The following is written by Kim Latterell and Tricia Bruckbauer:
We are embarking on another summer and will undoubtedly be experiencing the best of what Western Washington has to offer. These are the days that we don’t like to tell non-Washingtonians about; we would be content if they kept on believing that we exist in constant drizzle and dreary days as they continue their journey through and not permanently to our state.
As residents of the Pacific Northwest, we believe we live in one of the most beautiful regions on Earth. From our two mountain ranges, our famous Sound, our evergreen forests and our many rivers, this terrain is truly a special place of creation. We are afforded not only stunning vistas and scenery, but also amazing public access to these areas in which to pray, reflect, hike and play.
Here in the Northwest, we play host to some of the Earth’s most diverse ecosystems and spectacular species. We have whales, eagles, wolves, bears, frogs, fish and countless others. Some of these species have benefited from the protection of the Endangered Species Act, a stewardship tool that has helped bring 29 species back from the brink of extinction since it was signed into law by President Nixon over 40 years ago. The gray whale, peregrine falcon, Canada goose, California brown pelican and others that call Washington home for at least a portion of the year have all been endangered. But through conservation efforts by local organizations, private landowners and our dedicated regional and federal agencies, the fragile populations of these animals have recovered and many endangered animals have been delisted.
No matter where on God’s Earth conservation of habitat and species occurs, it should be a cause that people of faith champion. Scripture calls us to be stewards of creation while reminding us that we too are created beings, interdependent with all species for survival. We have been given the capabilities to protect or destroy and, by preserving the habitats of our fellow creatures, we are being the faithful stewards God calls us to be.
We need leaders today who understand the importance of resource and species preservation. Washington is home to several strong advocates. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who hails from Seattle and has climbed Mount Rainier seven times, has led our country in habitat and species conservation. U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are advocates of our state’s natural wonders. Sen. Cantwell for instance, has been a champion of efforts to proactively protect newly-thriving wild Pacific salmon populations – or “salmon strongholds” – so they never become endangered again. Like removing the Elwha Dam in Olympic National Park, removal of unnecessary dams and restoration of essential habitat can have a big impact on restoring salmon populations.
We are aware as human beings that our time on Earth is temporary and fleeting. Therefore we have an obligation to future generations who will inherit the earth in the condition we leave it. We will be handing down a more vastly desecrated planet with far fewer essential-to-life species if we do not continue to conserve and preserve the vital habitat needed for all life forms to flourish. Especially in the Northwest, where we are constantly surrounded by beauty, our outdoor oases serve as wonderful reminders of creation at its best, and offer travelers numerous destinations for families, educators, and wildlife organizations to bring children to, introducing them and each new generation to the marvelous and intricate web of life that God the creator has provided. In Washington, few experiences can rival the majesty and divine inspiration felt by watching a pod of whales breach, those leviathans created by God for the sport of it, or of a falcon or bald eagle diving into clear and clean streams for their food. These, and so many more opportunities, offer true communion with God and serve as a stunning reminders of creations power and God’s deep and ongoing love for all of life.
So, as we celebrate the beginning of this wonderful summer season, we invite our Washington champions of a healthy, natural environment to continue supporting the Endangered Species Act and other conservation programs that allow our vibrant network of species to thrive for centuries to come. All life, and in particular, all human life, depends on a healthy, robust and sustainable environment.
Kim Latterell serves as bishop’s associate for the Southwestern Washington Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Tricia Bruckbauer hails from Buckley, Washington, and is a former parishioner of Rev. Latterell at Creator Lutheran Church in Bonney Lake. She currently serves as the program director for Creation Justice Ministries, a national organization representing the creation care policies of 38 Christian denominations.