We live in a changing world and every year we see the marks of those changes on the land around us. From devastating forest fires in the dry season to prolonged droughts, climate change is taking its toll. These effects are worldwide, but also hit close to home. Like many states, Washington has seen intense wildfires and smoke nearly every summer for the past few years, faced declining orca populations and salmon runs, and experienced the threat of coastal flooding. Already vulnerable communities and ecosystems are being endangered by climate change. In the face of these destructive events we must turn to creative solutions to mitigate and prevent further damage to our communities, both human and non-human.
One way to combat climate change is working to build our community’s “climate resilience,” defined as the amount of stress a system can absorb while maintaining its function in the face of climate change. While climate resilience could apply to an urban environment or a forest ecosystem, in our community estuarine habitats are crucial to building climate resilience. The sediment within estuaries like California Creek, for example, can store carbon dioxide at ten times the amount as forest soils. Indeed, if left undisturbed this “blue” carbon can be sequestered for thousands of years, keeping it out of our atmosphere and lowering CO2 levels, which mitigates climate impacts.
Along with carbon sequestration, estuaries can also work to prevent inland flooding, a concern for coastal regions as sea levels rise. When communities are faced with extreme weather, estuaries can help protect homes and infrastructure, with the wetlands surrounding estuarine habitat acting as a sponge to absorb stormwater before it can reach upland areas.
Recognizing how crucial estuarine habitats are to our community, the Whatcom Land Trust has already done extensive restoration work in the California Creek Estuary south of Blaine, and is currently working on plans with Natural Systems Designs to further restore the natural function of the tidal wetlands. The Land Trust also received a grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Coastal Wetlands Program to purchase even more land along California Creek, which would help protect thousands of more feet of shoreline and almost 100 more acres of land. Moreover, part of California Creek Estuary is in the process of becoming a public park owned and managed by the Blaine Birch Bay Park & Rec District. With all of your help and gracious support, California Creek Estuary will become a beautiful place not only for our community to enjoy, but also to serve as a buffer against a changing climate and world. The land that we protect today will help us be more resilient tomorrow!