Connecting the dots
The truth of natural resource management can be summed up in a single phrase: Everything is connected. See the dots, make the connections and you can see the whole.
Some important dots got connected recently when [Washington state] Gov. Christine Gregoire signed the Puget Sound Partnership into law - on the same day Bob Lohn of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced the listing of Puget Sound steelhead as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
For decades, wild Puget Sound steelhead have been doing poorly. In the late 1980s, there was a sharp, naturally occurring dip coastwide in steelhead populations. While Pacific coastal steelhead gradually rebounded to today's healthy levels, Puget Sound steelhead did not. Their struggle is a direct reflection of Puget Sound's health and it is directly tied to the climb in the region's human population.
As she signed her name to create the Puget Sound Partnership, Gregoire connected some more dots - the cleanup of Puget Sound, a sustainable economy and the overall health and well-being of everyone who lives here. She also made recovery of Puget Sound salmon and steelhead a cornerstone of the partnership.
She did that by appointing Bill Ruckelshaus as chair of the leadership council that will guide the partnership in its efforts to clean up much of the Sound by 2020. My good friend Bill also was a driving force behind the Shared Strategy, a Sound-wide cooperative effort that led to the creation last year of a federally-approved recovery plan for threatened Puget Sound chinook.
We're going to need a lot of that kind of cooperation as we work to recover the health of the Sound and its inhabitants. A good example that's just getting started is a 16-year study of steelhead in Hood Canal by the Skokomish Tribe and others.
We should applaud the ESA listing of wild Puget Sound steelhead and celebrate creation of the Puget Sound Partnership. These are just the kinds of medicines we need to heal the Sound.
And as we heal the Sound, we will heal steelhead, salmon and all of the other species that live beneath its surface, a surface that might look clean and healthy, but disguises dirty secrets lurking beneath.
Restoring steelhead, and other species, will take funding and hard work. But mostly it will take commitment, cooperative spirit and the vision we all need to connect the dots.
Billy Frank Jr., Nisqually, is chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and recipient of the Indian Country Today 2004 American Indian Visionary Award.