Terry Williams: We need a plan

Terry Williams, commissioner of fish and wildlife for the Tulalip Tribes, opened the conference with a keynote about the importance of having a plan to restore habitat and the environment.

The American government has a plan for everything, except how to survive. The U.S. government is watching the environment unravel and know it’s because of human invention.

What was placed on this landscape was put here for a purpose and we’ve unraveled that. We’re past the tipping point.

Climate change experts at the University of Washington say we have enough water for 20 years maybe 50. There’s less snow pack, more rain, so maybe there’s a way of harnessing that for people. But that won’t work for fish and wildlife.

Forest structure has changed. There used to be trees so tall you could walk under the canopy, and carpet 18-36 inches deep. That was our water supply. That’s what helps keep the snow when it gets to the ground, helps keep it there, so it doesn’t melt off in a day or so. What we need is a forest that holds the water longer. We’ve lost wetlands, which filter water.

Wetlands were drained off a long time ago. We don’t have the infiltration sites, natural storage sites, we don’t have the source of water that feeds streams. We need to start looking at our future. What in governance do we need to change?

We don’t want to get rid of the foresters. We need to change our political structure, get language in legislation that will preserve our land for the long run.

When we lose the wild things around us, we lose hope. When we have whales die, it’s not a healthy condition.

We need to start laying out a plan for what it is that’s important to us.

Williams gave as an example the Tulalip Tribes’ efforts to convert dairy waste into biomethane.

With the dairy farmers in the Snohomish basin, for 20 years we looked at the department of Ecology, the county, the EPA, to remove dairy waste from the rivers. After a while we decided there’s got to be a better way to get waste out of the river.

Read about the tribe’s anaerobic digester here.

What’s our vision? We want water flowing from headwaters of Puget Sound. We need trees. We need vegetation. We need wetlands. We need structure. We need the laws to do that, to change. The only way to change those is to change legislation.

Tribes drafted the first watershed plans for the state of Washington in 1985.

The planning process been improved on. We have a climate model, stormwater models, pollutant models. Anything you can think of that is necessary to plan our way out of this mess were in.

The only thing that’s not here is the will of the people.

Think about what would happen if the U.S. got into a world conflict where we were temporarily confined to our borders. We couldn’t feed ourselves.

We should have a plan.

We’re designed as a country to move things. We make raw materials and we ship them out. If we don’t produce what we need here and we’re confined to pur borders, we’re in trouble. We’re not a country of producers. We don’t make products that we can just pick up and consume. We’re dependent on the world.

Indian people are the ones that understand how to do this. We understand how we fit into this structure. We understand what our needs are.


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