Those of us living around the Chesapeake Bay, the largest marine estuary in the United States, are generally not used to thinking about the existence of the second largest marine estuary in the country, Puget Sound. The Sound is massive and has incredible bio-diversity, and is a fitting Number 2 to our Number 1. While organizations like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and their allies in and out of Congress have been staunch defenders of the Bay for many years, less national attention has been given to Puget Sound. Today, however, members of Congress from the Washington State delegation are announcing their support for a new initiative to create a National Heritage Area in 13 counties along the south side of the Sound. See the article in the Washington state newspaper “Olympian” here for details.
The designation of a National Heritage Area was new to me, so I had to look it up. According to the National Park Service’s FAQ on them, “National Heritage Areas (NHAs) are designated by Congress as places where natural, cultural, and historic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally important landscape.” They differ from many such areas in that they are not publicly owned. They are managed generally by public-private partnerships or organizations whose mission is the stewardship of the area in question. Evidently we have one National Heritage Area in Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District. It is managed by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation.
It is remarkable to me that areas of the Chesapeake do not have this designation. Personally, I’d love to see any and all approaches to saving the Bay exploited to their fullest.