Letter to the editor: A year of celebrations, changes for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership

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The year 2022 is slated to be a big year of celebrations and changes for the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. First, let’s talk about celebrations. The largest habitat restoration project in the history of the lower Columbia River, the Steigerwald Reconnection Project at the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge, will be finished in April 2022. This $31 million, 952-acre habitat restoration project will restore and improve fish passage, expand recreation opportunities, and reduce flood risks — three outcomes certainly worthy of celebration. 

Next, let’s talk about changes. The past few years changed us. They undoubtedly changed everyone. A global health pandemic, a long overdue awakening to the systemic racism in our society, and new leadership at our organization sparked thoughtful and powerful conversations at the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership. These conversations all had a common theme: Community voices must be centered in every project, program and solution that we implement. 

Recognizing the importance of this common theme, the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership updated its mission statement for the first time in the organization’s 26-year history. Our new mission statement is to restore and care for the waters and ecosystems of the Lower Columbia River, for current and future generations of fish, wildlife and people. 

The Estuary Partnership’s previous mission statement — to preserve and enhance the water quality of the estuary to support its biological and human communities — served the organization well for more than two decades. To date, the region has restored or protected nearly 30,000 acres of lower Columbia River estuary habitat, and the Estuary Partnership has provided almost half a million hours of environmental education to 89,800 students and engaged 14,340 volunteers in stewardship activities. 

As we prepare to celebrate the reopening of the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the coming months, we are also gearing up — with our new mission statement — to face the serious challenges that lie ahead. Challenges like salmon recovery and climate resilience require the centering of community voices because the health and well-being of the Lower Columbia River and its species cannot be separated from the health and well-being of its people and communities. We hope you will join us. Find out more at estuarypartnership.org.




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