“…a healthy Puget Sound can be reached if we are willing to make significant improvements in the way we develop the land and our built environment, use our natural resources and dispose of our wastes. Saving Puget Sound requires changes in our behavior, and a willingness to restrict or modify those actions that cause serious harm to the Sound.”
State of the Sound, 2007
OlyEcosystems is focused on conserving key areas in the urban core of Olympia, WA. This choice is deliberate yet challenging. The challenges are obvious. Because Olympia is one of the fastest growing communities in the nation, available undeveloped land in the urban core is both expensive and fragmented relative to areas outside of the urban area.
Moreover, many key properties in our area of interest are considered “investment properties”. Thus, conservation easements over much of the area are impractical – though not impossible.
As a result, much of our work is focused on fundraising and outright acquisition of properties that are part of our Strategic Plan.
Our focus is however essential for the ecological health of Puget Sound. Like many coastal cities in the region, Olympia is located on an estuary and is thus not only ecologically critical in its own right, but also is the gateway to the more remote extra-urban riparian ecosystems upstream. If water quality and habitat are poor in Budd Inlet, there will be impacts to connected systems upstream and downstream.
Our work also includes advocating for conservation-minded legislation, mostly at the state and local level.
Much of the decline of our environment is due to poor land-use decisions in the past that did not consider short-, let alone long-term impacts on the quality of our water and the interdependence of our species.
New land-use challenges loom on the horizon due to imminent sea-level rise associated with climate change. As an example, there is at present no State-level consideration of sea-level rise in shoreline-use decisions.
Many coastal urban areas are beset by legacy contamination – and many others by continued contamination. Sea-level rise will have the effect of significantly complicating remediation of these areas. Addressing these challenges will become prohibitive in the future if not addressed now.
To improve outcomes in Puget Sound we must not only protect what we have now, but also we must reverse past damage to our critical ecosystems, and, with an eye to the future prevent further damage. To do this, we must work together now by enacting actionable legislation.
OlyEcosystems has played an important role in creating a Metropolitan Parks District in Olympia and revising the City of Olympia’s Critical Areas Ordinance. Much more work needs to be done.
To work towards the vibrant and sustainable city that we all aspire to live in, OlyEcosystems is re-thinking how our city works today and how it will work tomorrow in the context of climate change. We work with neighbors to build residential rain gardens and with volunteers and foundations to build community-scale rain gardens. In addition, we are working with the City of Olympia to install city-scale green infrastructure, including natural wetlands to remove toxins from City stormwater outfalls before it enters Budd Inlet.
With regard to sea-level rise, this re-thinking the city means reconstructing shoreline ecosystems to build resiliency into our urban environment. Almost without exception, shoreline adaptation is more economical then armament and assures that the costs borne by the public benefit the public.