Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
World Affairs Council
April 1, 1999
It’s a great pleasure to be here today with Minister Anderson.
He has been an incredibly effective advocate for the protection of Canadian wild salmon, the kind of advocate we need more of throughout the Pacific Northwest on both sides of the border. He has faced up to tough political choices and intense criticism in the effort to achieve the long-term goal of more fish for all of us.
It’s also a pleasure to address the members and friends of the Seattle World Affairs Council. This organization has been instrumental in making Seattle a center of global culture and commerce. And with every passing year, your mission of providing in-depth information about international affairs and foreign policy becomes even more important.
This year, of course, as we play host to the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting. And the Council members have to be very, very proud of Seattle’s international coming of age. Think of it. This is the largest ever trade meeting ever held in the United States, with some 5,000 delegates coming from all across the world, representing some 133 countries. And we have an opportunity during this WTO meeting to focus on agricultural issues and other products and commodities that the state of Washington is so famous for. And we have an opportunity to make sure that in the state of Washington we are moving ahead on international trade.
But as today’s topic shows, international issues are not confined to concerns about foreign trade and investment. Natural resource and environmental issues are becoming a much more prominent part of the international agenda – not just for those of us here in the Pacific Northwest, but everywhere throughout the world.
Over 80% of the fisheries in our world are, to one degree or another, in danger from over-fishing or habitat destruction. And the pressures of a growing human population and growing resource consumption threaten thousands of species of plants and animals. All across the globe, deserts are getting bigger, and tropical forests are getting smaller. The prospect of global warming looms on the horizon. You know, some twenty years ago, we worried about the threatened meltdown at Three Mile Island. Today, we worry about the meltdown of the polar ice caps. And here in the Pacific Northwest, we worry about the future of wild salmon.
Our worry is actually long overdue. Because in Washington, wild salmon runs have been in decline for decades. The causes are many and cumulative. In the course of building our cities, we filled thousands of acres of tidelands. Where streams and rivers used to meander, we forced them into neat, straight channels. And we paved over an immense amount of land, and sent stormwater gushing into streams rather that letting it soak into the ground. On our farms, in our forests, and even in our cities, we removed the vegetation that shaded streams and kept the water cold. As we built roads over rivers and streams, we installed culverts that fish couldn’t swim through. In many rivers, we built dams and created reservoirs that made the salmon’s home habitat unrecognizable. And at the same time, we caught more fish than our damaged rivers and streams could replace.
So the opportunity to restore healthy populations of wild salmon – even if it means making some serious changes in the way we live, build, farm, fish and harvest timber – is the opportunity to save far more than fish. It is an opportunity to restore and protect our home, to preserve the very essence of the Pacific Northwest quality of life.
I mean here we are in Bell Harbor and you look at the window and you see the pristine waters of Puget Sound and you see the mountains of the Olympic Forests. That is what is so distinctive about living here in the Pacific Northwest. And so this effort to save wild salmon is really the effort to save the very definition of the Pacific Northwest. So it is more than coincidence that this challenge comes to us at the very end of the 20th century.
In the course of this century, we have seen a truly amazing run of technological progress. We started this century traveling on horseback, cooking on wood stoves, growing much of our own food, and carrying water to our kitchens in buckets. And we end this century stuck in traffic on the freeway, cooking in microwave ovens, and eating food that comes out of plastic containers and packages. Our water flows out of our faucets and down our drains without our even knowing where it comes from or where it goes.
So at the end of the 20th century, the Endangered Species Act presents us with an opportunity: an opportunity to begin the work of reconnecting ourselves with the natural world. Like all good things, this process of reconnection begins with education, learning more about what wild salmon need to thrive, learning where our water comes from and what happens to it after we’ve used it, learning which watersheds we live in and their conditions, learning how the way we live and work affects the natural legacy we leave to the next generation.
And there’s something more we will need to learn. And that is that neither water nor fish recognize the lines we draw on maps. Creating the relationships necessary to govern across the borders of cities, counties, tribes, states and nations presents us with another challenge unique to the end of the 20th century. And this challenge may be the most difficult skill for us to master.
But working with Minister Anderson has given me great hope, great hope that we can master this crucial skill if we emulate his political courage and sense of purpose. Last year, Minister Anderson and I forged an agreement reducing the harvest of salmon on both sides of the border. And that agreement resulted in the return of many more wild chinook salmon to the Skagit, Snohomish, and Stillaguamish Rivers, in Puget Sound, as well as more coho to the Canadian rivers. We succeeded because we focused on finding solutions rather than fixing blame. And we succeeded because both of us understand that conservation of wild salmon has to be our first priority. And we succeeded because we shared a long-term commitment to transmitting a priceless, a priceless natural legacy to the next generation of Canadians and Washingtonians.
Now we must take the next step, and forge a long-term U. S. – Canada fishing agreement that contributes to the recovery of wild salmon in all our rivers, throughout the Pacific Northwest, from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska. And Puget Sound salmon recovery efforts cannot succeed without such a long-term U.S.-Canada agreement.
The obstacles and difficulties we face in building on our U. S. - Canada success form last year are strikingly similar to the challenges we face within our own country and our own state. We cannot make progress when we focus on blame. When foresters blame farmers and farmers blame the tribes and the tribes blame developers and developers blame sea lions, we don't get anywhere. Nor can we make progress when we focus on resisting change. The Endangered Species Act requires us to change, but that doesn’t make it our enemy. We need to remember that the Endangered Species Act is not just a federal law. It is an expression of the American people’s belief in the sanctity of life, of every species of life.
And that belief was first written into federal law when the ESA passed in 1973. But it has taken us until now – until the very end of this century – to see that honoring that belief will require a higher level of environmental awareness and knowledge of the natural world.
These are lessons that are still a long way from becoming common knowledge. And that is the state of affairs that we have to change on our side of the border, as well as the other side. We simply must create the knowledge and the awareness of the natural world that are the precursors to marshaling the political will to save salmon. This must be our agenda for the first few decades of the 21st century.
Our work to restore wild salmon can be among the first international environmental success stories of the new century. We have the immense advantage of a deep relationship with our neighbors in Canada. We could not ask for a better partner than Minister Anderson. But most important, we have a shared regional identity – a Pacific Northwest tradition of reverence for the unique beauty and mystery of our mountains, our forests, our water and our vast expanses of farm and range lands. And the wild salmon that now call us to be better stewards of this magnificent home deserves nothing less than our very best efforts.
Strengthening this ethic of environmental stewardship, and fostering economic prosperity at the same time, is our challenge and will define our place in history.
Thank you all very much.