Commentary: Take action now to aid our ecosystem and climate

One path toward helping salmon and orca is reauthorization of a public lands funding program.

By John McCoy

For The Herald

The Souther Redisident orcas could go extinct. Their populations have dwindled from around 200 to merely 74. A calf recently was born, but no calf has survived in the last three years.

More than a century of development and pollution, along with climate change are to blame. We’ve caused these problems, we’ve a duty to save them, thereby saving the environment we all share. We’re all connected and must work together for a sustainable future.

Orca and salmon are intrinsic to our cultural heritage, tribes, tourism and health. Orca are the proverbial cannery in a coal mine. Lack of food, mainly salmon, causes the whales to burn their fat reserves which then releases chemical toxins stored in their fat. Those same toxins are in the food chain, which we consume, too. When we save the orcas from toxins, we save ourselves.

I’m proud of our governor’s initiatives and that the Legislature approved $1.1 billion to help, which will have ongoing benefits for the region’s entire ecosystem. These efforts will also fight climate change, and improve water quality. When we recover our orca and salmon populations everyone’s quality of life will improve.

We must do everything to protect our natural wonders for future generations; that takes a bipartisan effort. Knowing that we are all in this together makes it easier to find common ground. In my culture, leaders are often seen as peacemakers, not dividers. I’m a Democrat who worked in Ronald Reagan’s White House. Working together is how our democracy works best.

That’s why I stand with the elected officials to protect America’s lands. We are the only group of serving elected officials who are veterans dedicated to preserving and protecting America’s public lands for all. By doing so we are continuing the constitutional vows we take as veterans and elected officials, to preserve and protect our nation.

Last summer, 80 of us, signed and sent a letter to the Interior Secretary in support of reauthorizing the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund. A week after, we held meetings with U.S. senators on Capitol Hill, regarding the LWCF funding bill, which had been languishing in committee. Approved in a Senate committee, the bill now is stalled.

A federal and a United Nation’s report stated that if we don’t mitigate climate change there will be more catastrophic weather events. Bold action is needed now.

Reauthorizing LWCF, is a key measure that can lead the lead the way.

Since its establishment by Congress in 1964, the LWCF has been a bipartisan commitment that safeguards our natural areas, water resources and cultural heritage. For many, trips to Olympic, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades National Parks are annual pilgrimages connecting families with our country’s roots while creating lasting memories, all assisted by LWCF funding. Over $12 million has been allocated to Washington parks and public lands from the LWCF just since 2000.

Veterans don’t distinguish each other by which political party we are affiliated with; we stand by and with our Constitution. It is my duty to stand up to protect our lands for future generations.

Please join me in fighting for the permeant and dedicated reauthorization for the LWCF, so everyone can breathe easier and species like our orca, as well as our public lands, will be there for future generations.

Saving our land is the first line of defense fighting climate change.

State Sen. John McCoy, D-Tulalip, represents the 38th Legislative District.

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