Thank you, Billy [referring to Billy Frank, Jr. who introduced the Governor], for the kind introduction—our children grew up together, they went to South Bay Elementary together, and it’s just been a great friendship, on top of a great partnership to improve the quality of life of the citizens of our state.
I would like, if I could, to especially thank some of our tremendous leaders who have made this all possible. First and foremost I do want to thank Billy; we go back a long way in our friendship, but I’ll tell you, he is not only one of the treasures of Washington State—he’s known around the nation, and he’s literally known around the world. He has allowed all of us to come together and put behind us…[Tape ends.]
Another tremendous treasure of course is Bill Ruckelshaus, and he has been a long time mentor of mine since I was appointed as Director of the Department of Ecology. I called him on the phone, he didn’t have any idea who I was, and I just went “Help!” And he has been there ever since. He is a tremendous leader. How many people can have a resume like Bill Ruckelshaus? It’s just phenomenal. But I’m also told that despite that resume, there’s a special place in his heart for salmon, for Shared Strategy, and for what all of you are doing today. We met the other night, and I can’t tell you how much it means to him to have this from the ground up, working to make this happen. Bill, thank you for all your tremendous effort.
I don’t see Ralph. Is Ralph here? He left, but I do want to recognize him, he’s the Chair of the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound Board of Directors, and Ralph has been one dedicated individual to the effort as well. In his absence, I want to say thanks to Ralph.
And then of course there’s Norm. What can one say about Norm Dicks and his tremendous contributions to our state? I’ve been known to say this, and he doesn’t particularly like it when I say it, but the fact of the matter is, he is the third senator from the great state of Washington. He is there, literally, for every part of the state, working on behalf of every citizen in every region of the state. He is our champion, he is our voice in Washington DC, and the part I love about him the best, is whenever we get together he tells me about his latest fishing trip and just how big that salmon was that he caught. Thank you Norm for your tremendous leadership.
Now when I say I’m glad to be here, do you have any idea what that really means? [Laughter.] I’m having a great time, but I’m also in a bit of an adjustment period. There are so many people out here that I’m seeing that are such dear friends from my days at Ecology and all the way to the present, and I’ve got to share one whale of a story. Those of you who know me are going to crack up at this one.
We’re at the mansion, day of the inauguration, and of course we have no mattresses when we go there. Everybody thinks we’re in the lap of luxury, and it couldn’t be anything but true for the first couple of nights. Finally, we were not in an argument, but I said to my husband, “I’ve gotta get some sleep, so I’m sleeping on the couch. The floor is yours tonight.”
Well the third night we finally got mattresses. I’m in the bedroom, and I’m making the bed, and my husband, who knows that I like an occasional fire in the fireplace, says “Wouldn’t it be nice?” I said “Great!”
So I’m in there minding my own business, making the bed, when suddenly strobe lights are going off, sirens are blaring. What’s up with this? I go running out of the room and of course they have not built a fire in this fireplace in over a decade, and of course it doesn’t work, and of course there’s smoke coming out into the room. I’m thinking “Oh my word!” So I say “Fling open the doors!” Of course the dog is barking, and this lady from GA is there and she’s saying “You can’t open those doors, the bats will come in! That’s a problem!”
I say to my husband, can you imagine tomorrow? “Gregoire Burns Down Mansion!”
I said there’s no need to panic. Then I get this call…it’s the cadet. “Hello?” The cadet says, “Governor, is there something wrong up there?”
I say “Nothing is wrong, everything is perfectly fine. We just have a little problem in the fireplace, don’t worry about it.”
“Okay, Governor, fine. I won’t come up.”
I said, “Listen. This is your first assignment: do not let the fire department come here.”
He says “Okay, Governor.” Then he calls me back a couple of minutes later. “Governor?”
“I can’t make that happen.”
I said, “Okay here’s my backup plan. If they have to come, do not let them have those sirens running. Are we talking together here now?”
He says “Yes.” I get a call a couple of minutes later. “Governor, they tell me they won’t run the sirens as long as you promise there’s really nothing burning up there.”
I say “Trust me, even the fire place is not lit!”
So then in the middle of all this chaos—and I mean, you should hear the sirens (in the mansion) and see the strobe lights—I get this call from my oldest daughter. “Say Mom, what’s up?” Of course she can hear everything, and she goes “What’s that noise in the background?”
“Oh nothing, we have a small problem. Dad tried to build a fire in the fireplace, it doesn’t work, now all this smoke is going up..” And she starts laughing! Uncontrollably. After a couple of minutes I say “Forget it. I can’t talk with you right now. I’ve got enough going on. When you get your act together, you call me back.” So I hang up. Couple of minutes later, the kid calls back.
