Kathy Fletcher, the executive director of People for Puget Sound, has responded to Daniel Jack Chasan's Crosscut article about setting priorities — performing triage, essentially — as we plan to reduce the impact from the several million people who live around the inland sea. Here's what she wrote:
To the editor,
Thursday morning's Crosscut carries an article by Dan Chasan that argues for "triage" as the only sensible strategy for saving Puget Sound. By triage, Mr. Chasan means focusing our protection and restoration dollars in rural areas, and pretty much writing off the health of the environment in more developed areas.
This is the kind of thinking that gets us museum pieces of protected natural areas, like "islands" of wilderness, while the ecosystem necessary to sustain life — eventually including the life in the "protected" area itself — goes down the tubes. This is the kind of thinking that gets us beautiful places to visit but unhealthy places to live. This is the kind of thinking that gets us places for salmon to spawn but nothing for the salmon to eat when they leave the rivers. This is the kind of thinking that gets us lovely areas to observe orca whales — as they die out because of contamination in our urban bays, and not enough salmon to eat.
This is the kind of thinking that encourages us to believe that it doesn't matter what poisons we pour on our lawn or how much pavement we spread around in our urban areas.
Have you looked at a satellite photo of the Puget Sound area lately? Have you driven up and down I-5? The sad truth is that if we write off our urban areas, we write off the lowlands, and ... yes, we write off a healthy Puget Sound. A healthy ecosystem is tied together by clean water, clean air, shorelines, wetlands, currents and plants and animals that move form place to place. Simplistic thinking about triage might sound practical, sensible, efficient, business-like and even effective — but it's not.
Maybe salmon will learn to fly from their spawning beds to the ocean, so that they no longer need the food, rest and brackish water and shoreline "buffet dinners" provided by Puget Sound's estuaries and beaches.
Maybe orcas will learn to survive on plastic.
Maybe our children will learn to live without clean air and water, and to find recreation, peace and serenity in front of their computer screens.
It's seductive to think that all we need to do is to set priorities, and we will save Puget Sound. Don't get me wrong — we do need to set priorities. We need to do the things that will most quickly and effectively restore the health of the Sound. Stopping sprawling development, cleaning up and preventing toxic pollution, restoring healthy habitat in our river mouth estuaries and shorelines, using rain gardens, green roofs and "pervious" pavement to absorb rainwater and curtail stormwater pollution — these are the priorities that will save the Sound.
But if we think that choosing whether to cut out the heart or the lungs is the same thing as setting priorities, Puget Sound is doomed. If we think that we can save the Sound by rejiggering how we are currently spending our restoration dollars, rather than scaling up to seriously address the size of the problem, Puget Sound is indeed doomed.
Kathy Fletcher, Executive Director
People for Puget Sound