Editorial: The opportunity of a lifetime is now before us

Tease apart the threads that led to last week’s amazing announcement, and one sees something both remarkable and inspiring: Smart people, working tenaciously and well, year after year after year.

The 13-year campaign to block Glacier Northwest’s mammoth project on Maury Island began with a handful of Islanders who came together because it was, indeed, their backyard that was at risk. But they knew such an argument wouldn’t carry the day and dug deep into the science — discovering, along the way, that a mile of undeveloped shoreline is a pretty rare thing anymore. In the process, not only did they convince a region of the ecological importance of a lonely stretch of Maury Island, they convinced themselves: This was a regional treasure, a place of import to migrating salmon and wide-ranging orcas, a place that mattered.

As the stakes grew higher, so did the depth and breadth of the region’s commitment.

Regional policy-makers and elected officials stepped in — from King County Executive Dow Constantine, who wasn’t afraid to invest considerable political capital in the effort, to state Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark, who staked out the issue in his run for statewide office.

Some of the region’s top conservation groups entered the fray. People For Puget Sound, helmed by Kathy Fletcher, a committed conservationist and seasoned warrior of land-use battles, provided considerable support. So did the Cascade Land Conservancy, an organization that knows how to broker a deal; its two lead negotiators — Gene Duvernoy and Michelle Connor — were nothing short of brilliant in the final hours of the long campaign.

The shining stars, however, are largely our own — your friends and neighbors — a collection of people who poured countless hours, working behind the scenes and often against all odds.

People like Libby McLardy, Brenda Moore and J.W. Turner, former presidents of Preserve Our Islands.

Or Sharon Nelson, the organization’s founder, whose political career began with her meetings at the Gold Beach Community Clubhouse in 1997, when Lonestar Northwest, then the owner, announced it would begin mining in 90 days. In the last legislative session, Nelson demonstrated her political acumen when she found a way to secure $15 million in state funding.

Amy Carey, as tireless and tenacious as they come, developed an encyclopedic understanding of the regulations governing land use in the region; for the last three years, she’s kept the pressure on more than any other single individual.

Tom Dean, director of the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, played a critical role, using his vast knowledge of land transactions to help shape the strategy. And when it appeared that Glacier had won the day, Bill Moyer stepped in, organizing protests that buoyed spirits and kept the issue in the media spotlight.

Now, after more than a decade of some of the best political activism and strategic thinking this Island has ever witnessed, the fate of a quiet stretch of Maury Island is up to us. A campaign is under way to raise $2 million in private funds — one of the last pieces in this complex project.

Here’s an opportunity for all of us to say we made a difference in the deal of a lifetime, a chance for us to invest in the future and a tangible way to thank all those tireless souls who have led us to the brink of a remarkable achievement. It’s time to seize the day.

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