On Friday, May 11, the Snohomish chapter of the National Sierra Club and the Marysville based marine mammal protection group Project SeaWolf, launched a Snohomish County-wide campaign to draw attention to the growing problem of toxic surface water run-off from private home lawns. "Spring naturally brings out the gardening spirit in us," says SeaWolf boardmember Robert Wood, "Yet few homeowners realize the overwhelming accumulative impact that the addition of weed killers, insecticides and fertilizers have on salmon and their habitat, when these toxins wash off our lawns and flow into the local streams and wetlands."

Washington State Representative Hans Dunshee and Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers were on hand to help launch the campaign. The centerpoint of the new public information campaign involves the free distribution of small "Salmon-friendly" lawn signs stating that the homeowner has committed not to use lawn care practices that cause salmon decline. These signs will look similar and compete with the small signs deployed by pesticide and lawn care companies. The yard signs will be distributed for free to homeowners who make a commitment not to use toxic chemicals, and to limit yard watering, for the remainder of the 2001 season. The campaign is a combined educational effort between the Snohomish Chapter of the National Sierra Club and Marysville-based Project SeaWolf, a marine mammal protection and advocacy group.

At the event, Representative Dunshee formally launched the campaign by installing the first lawn sign on his own lawn, and announcing his own personal commitment to refrain from using salmon-harming gardening practices for the remainder of the year. Snohomish County Councilmember Dave Somers also commented on the County’s commitment to help recover salmon in the immediate region.

"Everyone talks about the need to do something concrete to bring back our salmon," says Phyllis Mains, Chair of the Snohomish Sierra Club, "And now we’re offering a personal step that the everyday home-owner can take." Declined salmon stocks in the Northwest have adversely impacted recreation opportunities, tribal, and commercial fishing operations and the general balance of the ecosystem in recent years. "Perhaps the most profound visible impact of these reduced stocks is the failing health and decline of local orca whale populations," adds Wood of SeaWolf. "With this campaign, we hope that we can shift awareness of the problem back to one of its ‘grassroots’ sources... if you want to keep the whales, salmon or eagles healthy, start in your own yard."

"Reducing the household run-off problem requires the public’s proactive involvement," says Mains. "To make that happen, we hope to ‘shake up’ the traditional views held by homeowners -- we want them to start realizing that a clean-cut, manicured yard isn’t always a healthy lawn - in fact, it’s usually the sign that this lawn might be a source of salmon destroying toxic run-off." Wood adds, "We think these signs may work toward changing the regional homeowner's collective conscience on that level, and perhaps even making those who use the toxic lawncare products and services feel more responsible about their contribution to the declining salmon problem."

Currently, the state department of Ecology has designated 37 of Snohomish County’s water bodies as being ‘impaired’, or no longer able to sustain traditional uses by people and wildlife. Examples on that list include Allen Creek in Marysville, Lake Stevens, Quilceda Creek and the French Creek. While it is somewhat easier to trace industrial or agricultural sources of pollution, ‘non-point’, or unregulated household produced pollution sources (such as those created by fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides or other chemicals) are much harder to pinpoint and control. The campaign by the combined groups hopes to help change the public's attitude to what constitutes an 'environmentally friendly' lawn, and to encourage people to look at what they can do at home to conserve salmon habitat. A sample of the lawn sign follows this press release.

Questions about the campaign, or obtaining signs, can be answered by contacting the Sierra Club Snohomish Group at P.O. Box 273, Everett, WA 98291-0273 email, or by contacting Project SeaWolf directly.

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