If you’re tuned into to the annual cycle of birds, you know that billions of birds across the Western Hemisphere are currently winging their way northward to their breeding grounds in places like Canada’s boreal forest and Alaska’s Copper River Delta. Puget Sound and the greater Salish Sea are critical refueling areas for shorebirds like the Western Sandpiper as they undertake their annual spring migration, making our efforts in Washington a vital piece of their success.
Making sure migratory shorebirds and other waterbirds have safe places to rest, refuel, and raise their young is a top priority for Audubon across the Pacific Flyway. In Olympia that translates into one of our top legislative priorities for 2021 - protecting natural resource agency budgets and boosting investments in capital budget programs that support conservation projects across the Sound. When the 2021 legislative session began in January, significant concerns about the state budget had many worried about steep budget cuts for conservation, but as the curtain closes on the legislative session we’re pleased to report that conservation was prioritized by our elected leaders. We encourage you to take a moment to thank them.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife, an essential partner in protecting and restoring habitat across the Puget Sound, received funding to support essential fish and wildlife monitoring and habitat management activities. Meanwhile, key capital budget programs supporting conservation and outdoor recreation projects were funded at near-record levels.
On the policy front, legislation from Senator Jesse Salomon (32nd LD, Shoreline), which requires a more ecological approach to shoreline armoring replacement, sailed smoothly to passage in both chambers of our legislature. These developments offer some much-needed hope in the face of monumental challenges for ecosystem recovery, and while there is still much work to do, advocates for Puget Sound fish and wildlife have reason to be thankful in 2021.
Audubon’s Puget Sound Blueprint identifies a suite of locations where habitat restoration would be particularly beneficial for birds and people. Two of these locations were up for funding in the state capital budget this year. Important acquisition and restoration projects in the Stillaguamish delta and Kennedy Creek both received full funding through three key programs: the Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Fund, the Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program, and the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program. Additionally, the WWRP received a record-tying level allocation, receiving $100M to support parks, habitat, trails, and water access across the state.
The Audubon network showed up in a big way to advocate for a conservation-focused state budget. We lobbied legislators at Audubon Washington’s Virtual Advocacy Day in December and at the Environmental Priorities Coalition Lobby Day. Five local Audubon chapters sent letters supporting robust capital budget funding to key budget writers as negotiations were beginning and had letters to the editor published in The Skagit Valley Herald and The Olympian. These letters, along with hundreds of emails from Audubon members, demonstrated the depth and breadth of our Audubon network, showing that we truly are local – and vocal - everywhere.
We’re grateful to all of you for your efforts, and for the leadership shown by our elected officials this session. Investments in nature are good for birds and they’re good for people. Please take a quick moment to let your legislators know that you appreciate these public investments in birds, natural heritage and our quality of life.