“Everything under control?”
“Everything’s under control.” I’m standing at the window and I said “Oh no, here comes the fire department!”
She says, “You know what Mom? They aren’t ready for you in the mansion.”
So, we’re adjusting. I won’t build another fire in the mansion, and I promise you I will take good care of it. [Laughter]
Anyway, what a delight to be here today. As you all know, our Puget Sound plays a unique role in our Washington State. It has huge and abundant resources for all of us, but so many of our citizens—and I heard the comment today that we need to reach out to all our citizens—all too many of our citizens look out and see that great sunset, and if they can look at those beautiful beaches and see that scenic view of Mt. Rainer, well then everything is perfectly fine! What is all this hoopla about?
There is of course the recent report card on Puget Sound, and it illustrated very clearly that we’re in trouble. It’s trouble for fish, and trouble for people. The Sound might have been able 100 years ago to absorb some of what’s going on, but we have pushed it to the edge. We have pushed our ecosystem too far; there is no more ability to push it. And to top it off the region’s population is projected to grow by another million over the next fifteen years, putting still more pressure on Puget Sound.
Declines in salmon, marine birds, eel grass, rockfish, closures of our shellfish beds and a growing dead zone in our Hood Canal are some of the warning signals to us that Puget Sound continues to be in jeopardy. Wild salmon are especially important to the people of the Northwest. The state of our wild salmon highlights the broader issue involving the health of our ecosystem. We need to both protect and to restore our wild salmon’s systems. Efforts to protect and restore the Sound to date have not met the challenges. The key to our success is going to have to be a collaborative effort such as that which you have enjoyed over the last several years in Shared Strategy.
I have hope for the future of our Sound, because our State has a real strong tradition of fighting for our quality of life. Thank goodness for our Native American leaders; they have made it clear they have always fought for that quality of life in Washington State. Now, working together, we must continue to make sure that happens. All in this room are a testament to that kind of tradition of hard work and coming together to make things happen. You, because you care about our future, want to leave a legacy to our children and our children’s children. And you understand, more than any of our other citizens, just how precious, and just how tenuous things are today. You rolled up your sleeves, like Washingtonians will do, and you set about doing the work of developing a draft recovery plan for salmon. You made national history by saying, “We’ll do it from the bottom up. We’re not going to allow those to come in from the top down.” I want to give you, on behalf of the citizens of the State of Washington, a big fat thank you for all your hard work and dedication.
You’ve done an enormous amount of work. This type of bottom up effort is what we need to do in a number of areas. You didn’t wait for the federal government to come in and tell us what to do. It’s been our local citizens and leaders, working with our tribal partners, who are taking control and shaping the future of Washington State. You’re doing it voluntarily, because you know, at the end of the day it’s just the right thing to do. At the same time, you’re collaborating with our federal partners at NOAA and USFWS, so that they can give us valuable input as we move along. And by including them at the table during the development stage, you are improving the likelihood that they will accept our plan when we submit it.
You’re on the front lines in the fight to restore our great salmon runs, but you are not alone. Across the state we have 15 species listed under the Endangered Species Act, covering about 75 percent of our State. These listings have the potential of hurting our citizens, businesses, agriculture, local governments, through regulatory restrictions, and all too often through litigation. We have other groups just like yours around the State that are preparing plans to further the cause of salmon recovery in their respective regions.
I look forward to submitting the plan that you have developed to the federal government later this year. It is critical that we get this done. It is critical, however, that we take your good work, and we move on to implementation. All of that hard work needs to result in real action, and bring about real results to the recovery of these wild salmon runs. We must make sure that the plan, along with those from the other parts of our State, are put into effect, and are not the kind of plans that sit there and simply gather dust. We must work hand in hand with our tribal leaders on this effort, and strengthen our government to government relationships with Washington State tribes. Protecting and restoring our salmon will take a long-term, dedicated effort by all of us. Rather than tackle the problem piece-meal, we must continue to work together, to leverage our resources and our willpower to save the fish and the Sound. If we do nothing else, let us inspire some young child today, so that we can take the baton and turn it over to them, so they can carry our efforts forward.
I want you to know that when I served as Director of Ecology, our youngest daughter was quite tiny. One of the first things that happened when I served as Director was the Nestucca Oil Spill. I really didn’t have a feel for what a bird rescue operation looked like, so I took that young child with me, not knowing how devastating it would be. From that point forward, despite the fact she didn’t say the word then, she’s always said “I want to be an environmental leader.” She went off to college a year ago, and after one year declared her major as environmental science, dedicated to the public sector to serving our citizens, and for the very kind of effort that you’re talking about today. It’s that kind of passing of the baton to the next generation, and then making sure they pass it on to the next generation that will allow us to succeed not only to restore, but to continue that effort out into the future.
