The Salish Sea needs you. We need you. Join us.

We are a group committed to protecting the Salish Sea by advancing a Rights of the Salish Sea Resolution this fall to be followed by a legally binding initiative on the 2020 ballot.

We believe that recognition of the inherent rights of the Salish Sea to survive, thrive and regenerate its life cycles is critical to reshaping our relationship with this ecosystem.

Headlines this week have been stark. A BBC article led with “Humans threaten 1 million species with extinction.” It’s a headline that burrows into the brain and emerges from the heart in a tangle of grief and fear. It disturbs the world community’s sleep like an alarm that has no snooze button. A million species.

Looking for deliverance, the report goes on: “These trends can be halted, the study says, but it will take ‘transformative change’ in every aspect of how humans interact with nature.”

Paired with the UN report that generated these headlines, the efforts of our group, Community Rights San Juan Islands (CRSJI), can feel small and slow. An initiative that recognizes the Rights of the Salish Sea, if passed, would likely be challenged.

This spring, the city of Toledo passed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights with 61% of the vote. There, toxic algae blooms linked to industrial agriculture left the city without drinkable water several times over the years. The day after the vote, the Lake Erie Bill of Rights was challenged by a lawsuit. This week, it got hit again. It’s no secret that monied interests fight and often succeed against community efforts to protect water, land, air — in essence, a livable future for all, humans and non-humans.

So why bother?

The Rights of Nature movement challenges the long-held belief that humans sit at the top of a pyramid, all else beneath us, supporting us, a cornucopia of resources to be used at our disposal. This thinking has brought us waste, global warming and species collapse. It has driven CO2 levels above and beyond 415 parts per million. It has filled our oceans with plastics and poisoned our lakes and streams.

We’ve had it wrong and we must change. Now.

We are part of nature, woven inextricably into the web of life and utterly dependent on the strength of that web for our own survival. Imagine for a moment if our society had been built on the recognition of the inherent right of each one of those million species to survive and thrive. Would we have tipped so far into the crises before us now?

Does asserting the Rights of Nature offer us the “transformative change” mentioned in the BBC report?

We believe it does. Of course, it’s going to take all kinds of efforts to alter our course radically, but recognizing the right of all beings to survive can reset our thinking and begin to bring us back into balance. Don’t take our word for it. Try it out. Along the shoreline, in the forest, on the ferry, look around you and say, “I recognize your right to survive whole and healthy.”

Throughout the summer, look for CRSJI’s presence at farmers markets on Orcas, Lopez and in Friday Harbor.

We need folks from Orcas and San Juan Island to join us as we advance the Resolution. Please contact us if you’re interested, or if you have any questions: And check out our website and Facebook page. You can sign up for our mailing list on our contact page.

Rights of Nature progress and news

Since January, Community Rights San Juan Islands has focused on our goal to educate ourselves and others about the Salish Sea Bill of Rights. We are spending time researching the language and experience of other Community Rights and Rights of Nature efforts, as well as Legal Personhood for ecosystems efforts, and Indigenous law and treaties designed to protect nature.

The rights of nature movement continues to expand across the globe, as well as here in the US. January 11, the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and the 1855 Treaty Authority adopted Rights of Manoomin for on and off reservation protection of wild rice and the clean, fresh water resources and habitats in which it thrives. And as we write this, Toledoans for Safe Water are working hard to pass the Lake Erie Bill of Rights in the special election, where Toledoans will be voting on February 26. The Guardian covered the Lake Erie Bill of Rights initiative in a story published on February 19, saying:

“The people in Toledo have realized for a long time their water and their health was in danger from excessive pollution in the lake. Over the years they called for the cavalry repeatedly to help them. But the cavalry never came. So they have decided to be their own cavalry.”

