partnership but is supported by staff and other resources provided by the Partnership.
The USGS Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound project provides scientific support for ecosystem recovery activities. Other important contributions to scientific research that supports Puget Sound recovery and protection include programs and studies at a variety of federal, State, and local organizations.
How is scientific research funded?
The overall spending on Puget Sound recovery and long-term protection, and on scientific research, has not been calculated. One available data source, which emphasizes capital investments in restoration and acquisition projects, demonstrates a majority of project funding from State sources (55 percent) with significant contributions from local (34 percent) and federal (11 percent) sources. As there is no Federal Crosscut Budget for Puget Sound, it is somewhat more difficult to obtain funding information in general for Puget Sound program activities, and like the other systems, scientific-specific funding information is not available.
- For reported years 2003-2018, average annual federal funding for the Puget Sound Partnership recovery projects has been $6.4 million and federal project funding totaled $102.5 million.
- For reported years 2003-2018, total State project funding for the Puget Sound Partnership has been $508 million, with an annual average of $31.7 million in funding for Puget Sound restoration and protection projects.
Over 11 years (2006-2016), a total of $198 million of Puget Sound NEP funds has been invested in projects; $50 million of this total supported research and monitoring projects. This is the primary Puget Sound-identified source of federal funding to support scientific investigation. Investments in Puget Sound-relevant studies through other federal programs (i.e., those identified above) have not been summarized.
Puget Sound Presentation
In the 1980s, the significance and vulnerability of Puget Sound was recognized. In response to water quality issues, the state of Washington passed legislation that created some institutional arrangements, including the first of many state agencies to come that was called the Puget Sound Water Quality Authority. It was started with a real expectation that it would be a science-informed process; there were conferences and research committees that were brought together to outline what needed to be done. “There was a vision that was never quite brought to reality back in that point,” said Dr. Redman.
In the late 1980s – early 1990s, Puget Sound was named an Estuary of National Significance. “The story we tell there is we were the first of the 28 programs,” said Dr. Redman. “I’m not sure if that’s true… I think the other programs that are here today don’t really have these national estuary programs; this is a key feature that I will talk about. What this means is that one of our key federal partners is the EPA. It also means that we started very much with the Clean Water Act and the water quality standards and the contaminated sediments as a focus. That’s where we began.”
In the 1990s, the focus began to shift to habitat concerns, specifically wetlands which were close to the Clean Water Act. Then in the late 1990s, the Puget Sound chinook salmon were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. They started to think about habitat for Chinook and other salmon as part of the National Estuary Program problem and as part of the state’s interest in the future of Puget Sound. The Puget Sound National Estuary Program transitioned into the governor’s office from being an independent agency and a monitoring program established; a biennial conference was also part of the science program.
At the time, there was an emphasis on monitoring more so than other topics which broadened through the years into monitoring water quality and habitat. “We took the unique approach in Washington State of having the local effective community build the recovery plan for Puget Sound Chinook,” Dr. Redman said. “It was done at the scale of these 22 populations and 16 watersheds; it was called ‘the Washington way.’”
It’s important for science to work at the appropriate units of analysis, and for salmon, that was clear because of the watersheds, said Dr. Redman. That unit of analysis work was brought forward in the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Partnership (PSNERP)which was a federal-state effort to understand, restore and preserve critical features of nearshore habitats; it began in 2001 and is focused on a process-based approach to restoration of Puget Sound’s shorelines. The units of analysis are drift cells, which similar to watersheds, provide a meaningful way of physically organizing a complex landscape and its ecosystems. The Puget Sound consists of more than 800 independent drift cells, each with their own sources and sinks of sediment and an established direction of net sediment transport. “I think that was really instrumental to learn what the focus of analysis should be, and to do some good science to articulate the problem, and then the potential solutions,” said Dr. Redman.
Concurrent with that, the National Estuary Program version of work in Puget Sound morphed yet again in 2007 into the Puget Sound Partnership. that integrates ecosystem recovery and salmon recovery under the Endangered Species Act around a shared strategy and the prior work on water quality.
On the heels of the creation of the Puget Sound Partnership, the Puget Sound Federal Caucus was formed with the initial purpose of bringing federal capabilities and resources into play to help support the state-led recovery of Puget Sound. However, right away, things became sidelined as concerns for tribal rights and issues emerged when the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, published a white paper in 2011, Treaty Rights at Risk, documenting the continued habitat loss and its impact on salmon recovery in spite of the Endangered Species Act-related recovery efforts to date.