I began our remarks today by talking about our proud tradition of safe-guarding the environment. We inherited a legacy. It is up to us to enhance that legacy and to leave yet a greater and better legacy to those who will follow us. But it means that we must take certain steps now, so that our children and their children can say we did the right thing, and left them a better legacy than what we’d inherited.
Let me, if I can, go away from salmon for a moment, and talk about three broad goals for the environment over the next four years. First, I think we all must engage in a strategy of sustainability. This means our society has to integrate our economic vitality and our environmental integrity into a new kind of prosperity for our State—one that enriches today without impoverishing tomorrow. Translating that into reality is going to be hard, there’s no question about it. Shared Strategy provides a model to make it happen. We must all get the interests necessary to come together, work through our problems, and build toward success. Government officials telling our citizens how to get things done from the top down is never going to work in Washington State. It cannot be done by one interest trying to overpower another. It needs to be done by people of good will, people working together, people seeing it as their mission to solve problems and leave a legacy.
Another way for us to support a sustainable environmental strategy, in my opinion, is in the very simple creation of a Washington Academy of the Sciences. We need a group that will provide clear, objective, reliable information to guide our environmental decisions. You and I both know, that when we set the right course, the environment and our quality of life win out. For years Washington State has talked around this issue, and one individual I was pleased to have a great friendship with, Vim Wright, some of you may know her, said “If you get elected Governor, let this be one of the first things that you do.” I am determined, in her memory, to create a Washington Academy of Science that will be the envy of those around the nation. They’ll say, “Washington State gets it, and they’re doing it right.”
Second, I believe we have a lot of work to do to improve our environmental regulatory process. That’s not code for relaxing our environmental standards. I want to insist that we have strong enforcement, so that everyone is able to operate on a level playing field. That’s the right thing to do. I am talking about us addressing the overwhelming complexity and confusion that all too often plagues businesses, farmers, and our citizens. That confusion results in time-costing delay and frustration. I want us together to focus on this particular problem, and take significant and systematic steps to address it. And I know that there are some regulatory problems in particular that require special attention, special attention because they’re just of that nature. Why not inform them with an Academy of Sciences?
I really want to reach out to you and say, “Let us all get behind, let us all support the new University of Washington / Washington State University Policy Consensus Center. It has much promise, and the vision of it is exactly what we need in our State. That Center, I think, will be an invaluable asset to us to solve some of our State’s most intractable environmental disputes so we can set aside our differences and move forward, based on the best science that we’re able to bring to the table.
My third goal is to improve our air and water, and our land management practices. I want to work to phase out the use of our persistent toxic chemicals and pollutants that harm fish and wildlife, and harm us as well. We need to replace them with safe substitutes. I want to work on economic incentives that improve the efficiency of how we use one of our most precious resources today—water. I remember distinctly when we went to talk about the Chelan Agreement; it had been identified through a process we engaged in at Ecology back then as one of the most difficult issues that we were going to face in the future. As I went out as a newly minted Ecology director and spoke about this issue, I was literally laughed at. People were disbelieving me on the west side that we could ever have a conflict with respect to the usage of water—it was always going to be abundant. And yet, those on the east side recognizing—seeing and foreseeing—just how difficult this issue was going to be in the future.
I want to work on economic incentives that improve our efficiency with respect to the use of water. I want to promote the development of active water markets. And I want to move forward to set and achieve in-stream flow levels that work for both fisheries, and for people, business, and agriculture.
I also think we all need to look to the Cascades. Washington has been a leader in forest protection, but I have to say I still think we can do more. We live and thrive in our cities and our urban areas, but we also need to retreat to those wonderful areas where we can rest and enjoy nature. This is why this work on our environment is not just on behalf of our forestry, it’s on behalf of every one of us. This is the kind of environmental legacy I want to leave behind in working with all of you. You are a vital part of the effort to create a better future for Washington State. Thank you again for all of your personal commitment. Thank you for your passion. This cannot be done without passion. (If you need a role model for passion, look at Billy Frank—now there’s passion.) Or hear the individuals [in the audience] who talked about committing—that’s what we all need to do. We will never accomplish what we need to if we don’t have that compassion, that passion, that commitment—if we don’t have that vision to leave a legacy to the citizens of the great state of Washington.
I want to look forward with you over the next four years, to implementing all of your hard work. Let it not sit on some desk and gather dust. Let us make it real. Let us leave a better Washington State to our children, and our children’s children, than we inherited. Again, thank you very much, and congratulations to all of you.