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NOAA Fisheries Awards $3.7 million to aid stranded mammals and for research

The Whale Museum receives $79,177

NOAA Fisheries today announced the award of 42 grants to partner organizations totaling more than $3.7 million to recover and treat stranded marine mammals, collect data for scientific research on marine mammal health and support rehabilitation and data collection facilities.



Former county planner catalyst of dam removal project

San Juan County residents thought Rick Rutz handled controversial issues during his tenure as a long-range planner - guesthouses, definitions of resource lands, Urban Growth Areas, little did they know.

Rutz played an instrumental role in the historic tear-down of two dams, which begins next month, resulting in the opening up of 70 miles of the Elwha river and its tributaries.

He convinced conservation groups the Federal Power Act of 1921 prohibited hydroelectric dams in national parks. Rutz is not a lawyer, but wrote the legal intervention for the first four conservation groups - Olympic Park Associates, Seattle Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth - who intervened before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.


The argument: the expiration of the 50-year license of Glines Canyon Dam (built illegally inside the park) should be treated as a new license application, and the lower Elwha Dam should not be licensed.

The source of this information is Voice of the Wild Olympics.



Clearing Washington’s air with diesel technology for school buses, maritime vessels and construction

Clean diesel technology is coming to Washington thanks to over $2.6 million in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grants for advanced diesel technology for school buses, maritime vessels and construction equipment. Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator for EPA Region 10, highlighted the grants at an event in Portland, Oregon showcasing the Northwest states' grant recipients.


Cantwell, Larsen Introduce legislation to create National Conservation Area in SJC

WASHINGTON, D.C. – PRESS RELEASE: This week, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Representative Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) introduced companion legislation that would turn cherished lands in the San Juan Islands into a National Conservation Area (NCA), ensuring their permanent protection and accessibility as visitor traffic continues to increase. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) is a cosponsor of the Senate legislation (S. 1559), introduced Wednesday.

"This bill will ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the natural treasures in the San Juan Islands," said Sen. Cantwell. "These scenic lands in the San Juan Islands attract more than 70,000 tourists each year, but we need a clear management plan to protect those lands. This locally-driven plan will ensure these cherished lands remain protected, accessible to the public and better managed to accommodate visitor use. I will work to advance this legislation through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and through the full Senate."

"This bill is the result of grassroots work from the local community, a group determined to protect this amazing area," said Rep. Larsen, who introduced H.R. 2912 Wednesday. "I look forward to continuing to partner with Sen. Cantwell to move this legislation forward. The San Juans should be preserved for not only residents and visitors, but for future generations."

"I am proud to cosponsor this legislation to conserve, protect, and manage beautiful lands in the San Juan Islands," said U.S. Senator Patty Murray. "I am going to continue working with Senator Cantwell and Congressman Larsen to pass this legislation and help make this local vision a reality."

In late July, Cantwell and Larsen held a community listening session in Friday Harbor to hear feedback on the effort to create a National Conservation Area. Nearly 30 people were in attendance to take part in the discussion, including Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff and local public officials.

The citizen-driven effort to preserve these lands has generated widespread, passionate support from the community, which has actively worked with Cantwell and Larsen on the legislation.

"There is no question, our local economies rely upon a vibrant and beautiful ecological experience," Said Washington State Senator Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Islands. "Not only does this bill promote the preservation of our local natural resources, it meets a pressing need: ensuring that cherished lands remain open and accessible to tourists and families alike. Senator Cantwell and Congressman Larsen are to be congratulated for their vision in introducing this critical legislation.

"From historic lighthouses to pristine ecological areas, these lands help define the San Juans and are critically important to the local community," said Tom and Sally Reeve, members of the Islanders for the National Conservation Area. "We have appreciated broad support from across the region for making this protective designation happen. We are very happy to have reached this important milestone and look forward to working with our congressional delegation to pass the legislation."

An NCA designation would ensure that approximately 1,000 acres of federally-owned lands would remain in their natural state and publicly accessible. The federally-owned lands include over 60 locations that range from pine forests to lighthouses and are visited by more than 70,000 tourists every year.

Unfortunately, there is currently no long-term comprehensive management plan for these lands. An NCA designation will help ensure long-term protection of these natural treasures, keep them accessible and in the public domain, and better managed to accommodate heavier visitor use. The NCA land would anchor a system that includes a National Wildlife Refuge along with a National Historic Park.

The effort to create a National Conservation Area is supported by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, who visited the region in April to view the parcels proposed for protection and discuss the proposal with local stakeholders. Secretary Salazar has asked the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to coordinate with a committee of local groups to prepare for a transition.

