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Through elections and taxation, citizens give governments authority and resources to accomplish work in the public interest. A score of tribal, federal, state, and local governments, agencies, and districts may be working in any ecosystem site. The functions, authorities, and inter-relationships of those agencies are largely unknown to citizens, but are vital to effective and efficient ecosystem management.

  • Local Jurisdictions include Counties and, Cities with broad responsibility under state law to integrate state and federal requirements and resolve local transportation, health, and land use concerns. Jurisdictions employ the majority of government workers active at an ecosystem sitea unit from the nearshore project or watershed characterization watersheds that defines a ecologically cohesive site for management.
  • Special Districts are created by the state legislature to serve a special purpose not provided by jurisdictions (or "general purpose governments"). Examples include conservation districts, drainage, levee, diking, watershed improvement or irrigation districts, public utility districts, and port districts.
  • State Agencies implement state laws and programs. Different agencies provide different services and engage different stakeholder groups, but overlap in place. State agencies typically have fewer staff working in each system than locals, but more that federals.
  • Federal Agencies implement national laws and standards. Federal interests requires a federal nexus, such as a federal funding decision or a federal trust resource like air, water, navigation, fisheries, or treaty rights.
  • Tribal Governments have an area of interest similar to local jurisdictions, but based on overlapping "usual and accustomed" hunting, fishing, and harvest areas, recognized by treaties between groups of tribes, and the US Government, and increasingly defined by court rulings.

These institutions have many interrelationships, through delegation of authorities, around the flow of capital, or through sharing information. Each strata or agency may have a different social status in the eyes of citizens.

Four Ecosystem Service Systems

Government is authorized to manage aspects of ecosystems that people care about. Four major ecosystem services are the focus of the vast majority of state and federal authorities and resources:

1. Flood Hazard Management

Natural hazards like flooding, landslide and fire are most directly managed by counties, however counties depend on state and federal resources, and in turn have to meet state and federal legal requirements and standards. Learn more...

2. Agriculture

Farmers cannot economically compete with land developers for land under population growth. There are systems that attempt to protect agricultural land and support farm enterprise. There is also a extensive list of regulators that have a fractured and limited control over agricultural practices to minimize the damage to habitat or water quality. Learn more...

3. Salmon Recovery and Biodiversity

While there are many protected species under the Endangered Species Act and state law, Salmon are a focus from ecosystem management because of their deep cultural importance, and how their aquatic habitat is so broadly affected by land use. "Four H's" have caused the decline of salmon in the Pacific Northwest: Harvest, Hatcheries, Habitat Loss, and Hydropower. Robust salmon populations requires the larges scale management of social and ecological systems. With the listing of Puget Sound Chinook, Hood Canal summer chum, bull trout and steelhead trout under the Endangered Species Act additional federal resources and attention are focused on the fate of salmon. Learn more...

4. Water Supply

The Salish Sea is a wet winter, dry summer climate. Forests and wetlands intercept and store winter rains in the ground, and provide for cool summer stream flows and abundant groundwater that sustains, salmon, the web of life, and our communities. Water is a public trust resource, managed by the state or the nation under a network of laws. Learn more...