From Salish Sea Wiki

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.

Government Strata in the USA[edit]

Government is often organized into strata, with Federal agencies having a trust obligation to tribes, and State's having a constitutional relationship to the federal government, and in turn delegating authority to local jurisdictions and special districts.

  • 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 site.
  • 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.

Government Strata in Canada[edit]


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:

  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • 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...
  • Development Regulation is implemented by local jurisdictions but is overseen by a range of state agencies under three major authorities: the Shoreline Management Act and Pollution Control Act administered by Ecology and the Growth Management Act administered by Commerce.
  • Forestry Practices - a large portion of the land area in the Salish Sea is designated as private and public forest lands. Layers of negotiations and laws apply to where and how we cut forests, with the nexus of that regulatory work occurring at the Department of Natural Resources, with some state and federal oversight.


The Continuous Improvement project has begun to organize observations of government systems around functions that are held by mulitple agencies across strata or stovepipes, but are integrated on the ground to implement ecosystem efforts.

  • Planning and Funding Systems - programs that define the target conditions and priorities of government effort, and the direct capital resources towards those efforts.
  • Regulation and Mitigation Systems - programs that require disclosure and evaluate the effects of private or public actions, and then constrain or require compensation for those actions.
  • Observation and Learning Systems - programs that measure or track the status of social or ecological systems, and are thereby able to observe how programs and efforts affect our collective systems.