The Guardian, Feb 19, 2019

We are planning a retreat at the end of March where we’ll be bringing together everything we’ve learned these past few weeks and will be working hard on a new draft of the Salish Sea Bill of Rights. We’re expanding our connections within the community rights network, and will be learning from the experiences of rights of nature advocates in Oregon and Ohio as we move forward, as well as sharing information with municipalities here in WA state who are interested in rights of nature. And we continue our friendship and communication with legal scholars in BC, Canada who are working on rights of nature, too.

We meet bi-weekly, so if you’re interested in participating please join us in person or by phone or via online meeting. If you’re coming from off-island, we’ll be happy to pick you up at the ferry. Contact us so we can arrange call-in or pick-up in advance.

In solidarity with nature,

Kai, Beth, Anne, Ande and the rest of the Community Rights San Juan Islands team

Happy New Year, 2019

Happy New Year!

In early December, our group met with groups and individuals on Lopez, Orcas, and San Juan islands to discuss bringing a Rights of the Salish Sea (RoSS) initiative forward in 2019. Thank you to all who participated in those meetings! We really appreciate your support and feedback.

This update includes:

  • Summary of meetings
  • Participating in CRSJI and how you can help
  • Goals for 2019
  • Related news


The idea of rights of nature resonated with most of the people we interacted with and support for broader protections for the Salish Sea was nearly universal. Our group remains committed to pursuing the Rights of the Salish Sea but we have decided that we will aim for the 2020 ballot.

We circulated the RoSS draft initiative among some former council members and people with experience in county and marine policy. Again, there is strong support for what we’re doing but questions arose about the specifics of the draft. We recognize that the processes for implementation and enforcement of rights of nature laws are a work in progress and that we need more time to create an initiative that reflects the concerns and inclinations of our county.

We also met with students with the University of Victoria’s new Joint Common Law and Indigenous Law program. The group is well engaged in indigenous communities and are hoping to build on our meeting toward cross border efforts. Additionally, we realized the need to become familiar with the varied meanings and implications of ‘rights,’ specifically, in this case, in indigenous communities. Again, the message was to slow down, something that is hard to do, given the urgent need to protect our region, our waters.

We are inspired by the turn-out and by the questions asked at the December events, and we look forward to building on that in whatever way we can.


Our core group on Lopez continues to meet regularly. We are looking for people on San Juan Island and on Orcas to form core groups as well. If you interested in helping coordinate a group on your island, or participating in meetings on Lopez, please let us know. We can arrange pick up/drop off at ferries and try to accommodate meeting timings for the ferry whenever possible. And if you want to participate by phone or Skype we can arrange that too.

Please follow us on Facebook:

and bookmark our web site:

We have identified several areas for further research and education, so if you’d like to get more deeply involved, please contact us. And if you have ideas for how you want to help, please let us know!


We are still working on a more detailed plan for 2019, but overall, our goals include:

  • Education: Further educate ourselves about other Salish Sea groups, indigenous law, and rights of nature efforts in the region and around the world.
  • Speakers: Bring speakers to the county to inspire and educate us, and help spread the word about rights of nature.
  • Outreach: Establish core groups on Orcas and San Juan Island that meet regularly and have committed leaders who will work with us to get the word out about rights of nature for the Salish Sea.
  • Fundraising: Continue fundraising to support the group’s efforts to cover basic expenses (web site, outreach, travel, speakers, etc).


A group based in Gig Harbor and coordinating with us and other efforts around the Salish Sea have created a petition declaring rights of the Southern Residents. If you are interested, you can read the petition here and sign if you so desire. The effort aligns with ours, but asks specifically for rights for the SRKWs:

Interest in strengthening cross-border efforts on behalf of the Salish Sea is manifesting in the development of a conference in late May on Pender Island, British Columbia.The purpose of this conference is to gather First Nations, municipalities and other interested parties together to create a legal framework for the protection of the Salish Sea based in Indigenous legal orders and the rights of nature.


Here’s to a productive year working towards rights for the Salish Sea in 2019. We hope to see you at one of our events soon and please get in touch if you have any questions, comments, or want to volunteer to help more directly.