Island County enjoys the valuable assets of our beaches and lagoons where families harvest shellfish, fisherman and crabbers enjoy abundant catches, and children swim and play. As the nation celebrates Earth Day 2018 on April 22, I am writing to celebrate Island County’s remarkable natural resources and to encourage all who live here and those who visit to treat these resources with care. The health of our shorelines is directly impacted by decisions we make regarding care for our beaches, bluffs and tidelands, inland areas and forests. How we respond to the needs of people on our islands balanced by the need to conserve our islands’ natural resources can be both an opportunity or a threat to this place we love.
As the executive director of Sound Water Stewards (previously Beach Watchers of Island County), I am proud to report that for over 25 years, we have trained more than 700 volunteers to work in and around Island County for a healthy, sustainable Puget Sound through education, community outreach and citizen science. We work to protect and preserve the unique natural beauty of the Salish Sea. Every foot of our beaches is an opportunity for salmon recovery, shoreline restoration and protection of marine life from zooplankton to whales. Every foot of our forest is a chance to strengthen our woodlands, protect our wetlands and recognize the vital link between earth and ocean.
Helping residents, businesses and government leaders understand the vital link between the pressures of human population and the impact on the environment is a crucial theme of Earth Day. Rising population in Puget Sound and on our own islands accentuates the importance of raising awareness and encouraging careful stewardship. Complications of rising sea levels and more intense storms, ocean acidification and increasing marine temperatures are beginning to show up in our local waters. Here in the Salish Sea and along the west coast we are seeing patterns of declining sea life populations, increasing public health concerns due to toxins in our waters and microplastics affecting sea life and the seafood we love to eat. All these issues demand our attention as we consider the best stewardship strategies for our natural resources.
Here in Island County, we are also seeing remarkable recovery due to changing behavior and environmental advocacy. The shoreline restoration at Cornet Bay has seen a return of the forage fish that feed our salmon who then feed our whales. We have seen protection and conservation of wetlands and forests, protections that enable future generations to view the vibrant and diverse birds that populate our region and pass through our Pacific flyway.
Sound Water Stewards, a nonprofit organization, believes that stewardship of the gifts of our natural world is a win-win. When our shorelines and estuaries thrive, our critters thrive, our planet thrives and we will also thrive. These efforts not only protect our personal health and the health of our environment, they protect our local economy. When we take care of our islands, we support local business. Tourism, farming and retail are just a few of the businesses that benefit from our stewardship.
I am convinced that common sense solutions support our shared values and our shared interests in protecting this place we all love. Will you join us to celebrate Earth Day this year? Will you join us to celebrate Earth Day all year long?
• Janet is the executive director of Sound Water Stewards of Island County and a candidate for Island County commissioner in District 3.