Salish Sea name adopted in BC

It's official. For those who speak French, it's Mer des Salish.
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The world has a new sea, the Salish Sea

It's official. For those who speak French, it's Mer des Salish.

A February 16 letter to Bert Webber from Janet Mason, the chief toponymist with >British Columbia Geographical Names bureau, confirms that the Canadian province has accepted the Salish Sea as an official place name that will appear on maps and charts. Webber is the retired Western Washington University professor who requested the designation in both BC and Washington.

Being a bilingual country, the Canadians have also approved a version for French speakers: Mer des Salish.

This follows the acceptance of the name by Washington and the United States last fall. The approval is important because the body of water, like the Great Lakes, is an over-arching term that straddles the borders of two countries, stretching roughly from the Campbell River of BC to the southern reaches of Puget Sound. This means that makers of maps and charts will now be on the same page. The designation changes no existing names. The move was expected as British Columbia and Canada had indicated that it would follow Washington and the U.S.'s lead in the matter. If Washington state had rejected the name, the whole effort would have died.

British Columbia made the announcement at the opening of the 39th session of the province's parliament as part of the Liberal Party's "throne speech." It was tied in with a number of announcements including the government's goals of working closely with First Nations peoples, improving the environment, and working cooperatively with neighbors in the region on economic development and climate issues. Too, the occasion of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games offered a chance to introduce an international audience to the the world and concept of the Salish Sea.

In her letter to Webber, Mason acknowledged his efforts on the Salish Sea's behalf. The concept in Canada has not always met with a friendly reception, especially when it was proposed to replace of the name of the Strait of Georgia. But by leaving existing names alone and with a growing awareness that the Puget Sound-Georgia Basin ecosystem was distinct and worth recognizing, the most recent proposal seemed to benefit from a tip in the balance of public, academic, scientific, and government opinion. Yet it would not have happened without a champion: Webber first proposed the name in Washington in the late 1980s.

Wrote Mason to Webber:

Your interest and involvement in the geographical naming process, and your active role responding to media reporting about the scope and intent of your naming proposal, have been appreciated.

There are many residents of Cascadia who feel the same.


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Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.