Orcas Depend on Healthy
by Elizabeth Ruther
"You can't save orcas without saving the salmon, and you can't save the salmon without saving the Sound," Heck said.
The essential connection between salmon and orcas applies not only to Puget Sound, but everywhere salmon populations are declining within the orca's range, throughout the basins of the Columbia, Klamath and Sacramento rivers. The good news in Washington is that we have programs with the right solutions to make a difference. Two shining examples exist in the Department of Natural Resources: One program removes toxic derelict vessels from our waterways, and another successful program removes toxic pilings.
However, these programs can't reach their full potential without proper funding, and many successful programs are held back by shrinking budgets or no budget at all, relying entirely on grants. We are setting these programs up for failure if we keep them underfunded.
One way to increase funding is to build more awareness and involvement at the federal level.
The Congressional Puget Sound Recovery Caucus, led by U.S. Reps. Heck and Derek Kilmer, D-Tacoma, identify Puget Sound as a national treasure, based on its importance culturally, economically and recreationally to millions of Americans. They introduced legislation, the PUGET SOS Act, to enhance the federal government's role and investment in Puget Sound.
That bill should be enacted by the U.S. Congress, and President Obama should sign an executive order as he did for Chesapeake Bay in 2009, recognizing that the entire watershed needs funding.
Environmental conservation helps preserve our robust economy, as well. Whale watching brings in an estimated $60-$75 million per year to local economies. The salmon recreational and commercial industry is more than double that in Washington state alone, so it is worth making the investments it will take to clean the Sound, protecting salmon and orcas in the process.
Let's save our Sound, our salmon and our orcas.
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