Dear Friends, 


We have recently lost two great members of our communities, tribal leaders who have done so much to support those around them. I had the great honor of serving and collaborating on national political platforms with my friend and colleague, leader Michael Finely.


I will always recall how he rose with determination during critical times in Indian Country and filled the room with a powerful voice that reflected the love and dedication he held for the members of Confederate Tribes of Colville Reservation. 



We lost a young leader, and he will be remembered when we hear the deep pounding his handmade drums, the running of the deer in the woods and in the memories of family, colleagues and friends.


Unfortunately, at the end of June we also said goodbye to Port Gamble S’Klallam Chairman Jeromy Sullivan. 


Chairman Sullivan was a dear friend of mine, and he led the way for so much incredible growth, both boosting their economy and supporting environmental renewal in his community. I’m proud to have called him a friend, and will miss his company and his passion dearly.



This summer our communities have suffered incredible losses and as we look to healing and continuing the work of the giants who we honor in carrying their spirit forward, I want to acknowledge that grief is a process and kindness to ourselves and others is critical as we continue to heal as a community.


Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy” 
Rep. Debra Lekanoff


NCEL National Forum 2023 


Friends, we have talked a number of times about the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), which empowers a nonpartisan network of legislative champions to protect, conserve, and improve the natural and human environment.


I’m proud to serve on the NCEL Board, and am always excited when I hear from my fellow members and board members. In fact, one of the great benefits of my position is the amount of information that comes my way from other state legislators from across the nation.



Last week, I had the joy of attending the NCEL National Forum in Indianapolis, spending four days surrounded by like minded, dedicated civil servants. It is always so uplifting to see the passion and drive to collaborate on these important issues, and I am so grateful to have the ongoing opportunity to work with this incredible organization. 


According to their website, “The Forum is an opportunity for environmental state legislators from across the country to network and exchange ideas on a variety of environmental issues, learn about trending solutions, and collaborate on an agenda for a healthier planet and healthier people.”


For more information on NCEL and the National Forum, click here


Thank you to everyone who made this incredible event possible! It is with your continued dedication that we will be able to leave a beautiful world for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.



Major Climate Win in Montana 


Those of you who have followed my Fantastic Friday newsletter for a while will recognize a core truth in my work – our efforts today must always keep the next seven generations in mind. It is up to us to leave a world they will be excited to enjoy. 


That said, sometimes the younger generation steps up and takes these matters into their own hands, like a recent court case in Montana. 


Earlier this week, a Montana state court ruled in favor of young people who argued that the state has violated their right to a “clean and healthful environment,” specifically through the promotion and ongoing use of fossil fuels. 



According to the Washington Post: 


“The court determined that a provision in the Montana Environmental Policy Act has harmed the state’s environment and the young plaintiffs by preventing Montana from considering the climate impacts of energy projects. The provision is accordingly unconstitutional, the court said.


The ruling — which invalidates the provision blocking climate considerations — also represents a rare victory for climate activists who have tried to use the courts to push back against government policies and industrial activities they say are harming the planet. In this case, it involved 16 young Montanans, ranging in age from 5 to 22, who brought the nation’s first constitutional and first youth-led climate lawsuit to go to trial.”


Read more from the Washington Post here.


This is an incredible step in the right direction, and one that I hope sets a precedent across the country of strong action in favor of our youth, and our planet. 


We do not want our children to look back and ask why we did not do more to help protect our home, this planet. I will always hold the health of our environment paramount in my work, and I’m happy to have you with me as we continue this important work for generations to come.  



Water Banking Pilot Grants 


Next, I have two updates for you this week regarding water use and the ongoing drought here in Washington State. 


First, the second round of the Department of Ecology’s Water Banking Pilot grants is currently open! 



According to the Department of Ecology: 


“In July 2021, the Legislature provided $14 million in funding to buy water for development of water banks in rural headwater counties. In July 2023, the legislature reappropriated unspent funds, and now up to $11.3 million is available for eligible water banking projects. This funding will help public entities and their partners preserve water rights in their basin for local use and to protect streamflows.”


Grant awards will fund water right purchases for ready-to-go water banking projects in eligible counties, where water rights are identified and ready for purchase. One-third of each water right acquired under this program will be set aside strictly for permanent instream use to support streamflows and aquatic resources.


To learn more about the Pilot grants, click here



Illegal Water Use in Whatcom County 


Second, in Whatcom County, RAN General Partnership was recently fined $12,000 for “illegally irrigating about 40 acres of crops in Whatcom County in June and July of 2023.”


According to the Department of Ecology: 


“RAN repeatedly ignored Ecology’s attempts to gain voluntary compliance, culminating in Ecology’s issuance of a Cease-and-Desist order to stop diverting surface or groundwater in July 2022.


Despite the order, RAN planted approximately 40 acres of crops in the fall of 2022 and irrigated them during the summer of 2023.


The Nooksack Basin has had an instream flow rule since 1985 and junior water right holders are often curtailed due to low streamflows. 


Based on irrigation guidance developed for Washington agriculture, Ecology estimates that  irrigating the RAN property requires 54.6 acre-feet – more than 17 million gallons – of water per year.”


Read the full release from the Department of Ecology here


During a statewide crisis like this drought, it is so critical that Washingtonians band together to do whatever they can to help ease the impact. This includes individuals like you and me, but also our farmers and corporations that use tremendous amounts of water to provide their services. 


In this case, understanding where water is being used in the state, particularly in areas hit hard by the drought, is so important for planning and mitigation. When companies like RAN use water they are not supposed to, it harms us all and it makes the process of supporting our communities harder. 


Together we can ensure that the people and growers who need our support the most get it, but we all have to buy in and do our part to lessen the detrimental impacts of this drought. 



EPA Clears Plan for Controlled Burns 


Finally, earlier this week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved an updated smoke management plan for Washington that will make it easier for our state agencies to do prescribed burns and help rejuvenate our ecosystems. 


Controlled, prescribed burns of forestland reduce the build up of fuel on the forest floor, reducing the likelihood and intensity of future forest fires, and are beneficial to certain species that require intense heat during their life cycle. 



This new plan will refine the way controlled fires are approved, managed, and reviewed, and will help the state reduce smoke impacts on local communities as we are better able to control for variables. 


Thank you to everyone at the EPA, and the Washington State Department of Ecology for all your hard work on this front – it is so important that we understand what our environment and local ecosystems need to thrive, and this is a great step towards helping to not only protect our communities from wildfires, but also support continued growth in our natural world.