The Sustainable Lands Strategy (SLS) was convened in 2010 by Snohomish County, Tulalip and Stillaguamish Tribes, state and federal agencies, and agricultural and environmental stakeholders to improve coordination and generate progress for fish, farm, and flood management interests.
Balancing the needs of various land use actions on a single landscape can understandably lead to conflict. The key behind the SLS is its mission to develop understanding, relationships, and strategies to create and achieve a shared vision and beneficial outcomes for our watershed. Each participant comes to the table with their own perspectives and desired future state, and a willingness to work with other perspectives to make sure our watershed is healthy, vibrant, and resilient.
Why is SLS Needed?
Over 80 percent of the designated farmland in Snohomish County is in the floodplain and estuaries. These areas have competing interests for habitat, salmon recovery, and water management. Protection of farmland has decreased primarily due to rapid urban growth but also due to habitat restoration projects. Tribal treaty rights, and the Endangered Species Act provides legal mandates for salmon recovery. The Growth Management Act requires the county to simultaneously protect resource lands and critical areas.
These obligations – farmland protection, salmon recovery, and flood management – within rivers and estuaries, have generated a clash of interests, frequently leading to mistrust, anger, fear, regulatory friction, litigation, and gridlock for farms, flood control districts, and for salmon habitat and water quality projects.
By establishing a conversation between historically contentious groups, projects benefiting fish, farm and flood interests can come to fruition.
The SLS Steering Committee consists of up to eight people with farm, fish or flood control interests.