Representatives from U.S. and Canadian agencies spoke about the shared responsibility of managing natural resources from the white caps of the mountains to white caps of Salish Sea.
Michelle Pirzadeh of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 10 (which includes 271 tribal governments), said the EPA receives congressional funding to support Puget Sound restoration. This year, it received $50 million for on-the-ground projects. Of that, $14 million will go to tribal governments. The agency is in the final stages of awarding the money for this year. Three years ago, the EPA received only $1 million, and Pirzadeh credits the tribes for increasing the funding by keeping the momentum going for Puget Sound recovery.
“The tribes are doing amazing work and really leveraging those funds,” she said.
Ian MacLeod of Environment Canada pointed out that there are many levels of decision makers managing the Salish Sea, including the U.S. and Canadian government, Coast Salish nations on both side of the border, Washington state and the province of British Columbia.
Environment Canada has a regulatory role in protecting species at risk, migratory birds, clean water, pollution abatement and gathering scientific data.
There are opportunities for shared management of species at risk, developing bird management plans, conservation strategies for ecosystems, water quality information gathering, habitat stewardship.
The treaty process is ongoing in British Columbia, which is another opportunity to develop co-management strategies.
“The biggest opportunity is through information sharing, and working with first nations and their traditional ecological knowledge,” he said.
Environment Canada also has an EcoAction Community Funding Program that provides funding for projects addressing four themes: clean air, clean water, climate change and nature.
Tom Laurie of the Washington State Department of Ecology said that the state’s shared management of natural resources was mandated by the Boldt decision (U.S. v. Washington). The culvert case in an example where the state could be doing a better job.
A shining example of shared management is the Centennial Accord. It’s a joint document recognizing mutual sovereignty, mutual respect and commitment to working together.
Ecology shares the management of shared bodies of water with tribes. The Puyallup Tribe was the first in the state to set its own water quality standards on the Puyallup River. Ecology also shares the responsibility of toxics clean ups in harbor areas to improve the habitat.
Fish consumption standards are being revised because they’re woefully inaccurate now, he said. (Participants at the gathering consumed more than the maximum recommended amount at dinner last night!)
Another key shared responsibility in water resources is water quantity – water rights.
“We have a number of groundbreaking co-management relations,” he said. Among these are Lake Roosevelt with the Colville and Spokane tribes, the Yakima River with the Yakama Tribe and the upper reaches of the Nooksack River with the Lummi and Nooksack tribes.
“The Lummi and Nooksack tribes took this on,” he said. “They’re the ones who have led us here.”
Brigid Payne of the Department of Fish and Oceans Canada said that the bilateral process with first nations is a cornerstone of their relationship.
She described the federal Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management and the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative.
Management plans for Fraser River sockeye have shown a true commitment to long term sustainability, and this year’s huge returns seems to be nature’s powerful way of saying, “You guys are doing the right thing.”