Letter | Habitat improvement
June 22, 2011 · Updated 12:44 PM
I just received some e-mail from the National Audubon Society. Its title was “Raise your voice for Birds.” Audubon has identified more than 20 “common birds” that are in trouble. One of them is our own, the “Rufous Hummingbird, a West Coast native, whose numbers have declined 60 percent over the past four decades.” That is within our lifetime. “Beyond the inspiration birds offer, we humans understand innately that their fate is linked with our own. Ultimately, by raising our voices for birds, we are raising our voices for all life on Earth.”
This is why I am always stressing habitat improvement, and the least expensive habitat improvement is planting native plants. There are over 260 Washington native plants that can be used for landscaping in Washington. They are beautiful, don’t require fertilizers, and when planted in the right place don’t require summer water, once established.
Cities can pass ordinances to improve the environment. San Francisco, on the sale of a residence, requires that all toilets use 1.28 gallons or less per flush, or they have to be replaced before the sale can occur. Here is a section from Issaquah’s landscaping requirements, Chapter 18.12 Landscaping and Tree Requirements, 18.12.140 Landscape standards and specifications:
F. Plant Selection: All plants shall be adapted to their sites (sun exposure, cold hardiness, moisture requirements, soil type, soil pH, etc.). Plants with differing environmental/cultural requirements shall not be used together if desirable circumstances cannot be provided for both. New plant materials shall consist of native or drought-tolerant varieties or nonnative species that have adapted to the climate conditions of the greater Issaquah region (see the list of native trees and shrubs for wildlife habitat in the Issaquah area available at the Permit Center). All plants shall be selected taking into consideration the mature size of the plant and the space allowed for the plant to grow unobstructed (i.e., large native conifers are not appropriate in densely built areas and narrow planter beds). Plants shall be selected that are appropriate for the provided space in order to minimize persistent pruning. No plants shall be allowed that are determined to be noxious weeds per the King County Noxious Weed Control Board pursuant to the State Weed Control Law, Chapter 17.10 RCW.
Mercer Island could implement environmental requirements within the SMP and other codes and ordinances, that could be required upon the sale of the residence in addition to the building codes. Such things might be to remove or replace nonconforming structures, including over-water structures (not the residence itself), before the home could be sold, require the removal of invasive plants, and require native planting along the shoreline to meet the Army Corps of Engineers minimum vegetation requirements when a dock is installed.
Mercer Island needs to actively promote, through its ordinances and codes, shoreline habitat improvement, riparian habitat improvement and reduce habitat fragmentation all over the Island. Mercer Island needs to forget about no net loss, a minimum requirement for a SMP. This is not the right standard for Mercer Island. Mercer Island does not accept minimum standards in our schools, our homes or our lifestyles; why should we accept them for the environment? It will be 10 years before we get a chance to revise the SMP again.