West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Society
Page 6 - 2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference
Report on West Vancouver Engagement and Attendance
2011 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference
October 25-27, 2011
The Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference is held every two years alternately in the State of Washington and British Columbia. The conference is intended to address and advance the understanding and protection of the Puget Sound and Gulf of Georgia Basin. This area of interest includes the shoreline of West Vancouver. Recognition that the Georgia Basin/Puget Sound aquatic ecosystem transcends borders was a key initiative of the 2009 conference that led to the new official designation of "The Salish Sea" as the all encompassing label for the ecosystem and geography.
The 2011 conference was held in Vancouver with over 900 attendees. This year’s theme, “Many Voices, One Sea” highlighted the diverse perspectives of the attendees, which included scientists, students, educators, citizens, planners, artists, politicians, Coast Salish Nations and Tribes and government representatives of all levels from both the United States and Canada. The conference is well regarded in the Pacific Northwest and the strong U.S. presence as well as the wide U.S. scope and range of resources related to coastal management was notable.
Many of the sessions and topics were relevant to shoreline protection issues and for this reason the West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Society (WVSPS) was represented by two volunteer members under the non- profit society category. The District of West Vancouver was particularly singled out for engagement by conference organizers in recognition of notable successes and approaches at a municipal level in managing and protecting their community urban waterfront. In particular, Mayor Pamela Goldsmith-Jones was invited to participate in the opening plenary panel together with Mayor Lois Jackson of Delta. Panel participants from the State of Washington included Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown, King County Executive Dow Constantine and panel facilitator, Jay Manning, former Chief of Staff for Governor Chris Gregoire and former Director of the Department of Ecology of the State of Washington.
Councillor Trish Panz and Deputy CAO Brent Leigh took a few hours from full schedules on consecutive days to view the many instructive poster presentations, speak with peers and other participants and engage in a few key relevant sessions and dialogues. An informational poster, prepared by the WVSPS, outlining the story of West Vancouver's Shoreline Protection Plan had a place of honor in the lobby of the convention hall and attracted much interest from attendees. The poster was subsequently put on public display at the West Vancouver Memorial Library.
Official field trips had been long planned as part of the conference agenda. However, a group of representatives of the Green Shores program from the State of Washington, who had seen the www.westvanshoreline.ca website, expressed their wish to learn more about the pilot projects along West Vancouver's shoreline. In response, the WVSPS hosted a narrative shoreline walk to outline the evolution of the shoreline and showcase the District's progress since its commitment to a formal and ongoing West Vancouver Shoreline Preservation Plan. Successive councils have endorsed the Plan since 2007. The tour and the demonstrated successes were very well received and will no doubt lead to continuing engagement with the insightful and helpful Washington Sate coastal professionals and government program representatives.
Over the three days of the conference there were scores of presentations covering a wide range of topics that included coastal planning, pollution and environmental issues, shoreline ecology and habitat restoration, climate change, the impacts of sea level rise and ocean acidification, the ecologies of marine birds, marine mammals, fish, and marine aquatic plants, education and public outreach. A detailed listing of all presentations can be viewed on the conference website
A very strong motion was promoted through the Day Two keynote address for participants to urgently acknowledge that jurisdictional barriers and regulatory silos have not worked and are often at odds with sound coastal management in both the Canadian and U.S. basins of the Salish Sea. Several speakers highlighted that the layers of agencies and isolated mandates have not done justice to the need for high levels of knowledge based integrated management including enabling citizens and their communities. Participants were directly challenged to take home an awareness of the need to embrace more relevant and pro-active approaches to valuing and protecting the larger Salish Sea ecosystem in the face of expanding pressures.
The involvement of the WVSPS and the District of West Vancouver at the Salish Sea conference provided an excellent learning and exchange opportunity as well as a very well received venue to showcase the leadership that West Vancouver councils have demonstrated in recent years. To paraphrase the Mayor's response to panel questions at the opening plenary... "the District of West Vancouver has taken ownership of its most valued asset and has committed itself to action, working with nature to appreciate and protect its waterfront environment and infrastructure in the face of many challenges."