“It was a very powerful paper and it had a very big impact,” Dr. Labiosa said. “You could tell that their legal case was very strong because the Department of Justice and the White House Council on Environmental Quality immediately asked the Puget Sound Federal Caucus to focus entirely on developing a response to the treaty rights at risk issue, and in particular to develop an inter-agency work plan to address the issue.”
Tribal issues really dominated the agenda entirely from around 2011 to 2015; there’s a good and a bad side to that, Dr. Labiosa said. “On the good side, there’s the argument that what’s good for tribal treaty rights is good for Puget Sound ecosystem recovery; it’s a very strong argument,” he said. “On the other hand, science and monitoring went completely to the backseat on the federal side, because the tribes didn’t want to talk about science and monitoring in the work plan; they wanted to talk about what the federal government was going to do to stop continued habitat loss.”
The challenge is that habitat loss involves land use decision making and other things at the local government level, which is outside of federal jurisdiction. “We were really trying to uncrack that nut in this work plan,” Dr. Labiosa said. “It’s a very complicated set of issues that we were trying to get on top of. Last week, Christy Goldfuss, the CEQ director, came to Washington State and with Governor Inslee and the regional directors of the federal agencies and tribal leaders, announced a new memorandum of understanding between federal agencies to really revamp our support of Puget Sound ecosystem recovery in general and tribal treaty rights will be a part of that.” On September 30, 2016, nine federal agencies and cabinet departments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) creating the Puget Sound Federal Task Force. The MOU will help align collective efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound.
The MOU has explicit language on science and monitoring and establishes a science and monitoring work group to try to help marshal federal efforts in supporting Puget Sound ecosystem recovery through science and monitoring as well as on the action side.
Dr. Redman then presented a graphic used to help convey the diversity of the concerns, noting that the goals are on the outside of the circle, and the inner circle represents the valued endpoints. “One thing you’ll see here is we’re treating the Puget Sound ecosystem as a social ecological system,” he said. “Both human health and human quality of life are critical elements of the future that we’re aiming at, as are species, habitats, water quality, and water quantity.”
In the 1980s, the focus was more on water quality, but the approach has broadened into these other dimensions, and it’s been a challenge to grow the scientific engagement into those. “One of the important aspects of science engagement for us has just been knowing what we mean when we say a healthy, recovered, and protected Puget Sound? Articulating from those fairly general goals, what do we mean?” Dr. Redman said.
In state statute, the science panel was given an assignment to identify indicators for Puget Sound, and in 2010, a suite of indicators was adopted which are now referred to as the Vital Signs. “We’ve articulated desired future conditions and set targets with the planning horizon of 2020,” he said. “That was really a co-production issue of agreeing that that was a place to start – from the goals and then to get more specific and get science advice about desired future conditions, but to have the articulation of desired future condition be a policy statement. Our leadership council, seven people appointed by the Governor, adopted targets for these Vital Signs.”
The statute further articulates how they should be meeting these goals; it gives some direction to focus on species of concern and imperiled species. The statue calls out the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Program (PSNERP) protecting and restoring habitat; stormwater management and certain kinds of pollution control. A program was then built from those indicators the needed to be articulated. “I’d say we’re in the midst of producing the science-based plans for accomplishing the targets that we’ve established,” Dr. Redman said.
In terms of communication and education programs, Dr. Redman said that they have connected science into the decisions that are being made about the path forward, but somewhat independent of that work, a variety of education and communication efforts have been spawned. He acknowledged that the science program is poorly connected to those programs. “We don’t know what these communication outlets could be used for and we’re not focused on who their audiences are or what they need from us, but both the Washington Sea Grant and our land-grant university’s extension program have some key tools there, in terms of water quality field agents. That’s a really nice connection between getting extension-type services out to the communities and in the same organization where we get the Sea Grant research done, so there’s an opportunity for interaction there.”
The Education Communication Outreach Networks, or ECO Nets, was a recent effort to provide a service to get groups together so that they build from each other’s capacities, but what was missed was what to bring to those ECO Nets so that they can distribute out to the broader community, said Dr. Redman. With respect to stormwater management, there are 120 local governments around Puget Sound who play a role in stormwater management, and part of that assignment is to maintain what goes into the storm water system and therefore to educate the people who own the property in their area. There’s a lot of work around managing things correctly and a connection to the local governments and the science that they do with behavior management. “There’s a good connection to social science on that last part,” Dr. Redman said.
On the federal side, there are substantial communication and education programs, but they are related to individual agency missions, such as the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) providing training and technical assistance to farmers. The Department of the Interior has a number of tribal education grants and projects; the tribal trustee responsibility of the Department of the Interior is very important, so those programs are funded and exist, but they aren’t necessarily connected to Puget Sound ecosystem recovery directly. NOAA also has a number of programs, such as the Western Fishery Science Camp to teach young people about issues that are related to salmon recovery among other things. The EPA’s National Estuary Program provides funding to support state and local efforts.
