Letters to the Editor

If you love the San Juans, please support the Critical Areas Ordinance

As a child and frequent passenger on the San Juan Island's mail boat "Osage" in the 1940s, I soon became convinced the San Juans were the most beautiful, resource-rich and fragile spot in the world.

Later, during 10 years as a commercial salmon fisherman, I profited economically but also observed insensitive development on the marine environment: Houses and bulkheads too close to forage fish (the primary food source of salmon, which in turn comprise more than 90 percent of the Southern resident orcas' diet), spawning beaches, and meager buffers between residential development and the marine environment (allowing chemical runoff from fertilizers and other products to drain directly into sensitive marine habitat).

Wild salmon are the linchpin that hold our remarkably precious ecosystem and, indirectly, our economy together. Wild salmon are our guarantors of clean water, air and soil and a host of lifegiving organisms. The "4 H's" of impacts on salmon — Hydro, Harvest, Hatcheries and, most relevant to us, Habitat — will shape the recovery of wild chinook and coho salmon.

Best science has shown incontrovertibly that our remaining healthy San Juan shorelines can play a significant role in salmon recovery. However, with our current rate of unstrategic development, we will lose the San Juans.

The question is, do we really want to leave a legacy of seemingly pretty islands surrounded by a dead zone of sterile, fishless and lifeless sea, or do we want to preserve and rebuild a healthy, vibrant and wonder-filled ecosystem that results in increased property values, a sustainable economic resource, orcas for our grandchildren and a renewed sense of reverence for the gift of the natural world?

The proposed Critical Areas Ordinance, although perhaps needing strengthening, moves us in the right direction. Property rights are relative rights and are related to the health and welfare of the broader community in all of its dimensions and with that comes responsibility.

If you love the San Juans, please support CAO now.

George Lawson
Lopez Island

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