In 150 interviews sponsored by the Sa-Heh-Wa-Mish Stewardship Initiative, we found that residents living around Oakland Bay are having a hard time connecting their actions at home with water quality in the bay. Owners of homes with septic systems that have not been checked in the last five years see no reason to inspect their systems. Most livestock owners feel that they have so few animals that the waste their animals produce could not possibly harm Oakland Bay. Yet the water quality results tell a different story–we know for a fact that human and ruminant fecal bacteria are ubiquitous.
The Oakland Bay results mirror surveys from elsewhere around Puget Sound. That surprised us because we think that the residents around Oakland Bay have a closer relationship to the bay than might be found elsewhere around Puget Sound. We thought the environmental connections would be more obvious. Oakland Bay residents at least see it everyday when they drive past, many have jobs dependent upon the shellfish or timber industries, or they recreate in some form or fashion there.
With such close contact, the fact that local residents do not connect their actions at home with the health of Oakland Bay does not bode well for the rest of Puget Sound. We would expect that elsewhere where residents have far less awareness, it will be an even tougher sell to improve land stewardship. If we can’t build an effective program in Oakland Bay, we won’t be able to do it elsewhere!
For more info, the full results of the interviews can be downloaded from this site.