“I think individual efforts are important, but there’s just a lack of coordination among these programs,” Dr. Labiosa said. “Again, it’s not in service of Puget Sound ecosystem recovery per se, but I think it could greatly benefit from that, taking it to that next level of being coordinated in service of Puget Sound ecosystem recovery.”
With respect to the multi-part science infrastructure, there are science programs that build from the National Estuary Program focus. “The Puget Sound Partnership is authorized to have a scientific research account, but we have never been appropriated for that,” acknowledged Dr. Redman. “We have a volunteer panel and some staff that largely that work on the Puget Sound ecosystem monitoring program, but we don’t have funds. It’s zero.”
“I think the theory of the Puget Sound Partnership and the ecosystem monitoring program is that it’s wise to invest in the backbone of the collaborative effort,” continued Dr. Redman. “Where we have quite limited resources, we provide a small number of staff to convene work groups and a steering committee around ecosystem monitoring. The ecosystem monitoring program addresses both stats and trends questions. We ask them to be our source for the material about those Vital Signs and their indicators and we also expect that they’ll tell us about other signals from monitoring the system.”
A marine water workgroup puts out an annual rain waters year in review which is a nice collaboration. “It comes about because the work group, for which we fund a small fraction of a FTE to staff that work group, has routine meetings, a workshop in the spring, and is able to bring up a synthesis report about it was that year. It’s frustrating that that’s just a year at a time, but there’s a synthesis provided there by that structure,” Dr. Redman said. “We have work groups to deal with a variety of topics, such as toxic contaminants, forage fish, and birds, so we cover our interests through people’s finding time and willingness to join colleagues in routine meetings.”
About five years ago, the Puget Sound Institute at the University of Washington was established, which provides another bridge to connect the scientific community into the management concerns. “This is another intent towards co-production,” Dr. Redman said. “I think this is also a design that’s not fully executed yet and not well funded.”
He noted that there have been relatively few instances of convening panels of experts, and post-doctoral scholars have gotten scarce in recent years. Synthesis and communication is something that the Institute works on, but needs better support, Dr. Redman said.
On the federal side, Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project’s Nearshore Science Team was active from 2001 to 2009. They developed a very substantial body of work on the recovery of nearshore ecosystems. They developed the frameworks for thinking about how Puget Sound has changed in the past, for understanding how stressors impact it, and how the projects that are being proposed might help recover shorelines. They went in hiatus in 2009, reflecting the fact that the project had then moved into the USACE’s process for getting funded; it’s just now coming out of hibernation.
“It’s great news, because it looks like the PSNERP will be in the next Water Resources Development Act reauthorization, and it will be funded at the level of $450 million for three substantial projects that are part of a larger grouping,” said Dr. Labiosa. Those projects include the removal of roughly 30,000 linear feet of shoreline barriers, moving and raising a highway, and some ecosystem recovery in the Nooksack River delta.
“The anticipated benefits of that are roughly a quarter of the Puget Sound Action Plan’s restoration goals for estuary habitat recovery,” Dr. Labiosa said.
The North Fork Skagit River delta project will restore some of the floodplain and tidal connectivity in the estuary that was diked off largely for agricultural purposes. “Reclaiming a lot of that lost connectivity is very important from a salmon recovery point of view,” he said.
The memorandum of understanding that was announced last week included a federal science and monitoring work group that will be run under the auspices of the federal caucus. “The idea there is to do a much better job bringing together federal capabilities in the region,” Dr. Labiosa said. “We do a lot of important work right now, but it’s not really marshaled to support Puget Sound recovery in fully-integrated manner. It’s largely in support of our own individual missions and organized around individual issues at the present.”
The Puget Sound Partnership was created to cut across that problem of individual missions not achieving regional ecosystem recovery; the idea was for the feds to do a better job of helping with that problem, bringing to bear their resources. Dr. Labiosa said there are some short-term steps that can be done, such as listing the high-priority activities that need help on the collaboration side or the funding side and trying to find funding for them; they can do a better job of integrating with the Puget Sound Partnership science panel so that the science planning is coordinated with federal science planning.
“We’re going to use this as an opportunity to lay out the vision of what a federal science program would look like in Puget Sound,” Dr. Labiosa said. “It will require resources, and it will require program building, and a real budget that directly supports this program. I want to make sure you really take in the importance of that. We have the opportunity to help lay out what that thing could look like. Building on what we hear at this workshop, for example, and also getting input from the state side and other interested parties so that we can really gin up something that’ll work.”
