We are a group of citizens passionate about our natural world and doing all we can to heal our connection with this fragile blue dot we call home.

Photo by Jill Hein.



Working to bring legal rights of nature to the Southern Resident Killer Whales including the Salish Sea to protect her inhabitants and ecosystems.

And as noted above: We are working to establish legal rights for the Southern Resident Killer Whale. Under our current legal system humans and corporations have legal standing but animals and ecosystems don’t. We believe that animals and ecosystems should also have legal rights and be able to defend those rights in court.


We held a workshop to share our understanding of the RIGHTS OF NATURE on May 5, 2018. Since that time, we have been working to collaborate, connect and build a coalition to support our cause. The more we unite, the louder our voices will be. Our intention is to do all we can to save the Southern Resident Killer Whales and the Salish Sea from harm.

The Southern Resident Killer Whales numbers have declined to only 74 remaining. This species is unique to our area, have a dialect all their own, and unlike other killer whales, prefer Chinook salmon which is also endangered.

In this space, we will provide a list of upcoming events to keep you informed about what some other organizations are doing. For a more thorough list and articles about the rights of nature, please join our Facebook group, Legal Rights for the Salish Sea.

Thanks for the Puget Sound Partnership for this information! We’re looking forward to your participation in the upcoming meeting of the Southern Resident Orca Task Force. The meeting takes place this week, October 17 and 18, at the Landmark Convention Center, in Tacoma.

The agenda for the meeting is here.

There are several ways you can be involved in the meeting and in Task Force deliberations:

  • Watch the meeting on TVW, Washington state’s public affairs network.
  • Review the materials on the the Task Force website and provide your comments in the online form.
  • Attend the meeting in person. Both days of the meeting are open to the public, and observers are welcome.
  • Provide public comment in writing at the meeting. A public comment box will be provided at the sign-in table for the meeting.
  • Provide oral public comment. The process for providing oral public comment is outlined below.


Because we are anticipating that many people will wish to provide public comment in person to the Task Force, the following process will be used to help ensure equity and fairness in inviting people to speak. 

  • Public comment will be heard from 5-8 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 17.  No public comment will be heard on Thursday. Oct. 18.
  • People may sign up to speak until Wednesday at 6 pm.
  • People who wish to speak will be asked to sign up based on their place of residence. They will be asked to record their name on a sign-in sheet and on a note card. The sign-in sheets and note cards will be color coded to signify the individual’s place of residence as follows: 
    • Eastern Washington counties: Adams, Asotin, Benton, Chelan, Columbia, Douglas, Ferry, Franklin, Garfield, Grant, Kittitas, Klickitat, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Skamania, Spokane, Stevens, Walla Walla, Whitman, Yakima
    • Southwest Washington and coastal counties: Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis, Wahkiakum, Pacific, Grays Harbor
    • Urban Puget Sound counties: Thurston, Pierce, King, Snohomish
    • Other Puget Sound counties: Mason, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, Island, San Juan, Skagit, Whatcom
    • Other states/countries

When the public comment period begins:

  • Tribal leaders/elders will be recognized first.
  • Elected officials will be recognized next.
  • Names of members of the general public will then be randomly drawn, rotating between the areas of the state listed above. Names will be drawn from the other state/other country region at the co-chairs’ discretion.

If you are called to speak, please observe the following ground rules for public comment:

  • Each speaker will be limited to 2 minutes.  No one may grant their time to another speaker. 
  • There will be lights indicating when your time is running out, and you are expected to stop when the red light indicates your time is done.

If you are not called to speak, or are attending as an observer:

  • Please do not clap for individuals who are speaking. Clapping takes time that could otherwise be used to provide more people a chance to speak. Observers may, however, show support by raising/waving their hands silently, or by standing.
  • You may submit your written comments on the form provided at the meeting and leave it in the public-comment box provided. You may also submit your comments electronically.

Those who would like to attend the meeting and require special accommodation should contact Jennifer Goodenough: email jennifer.goodenough@psp.wa.gov; desk phone 360-628-0050; TTY 1-800-833-6388.


LEGAL RIGHTS FOR THE SALISH SEA – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Salish Sea?

