For five years editor Matt Winters has followed the efforts of the nonprofit Willapa Alliance for the Chinook Observer, based in Long Beach, Wash.
Matt Winters: "Economic
development is long-term and hard to nail down sometimes. Groups
like the Willapa Alliance can work for years at a time without
knowing their impact. At first, Ecotrust and the Nature Conservancy
were fairly dictatorial toward what was ostensibly a local group.
But they've learned.
"The alliance has good
people who know how to cut through the local jealousy and suspicion
that attends any group that has an environmental handle. There are
still plenty of folks who are suspicious of them. But the county is
in the throes of a big transition. In the last census, 55 percent
of the residents were newcomers, and the trend has accelerated.
Long-time residents who would have resisted change are in a
"The alliance has served as a
clearinghouse for money flowing in for displaced timber workers.
Now they've got a $300,000 grant to restore the Bear River
watershed. It still has some wild runs of chum, also known as dog
salmon. Indians fed them to their dogs - it's a little oilier than
coho or chinook.
"Around here we also call
Willapa Bay Shoalwater Bay. It's more a river delta that's been
pushed in by the Pacific, and our peninsula is really a sand bar
closing off much of the bay. Mud shrimp infest the bay, partly,
it's thought, because chum isn't here to hold them down. The chum
were intentionally killed off to help the coho and chinook. So mud
shrimp and invading spartina (grass) are the big ecological issues.
Up to 1 billion pounds of mud shrimp in the bay
churn up the mud into a thick milkshake and make it difficult if
not impossible to grow oysters, which is one of our largest
employers, and the underlying reason why the bay has stayed as
clean as it is. They (the oyster growers) are the bedrock