"The San Juan Islands are home to unique cultural and natural resources and a great example of the types of land we want to conserve for the benefit of all Americans," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. "One of the goals of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative is to connect people to the beauty and richness of our public lands and ensure we protect places like the San Juan Islands for generations to come. This legislation is an important step in the ongoing dialogue with our partners in the northwest as our nation develops a 21st century conservation agenda."

Cantwell has long been a strong advocate on efforts to preserve Washington's natural landscape. On San Juan Island, she led the effort to secure federal funding to prevent a private, out-of-state real-estate developer from obtaining ownership of Mitchell Hill, a popular and scenic hiking trail. Because of her efforts, Mitchell Hill remains in the public domain and is protected against private development as part of the San Juan Island National Historical Park.

Recently, she joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) in securing Senate Commerce Committee approval of the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Act. The Act would restore and protect marine resources in Northern Puget Sound to achieve a healthy ecosystem while sustainably using resources.


Canadian Commission tracking source of 2009 salmon decline

Is salmon farming harming wild salmon? The Cohen Commission, is hearing evidence on the subject this week , at its inquiry into the decline of sockeye salmon in the Frasier River. The commission, which has been meeting since 2010, has until June 30, 2012 to produce its report.

Canadian Alexandra Morton, one of the advocates for removal of salmon farms, details the controversy on her WEBSITE.

The commission has heard testimony on other possible causes: predation, climate change, pollutants and more.



Interior Secretary: Federal lands in San Juans deserve immediate permanent protection

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar included the San Juan Islands in his list of ‘Crown Jewel’ federal lands deserving permanent protection. He delivered his recommendations to Congress at a press conference Thursday, November 10, 2011.

U.S. Senator Cantwell is leading legislation in the Senate and Congressman Rick Larsen (D-WA-02)is leading companion legislation in the House that would turn several dozen cherished spots spread across the San Juan Islands into a National Conservation Area (NCA). They say this will ensure continued public access and protection of these pristine parcels.


Sea Level Rise predictions mapped

map-210Do you ever wonder what areas on your island are going to be flooded first when the sea level rises? To help answer this question Friends of the San Juans and scientists from Coastal Geologic Services researched and mapped sea level rise predictions for San Juan County shorelines.

The county-wide sea level rise inundation maps are based on the best available science on sea level rise adopted by the San Juan County Council in 2011 and the County's LiDAR ((Light Detection And Ranging) digital elevation data for major islands. A few different projected increases in the rise of sea level were used in the models.


Number of threatened or endangered species in Salish Sea almost doubles in 2 years

tufted-puffinA study unveiled today, October 26, 2011, shows the number of species, in the Salish Sea which are threatened, endangered, or  candidates for listing,  has nearly doubled in the last two years. When last tallied in 2008 there were 64 species. Today there are 113.

Species of concern are species that warrant special attention to ensure their conservation. In the Salish Sea, four jurisdictions list species: British Columbia’s Provincial Government, Washington State, the Canadian Federal Government and the US Federal Government. The SeaDoc Society has tracked species of concern since 2002.


Shoreline Habitat improved along Lopez Island’s Barlow Bay

barlowsmLast week, Friends of the San Juans enhanced habitat for beach spawning forage fish along Barlow Bay at the south end of Lopez Island. Over the years, substantial rock from road protection efforts has fallen onto the middle and upper portions of the beach, degrading habitat at one of only nine known Pacific sand lance spawning sites in San Juan County.

Sand lance are a key food item for many fish, seabirds, and marine mammals, including salmon and bottomfish. Sand lance lay their eggs on sandy upper beaches. Land use practices, especially armoring, can easily damage this valuable and limited shoreline zone.

Local contractor Michael Budnick, hired by FOSJ, restacked rock along Barlow Bay's public and private roads, improving the spawning beaches and repairing the failing road protection.

"The Friends of the San Juans' habitat restoration project was a win win for everyone" states San Olson, FOSJ board member and neighborhood resident, "while the primary objective was to enhance critical spawning habitat and support marine food webs, we were also able to use the rocks removed from the beach to fill gaps and improve protection along the road". Thanks to San Juan County Public Works, Barlow Bay shoreline property owners and the Salmon Point Community for their support of the project. Also thanks to the Washington State Salmon Recovery Board provided for funding this small but important restoration project.

For more information on priority shoreline habitats and species, or the work FRIENDS is doing throughout the county to protect and restore them, visit www.sanjuans.org.


WA Gears Up for Elwha Dam Removal

SEATTLE - Two dams on Washington's Elwha River will be removed beginning in September. The work is expected to take about three years - but it's been at least 40 years in the making.

Rick Rutz of Seattle, first began questioning how new dams were approved and existing dams re-licensed - complex federal processes he felt discouraged public input. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe already was concerned about the aging Elwha and Glines Canyon Dams on the Olympic Peninsula. Rutz, who suggested the dams come out to help restore salmon habitat, says the initial reaction was anything but positive.


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