Opinion

A legacy for the future awaits us

By AMY CAREY AND TOM DEAN

The sun is rising this morning, reaching out with golden rays to Puget Sound, and embracing Maury Island. Dark clouds of the night are being replaced by the beautiful dawn of a new day.

These are the words used by Preserve Our Islands founder and State Sen.-elect Sharon Nelson as she joined King County Executive Dow Constantine in announcing that a deal had been signed to purchase the Glacier Northwest property on Maury Island. Simple in their eloquence, they capture what was in so many Islanders’ hearts as news that Maury Island would be protected came to light.

Last week’s announcement stands not only as a remarkable moment for the Island community but also as a moment of reckoning for Puget Sound. With this acquisition a full mile of uniquely valuable nearshore habitat — designated as both a state aquatic reserve and a national marine protected area — will be preserved in perpetuity.

The acquisition will protect our clean drinking water and also create a regional park, establishing a legacy of pristine beaches and forested trails for generations to come. But the acquisition is not a done deal yet, and we urgently need your help to make sure Maury Island makes it across the finish line.

It has been a remarkable year for the organizations and elected officials working hard behind the scenes to bring this acquisition forward.

After endless months of negotiations, appraisals and the painstaking pounding out of details, the acquisition deal was finally reached. But the process actually started back in May 2009, when Preserve Our Islands and the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust sat down with range of environmental and elected leaders from across the state, knowing it was time to reach out to Glacier Northwest’s owner CalPortland with an offer to purchase the property. From this meeting, an acquisition team was formed and an action plan was initiated to reach out to both CalPortland and its multi-national parent company Taiheiyo Cement.

We asked the Cascade Land Conservancy (CLC) to lead negotiations for the team, and in June 2009, members of our federal Congressional delegation sent forward a formal letter to the head of Taiheiyo in Tokyo, asking the company to meet with CLC to discuss selling the Glacier site. The company agreed, and in August 2009, on a yacht appropriately named “Determination,” representatives from Taiheiyo and CalPortland joined representatives from CLC for a tour of the Maury shoreline, and the first discussions related to a purchase were held.

Now after a year of negotiations, Glacier has agreed to sell. But to fully protect the property, we still have work before us, as capital for the purchase must be secured by the end of next month. Through dedicated conservation funding from the state government and King County, $34 million of the total $36 million sale price has been identified to help purchase this ecologically vital property. This leaves a $2 million funding gap, and unless we all immediately step up to contribute to the cause, Maury Island will be lost forever.

Preserve Our Islands and the Vashon–Maury Island Land Trust have joined with partner organizations People For Puget Sound, the Washington Environmental Council and Cascade Land Conservancy to bring forward the Save Maury Island NOW campaign.

Standing together, we have made the commitment to raise the final $2 million dollars needed to permanently protect Maury Island. We are happy to report that Dow Constantine, our heroic King County Executive, has now asked the King County Council to consider temporarily covering this $2 million with a short-term repayment from the Save Maury Island NOW campaign, but it has been made painfully clear that unless we have a significant portion of the funds in place by Dec. 15, the council will decline that request. Now more than ever, Maury Island is on the line, and we ask you to join us in this historic effort by making a donation today.

With your contribution to the Save Maury Island NOW campaign, this unique Island nearshore area will continue to welcome endangered orcas and their newborn calves in the winter months and chinook salmon in the summer. And in the uplands, there will be a place for our children and their children to gaze across shimmering blue waters to the shoulders of Mount Rainier, mesmerized by the wonder that is the Puget Sound.

It is rare in life to have a moment before you, when the simplest of actions can provide a legacy for generations to come. Yet in this community, after more than a decade of hard work, we have a moment like this before us all, and if we turn away the opportunity to save Maury Island, it may be lost forever.

— Amy Carey heads Preserve Our Islands, and Tom Dean heads the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust.

To donate, visit any one these websites:

Preserve Our Islands, www.preserveourislands.org

Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust, www.vashonlandtrust.org

Cascade Land Conservancy, www.cascadeland.org

People For Puget Sound, www.pugetsound.org.

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