The cultural and natural heritage of the Greenway informs our future RESILIENCE and the restoration and renewal of the ecosystems that sustain all life.
Over the past 50 years, the region has been an incubator for a number of innovative conservation projects. The clean-up of Lake Washington in the 1950s established regional water treatment systems that influenced the Clean Water Act. The Teanaway Community Forest—the first of its kind in the state—was created as part of the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan to preserve a free-flowing tributary supporting vital fish and wildlife habitat, water supply, working forestland, and recreation. An expansive and still-growing network of rails-to-trails offers active transportation options to and from major population and employment centers in the Seattle metro area. King County’s farmland preservation program was the nation’s first public funding initiative to preserve working farms. This, in turn, influenced King County’s Land Conservation Initiative to conserve the highest priority habitat, open space, riverways, farms, and trails within a generation. In the early 2000s, Greenway Trust worked with WSDOT and other conservation organizations to develop and construct wildlife bridges and underpasses at Snoqualmie Pass, providing more opportunities for safe travel and further increasing wildlife connectivity in the Greenway NHA.
There is much more work to be done to repair and regenerate the Greenway landscape and our relationship with local culture and history. Invasive species have choked out native habitat, and climate change threatens the balance of water and wildfire in ecosystems that depend upon both. The history and culture of marginalized people has been erased or set aside, excluding them from the design and building of solutions that can help all of us make this place whole again. Confronting this history and bringing an even wider, more diverse group of partners to the table gives the communities of the Greenway NHA their best chance to thrive in the coming century.
As the original stewards of this land, local tribes apply knowledge passed down through generations to provide an understanding about how to live with the land and how to nurture relationships with all the creatures that share our home. Landmark treaty right cases, like the Boldt decision of 1974, affirmed Indigenous people’s role as co-managers in the stewardship and recovery of salmon and other fish species. Working with government agencies, nonprofits, and other partners, tribes are active leaders of habitat protection and ecosystem recovery throughout the region. Fish passage projects and streamside restoration are drawing upon Indigenous knowledge and scientific understanding to better bring our lands and waters back into ecological balance.
After decades of fire suppression, land management agencies have begun working with local tribes to reestablish the use of fire as a means of promoting ecosystem health. At the same time, agencies are further challenged by a changing climate and the additional risk of catastrophic fire these conditions bring about. Adapting to these challenges requires new ways of thinking and new relationships to forests and fire. Throughout the region, agencies and community groups are experimenting with new climate-adaptive tree planting regimes, with local clean energy projects, carbon sequestration, and more.
The Greenway NHA sits at a crossroads of cultural exchange and human connection. The Greenway coalition of the future will include and look to the leadership of its diverse community, from the Indigenous tribes whose connection to the land is very much a way of life, to new arrivals looking for an introduction and a welcoming space within the region’s rich and complex heritage.