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New Beginnings

Q & A with the departing director of the Conservancy’s Puget Sound Program

Chris Davis, the director of the Conservancy’s Puget Sound Program, has been named the Policy Advisor for Carbon Markets to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has made combatting climate change one of the centerpieces of his administration.

On April 29, Gov. Inslee announced a series of next steps to reduce carbon pollution in Washington state and improve energy independence through use of clean energy.

Gov. Inslee also announced a Carbon Emission Reduction Task Force that includes elected officials and tribal, business and labor leaders.

In his seven years as Puget Sound Program Director for The Nature Conservancy, Chris has helped to create strong collaborations among diverse stakeholders. That’s a strength he’ll bring to this new work with Gov. Inslee.

As he’s leaving the Conservancy after seven years, he reflects on where he’s come from and where he’s going. 

Q: What’s special about working on conservation for Puget Sound?
A: The story in Puget Sound is that we still have a rich, productive ecosystem in the economic heart of Washington. We have to restore what remains of that ecosystem, and at the same time expand economic opportunity for people.

It’s so important to engage all the forces that affect that balance, including business and labor. Businesses in the Puget Sound region include five or six of the world’s largest brands. The beauty of this place helps them attract great talent, and they have an economic stake in ensuring its ecological future.

The other part of that is the sheer joy of being involved with Puget Sound. I have great memories of kayaking with staff and partners on Hood Canal, pulling up to pick oysters on a beach, and watching a black bear come down out of the woods to find its own supper. Or coming down the Sauk River on a 27-degree January day, counting eagles under a clear blue sky, and having to stop when we got to 300 because we just couldn’t keep counting.

Q: What are you proudest of in your time at the Conservancy?
A: We’ve taken the experience of doing our own on-the-ground restoration work, for example at Fisher Slough and Port Susan Bay, and really used those as pilot projects to learn and share how to do restoration that benefits nature and people. From that experience, we’ve created a movement, a collection of groups changing how they work on rivers and floodplains around Puget Sound.

And the state Legislature has demonstrated its support and affirmation for this way of working by funding more and bigger restoration projects around Puget Sound. Today there are more than 10 projects underway on 1,700 acres around major rivers in Puget Sound, and more to come next year.

Q: What are you looking forward to in your new position?
A: When you do conservation work, you are always thinking about how is it going to persist in the face of climate change. This is an opportunity to engage deeply with that challenge, in a state where support is strong for tackling the challenge, and to work for a leader, Gov. Inslee, who is a national leader on the issue and who wants to go further.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

 

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