The Salish Sea stretches from the north end of the Strait of Georgia in Canada to the south end of the Puget Sound and west to include the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

More than 8 million of us live in the communities surrounding the Salish Sea. Our lives and well-being depend on the health of the Salish Sea:

  • It provides much of the oxygen we breathe.
  • It protects us from extreme weather events.
  • It absorbs and sequesters climate-change-causing carbon dioxide emissions.
  • It is a source of food and livelihoods.

Our futures are entwined! Yet despite numerous environmental protections enacted over the years, the Salish Sea is in trouble. Nationally, 53% of ocean and coastal waters are listed as impaired, and more than 113 marine species are considered “at risk or vulnerable to extinction.”  This decline includes our Southern Resident Killer Whale population—only 74 of these whales remain today, despite being protected under the Endangered Species Act since 2005,and their future is increasingly uncertain.

Clearly, we need a new approach.

What does is mean for the Salish Sea to have “legal rights”?

Our petition proposes a new law defining the Salish Sea as a “legal entity subject to basic rights”—no longer property and owned by the State, but instead acknowledged as an indivisible and living whole with inherent rights including the right to life, health and well-being, diversity, clean water and air, and full and prompt restoration and representation.

How would this work?

First, we’d need to work with the communities surrounding the Salish Sea to create a marine protected area that includes all of the Salish Sea. Then we’d establish a comprehensive and multi-stakeholder management board responsible for overseeing all decisions that might affect the health of the Sea. Different from most management boards, this board’s members would serve as “guardians” responsible for representing the Salish Sea’s interests in decisions and disputes.

Local communities would be empowered to defend and protect the Salish Sea—and that would include holding accountable those who violate the community’s rights to a healthy environment.

Don’t we already have enough environmental laws and regulations?

Despite international laws and agreements designed to sustain and protect the ocean, marine biodiversity and health is in decline. This is because we largely value the ocean as a resource and property rather than as a life-giving partner.

As a result, many of our current laws still allow pollution and degradation, which only slows environmental decline rather than preventing it or restoring environmental health.

Consider two of our current statutes in Washington State: The Shorelines Management Act and the Public Trust Doctrine. Both protect the environment of the Salish Sea primarily for the public, or human communities.

The new law would protect the Salish Sea for all species and future generations.

The new law would require pre-emptive protective action on behalf of the Salish Sea, rather than correcting decisions once damage has already been inflicted.

The new law is meant to complement and further evolve existing legislation, not replace it. It is meant to provide a new “holistic” lens requiring that all decisions, powers and functions that involve or that may affect the Salish Sea take into account its inherent rights. It also ensures that the Salish Sea has human representation of its interests in decision-making and disputes.

What would this law mean for my property rights?

Existing private property rights would not be infringed upon. However, the new law would mean that an owner of property couldn’t cause “substantial harm” to the natural entities that not only exist on the property but also depend on it. It would seek to forward a vision in which humans have a responsibility toward nature—where they are part of, and not apart from, the earth community.

What does this mean for human and indigenous rights?

Our effort is part of the “Rights of Nature” movement, which DOES NOT eliminate recognition of human rights but rather DOES level the playing field so that not only corporations and humans have rights. With this approach, ALL relevant stakeholders and their rights will be represented including fishermen, industry, tourism, indigenous groups, and non-human species.

Is this actually working anywhere?

Yes. We are part of a worldwide and growing effort:

  • Municipalities in the U.S., including those in Pittsburgh and Santa Monica, have recently passed Rights of Nature laws to help protect their human and non-human communities.
  • Ecuador, Bolivia and Mexico City now protect Rights of Nature in their constitutions.
  • Recent New Zealand treaty agreements declare a river, national park, and sacred mountain as legal entities with “all the rights of a legal person.”
  • Colombia declared both the Atrato River and Colombia Amazon as a “legal entity subject to basic rights.”

Want to know more about the Rights of Nature movement and how it will benefit our communities?

Earth Law for the Puget Sound and wider Salish Sea

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

Movement Rights

CELDF Rights of Nature






For more information about our group, please visit our Facebook page, Legal Rights for the Salish Sea. Thank you!