Dr. Labiosa noted that they’ve been stuck with a lack of a budget process for the last eight years. “One of the reasons why the Feds haven’t really moved on Puget Sound is we haven’t had a budget that allows new things to be created,” he said. “On the other hand, we’re now at the point where we really can have a lot of flexibility in this vision that we put together. We really hope that with the little volunteer army that we have right now, that we’re going to be able to do that in a meaningful way.”
There are a number of key activities going on, a lot of small successes, and a lot of important work focused around particular issues and particular places. These include efforts such as the NOAA’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (IEA) for the California Current and Puget Sound as part of their mission work. The USGS has some funding for a coastal and habitats in Puget Sound landscape project, but it’s not funded at the level where it can make the envisioned impact. The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project is an important project to try to determine the cause of salmon mortality in the Sea. Ocean acidification related work is really coming to the fore.
On the co-production side, the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference is held every two years which brings people together to talk across science areas and also to policy makers. The Vital Signs monitoring work that tries to answer if they are making progress towards recovery is very under-resourced, but it’s there and it’s something to build upon, Dr. Labiosa said. A big driver now is effectiveness assessments of recovery projects to see if they are performing as expected, and if not, why not. There are yearly science policy forums; they are working to make those more effective, he said.
“On the biennial science work plan, we look at and recommend priority actions and recommendations every two years, but again, we don’t have a funding mechanism to fund that work, so we’re trying to influence others with that process,” Dr. Labiosa said. “I think that’s where a federal science program could fit in; to try to help make that more of a ‘what should we fund?’ kind of question, rather than ‘what should other people fund, because we say so’ kind of situation. Of course, we have the advice and review roles as well.”
A key missing piece has been work plan alignment across federal agencies, but there is some work underway. Dr. Redman said they suffer from decision makers who don’t understand that they need the decision making model such as the model Coastal Louisiana uses; they need decision-maker’s commitment to science-based advice and scientists that are committed to delivering science in a useful form. “The people aren’t understanding the value that would have, and how that would be worth the cost,” he said. “I think, to Dr. Reed’s point [Coastal Louisiana], do follow the lead of others, but be willing to simplify the model so it’s useful.”
They also need attention to traditional ecological knowledge and the full transboundary system. “Frankly every time someone looks at our system, and when you look at our map you’ll say the same thing, is “you’re only dealing with one side of the border,” Dr. Redman said.
With respect to funding, Dr. Redman said there isn’t a separate science element for funding the program. “We don’t have any set aside with the allocation of the National Estuary Program that so much will go to research and monitoring,” he said. “We really borrow from these implementation funds, which helps with the co-production side of things, but really doesn’t allow us to build the science horsepower that we’ve imagined would really serve the system well.”
That’s also true for salmon recovery. “We do see a really nice blend of federal, state, local, even private investment,” Dr. Redman said. “We have seen some better articulation of what percent of the effort should be devoted to science, but even that is a bit spotty, so I think our answer to “what’s the funding for science?” It kind of depends on people’s willingness in a program to invest in science.”
Dr. Labiosa said that although they’ve been delivering the message that they’re not coordinated enough, there are some things they’ve done pretty well. “One is that we take social science very seriously in Puget Sound,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean we fund it well, but that’s not a reflection of its perceived importance; it’s a reflection of our funding realities. A group that spun from the Puget Sound Partnership science panel to include researchers from the University of Washington and other places has been meeting over the years, and they have really put together an impressive body of work supporting the human well-being indicator side. For example, the PSP recovery goals, really bringing that in. We’ve been looking at how to use structured decision making in a way to support recovery planning and implementation.”
There is an integrated ecosystem model for Puget Sound being spearheaded by NOAA; it’s a marine food web model that is being linked to biogeochemical cycling. “It’s very cutting edge, very impressive stuff, but that’s NOAA’s mission so it’s on the marine side, it’s not the landward side,” Dr. Labiosa said. “We want to try to think about what an integrated ecosystem model that includes the land side might look like, and put that together in the future.”
There is good work going on at the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington and elsewhere, summarizing information on climate change and ocean acidification in the state of knowledge report that came out last year. The USGS is working on the implications of sea-level rise. There are very large implications for habitats, floodplain recovery, and estuary recovery; USGS is attempting to secure a million dollars a year for five years to support this work. “Our claim is that you have to think about the importance of sea-level rise within the context of co-incident winter storm surges, high tides, and river floods,” he said. “The big floods occur under that very unlikely event of a big storm with a very high tide and sea-level rise at the same time with high river flooding, that’s when things really happen.”
They are working with eDNA so they can think about salmon patterns with limited resources. They are now at the point where they’re looking at using eDNA to think about numbers of fish and not just their presence or absence.
Question: I’m one of the social scientists scattered in the crowd here, so I have a particular bias. I want to challenge you a little bit on this idea that you’re treating the system as an integrated socio-ecological system. When you presented your water quality goals separate from your socio-economic goals, I have to immediately wonder, when you set water quality goals, you’re implicitly asking people to change their behavior, to make trade-offs? It’s how the Clean Water regs are written; it’s scientists who decide what the water quality goals are. Trust me, when you eventually get to paying for this, people start asking very difficult questions about those water quality goals. The economists are trying to suggest that those kinds of decisions are really socio-political goals, right from the get-go, and that a truly integrated system would be looking at what are the trade-offs of setting those water quality goals?
Dr. Redman: “As soon as we set targets, which we were so very proud of, our science panel including social scientists, said, the real story is how do these fit together, and if so, what gives? You’re right. That’s the space we’re in. We’re glad to have those up there in front of us, but we’re unsure really how to crack that problem. One thing we are encouraged about is that a member of our leadership council is very keen that as we adopt those Vital Signs, we don’t just use them as part of our monitoring system, to record and to track progress, but that we also do impact analysis about those Vital Signs. What’s the effect of a proposed action on culture, on sense of place, on outdoor recreation? We intend to infuse the dialogue about actions, whether they are focused on species recovery outcome or something else a little more broadly. That’s probably only part of the answer.”
Dr. Labiosa: “The one thing I would add to that is there’s another bite at that apple. The way that we’re trying to organize implementing ecosystem recovery on top of all this other work is through the development of implementation strategies, picking off a large part of the problem, such as a shoreline recovery implementation strategy, or a storm water related implementation strategy. Within that implementation strategy process, we can think about questions that aren’t so neatly addressed within the framework of the goals as we’ve laid them out. We can roll up our sleeves and go into the real world as we do that. We view a good bit of how to do that from the adaptive challenge point of view, where we’re not giving folks a road map on how to solve the problem; we’re working with them to define and constrain the problem so that they can help figure out how to solve the problem. I think you can get into the real-world issues you referenced when you’re involving the people on the ground, to try to help do that. I say we’re doing that, but we’re still trying to get people to understand better what that means, the nature of adaptive challenges versus technical challenges.”
Question: The Puget Sound and Great Lakes are somewhat unique in that they’re trans-national. You already acknowledged that you’re addressing one half of the ecosystem; that might be hard enough. I was curious on more details and if there’s been an effort to coordinate and leverage funding for important research with Canada as well.
Dr. Redman: “There’s been a history of attempting to coordinate, and it benefited in the early 1990s from the governor and the Premier signing an environmental cooperation agreement. We formed trans-boundary task forces, including some on science and monitoring. What almost immediately happened is that we fell back to the US side of the work group got together, and the BC side, the Canadian side, of the work group got together. It’s just a really hard culture to break through. Not to say that we have stable politics or political leadership here, but it’s really been hard to break through because the Canadian federal governments come in and out of that system. The province has been agreeable or not to working with us. It continues to be a big challenge. We’re pretty hopeful that the energy around the trans-boundary conference and some simple indicators reporting leads us in that direction, but we’re most hopeful that it will be about shared discussion about what the problems are, and that the solution space is in most cases not going to be trans-boundary.”
Question: Here in the Sacramento San Joaquin river Delta, it appears to some that there’s a myopic focus on a few of the stressors as a result of species being listed and those few stressors having a federal nexus and as a result, having greater attention because of a consultation under the Endangered Species Act. In your presentation, you touch on species that are listed, but quickly turn to the efforts being focused on watershed or ecosystem. I’m wondering if in your experience on Puget Sound, you have focused on particular stressors or if you’ve been able to avoid that?
Dr. Labiosa: “What I would say is, we have enough issues that it’s not as bad as a myopic focus on one little thing, it’s more like a myopic focus on 26 different “little” things. But because we do have so many little things to worry about, it does give you a fairly broad look across the larger ecosystem and I really do think that we do need to think bigger and to think at that higher level about how to bring these diverse elements together in a more intentional way. It’s a very complicated set of issues that we’re wrestling with, so that’s both good and bad. It does divide our forces a lot, but we certainly don’t get wrapped around one axle.”
Dr. Redman: “Maybe to the detriment of what the tribes and NOAA fisheries have pointed out about our inability to protect existing habitat, it might be that we’ve swung the pendulum too far away from what you’re describing here.”
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