Latest News

Breaking! Feds agree to more environmental scrutiny of sea walls, bulkheads on Puget Sound shoreline.

by Katie Fleming on November 13, 2019 No comments

We are happy to report a successful outcome to the bold legal action we took against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 2018. They will now have to give more scrutiny to sea walls, bulkheads or other armoring in the Salish Sea. This is a very important ruling for forage fish – who feed the salmon, who feed the Southern Resident orcas. A big thanks to our partners Sound Action, Earthjustice, and Washington Environmental Council!

Click here for the full news story from the Seattle Times.

Photo above: Natural, sediment-enriched shoreline such as the Elwha River mouth is critical for fish and other animals that in turn feed larger predators, including orcas. (Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times, 2018)

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Katie FlemingBreaking! Feds agree to more environmental scrutiny of sea walls, bulkheads on Puget Sound shoreline.

Watch our marine plastics education program in action!

by Friends of the San Juans on October 2, 2019 No comments

We enjoyed working with San Juan County students last spring during our marine plastic education and reduction program featured in this video produced by Carl Davis and the San Juan County Marine Resources Committee. Thank you so much to our project funder Keta Legacy Foundation and local artist Brook Meinhardt for helping us bring this important information to young people in our community.

Watch the video here.

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Friends of the San JuansWatch our marine plastics education program in action!

Check out our Infographic! 25 Projects in the Salish Sea Threaten Southern Resident Orcas

by Friends of the San Juans on June 20, 2019 1 comment

Friends of the San Juans just released an updated Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projections infographic that identifies an additional 2,116 ocean going vessels making 4,232 transits to and from ports in British Columbia and Washington State from 25 new or expanding proposals.

Vessel traffic from ocean-going oil tankers, container ships, bulk cargo carriers, and liquefied natural gas carriers could increase 35% according to new information.

All these projects have one thing in common; increased air and noise pollution that could affect the Southern Resident orcas ability to communicate, socialize and successfully hunt for scarce prey. More disturbance means these starving animals will work harder to catch food, further depleting their reserves and releasing toxins in their bodies. A major oil spill from propulsion fuel from any one of these vessels could cause the Southern Residents’ extinction and impact our economy.

Friends has been monitoring new and expanding terminal and refinery projects throughout the Salish Sea for five years; sharing these vessel traffic projections at transboundary forums and conferences, and informing the public and decision-makers about the need for more cumulative impact analyses to address the necessary protection of our water, wildlife, and coastal communities.

The Salish Sea Vessel Traffic Projection infographic was included in recent testimony by Friends in Victoria, BC, to the Commission of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency regarding the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 and to the U.S. Federal Government regarding the Navy’s Draft Northwest Training and Testing Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement/Overseas Environmental Impact Statement.

In 2018 there were 12,120 large, commercial ocean-going vessel transits in the Salish Sea. These vessel transits don’t include local barge traffic, anchoring, cueing, and/or bunkering (ship fueling) transits; or the many ferry boat transits, and the pleasure, fishing, and small commercial boats that share these transboundary waterways. 91% of the projected commercial vessel traffic is destined for Canada.

Approval of the Canadian Federal Government’s Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion will increase tanker traffic exporting tar sands diluted bitumen, increasing the likelihood of a 660,450 gallon or larger spill over the next ten years in Haro Strait and Boundary Pass by 800%.

A majority of these projects are in Canada. We can’t look at these project applications alone. Their cumulative impacts of underwater noise, air pollution and oil spill risk threaten our economy, environment and culture of the Salish Sea.

Click here to see the infographic and more information.

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Friends of the San JuansCheck out our Infographic! 25 Projects in the Salish Sea Threaten Southern Resident Orcas

Welcome to our 2019 legal interns!

by Friends of the San Juans on May 29, 2019 No comments

Andrew Hursh studies at Vermont Law School, focusing on environmental law, public lands, and international climate change agreements. His motivation for a public interest legal career developed out of his science background and graduate research modeling climate change effects on soils. Andrew is a backcountry enthusiast and reveres special, wild places, which need dedicated public stewards. He’s thrilled to be at “Friend of the San Juans” this summer, connect with this phenomenal place, and learn how effective advocacy is achieved.


Lancee Whetman is originally from Salt Lake City, where she grew up camping and exploring Utah’s beautiful landscapes. She obtained her B.S. in Economics from Westminster College where she studied the impacts of sustainability reporting on firm profitability. She previously interned at Salt Lake City’s Department of Sustainability and also at Utah’s economic development agency for science and technology (USTAR).  Currently, she is pursuing her J.D. at Vermont Law School in hopes of practicing environmental law. Lancee enjoys playing basketball and also volunteers on a local organic farm on San Juan Island.

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Friends of the San JuansWelcome to our 2019 legal interns!

You did it! All Orca Emergency Response Bills Passed!

by Friends of the San Juans on April 19, 2019 No comments

We all did it together! All Orca Emergency Response Bills have passed out of the Washington State House and Senate!

Thank you for your time and efforts to contact our representatives – they heard you ask for better protection of our Salish Sea.

Here’s the scoreboard for these bills – all addressing the protection and recovery of Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW) per the recommendations from the Governor’s SRKW Recovery and Task Force:

ESHB 1578 – Reducing threats to southern resident killer whales by improving the safety of oil transportation

Passed out of the House on March 7 (yeas 70; nays 28). Passed out of the Senate on April 10 (yeas 32; nays 13; excused 4).

SB 5918 – Providing whale watching guidelines in the boating safety education program 

Passed out of the Senate on March 7 (yeas 48; nays 0; excused 1). Passed out of the House on April 7 (yeas 90; nays 5; excused 3).

2SSB 5577– Concerning the protection of southern resident orca whales from vessels

Passed out of the Senate on March 7 (yeas 46; nays 3). Passed out of the House on April 15 (yeas 84; nays 13; excused 1).

SSB 5135 – Preventing toxic pollution that affects public health or the environment

Passed out of the Senate on March 7 (yeas 25; nays 24). Passed out of the House on April 15 (yeas 60; nays 37; excused 1).

2SHB 1579 – Implementing recommendations of the southern resident killer whale task force related to increasing chinook abundance

Passed out of the House on March 7 (yeas, 59; nays, 39). Passed out of the Senate on April 10 (yeas, 26; nays, 20; excused, 3).

You can click on the link to each of the bills above to see how your representatives voted (“View Roll Calls” in “Bill History”). As appropriate, a “thank you” to the reps you’ve been talking with would be a nice gesture.

“Southern Resident killer whale protection and recovery has been a priority since we co-petitioned for federal listing in 2001. We are grateful for Governor’s Inslee’s leadership in establishing the Task Force and requesting many of these bills, and for the work of Rep. Lekanoff,” said Stephanie Buffum, Friends’ Executive Director. Click here to read more from the San Juan Update.

Thank you for your voice and support!

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Friends of the San JuansYou did it! All Orca Emergency Response Bills Passed!

Watch the Video: 3/20 Protect What You Love Orca Event

by Friends of the San Juans on March 19, 2019 No comments

On March 20 in Friday Harbor, Friends of the San Juans explored the plight of the Southern Resident orcas and engaged the community in actions that can help their recovery. Click here to watch the video of the full event.

Find out what the Southern Resident orcas need to survive and thrive including how San Juan County shorelines contribute to orca health; how many Chinook salmon are needed to support the population; how the Snake, Frasier, Columbia, Skagit and other river systems impact the orca; and the current status of state and federal legislation that would protect and recover Southern Resident orcas. Find out how to make your voice heard and how you can help protect and recover the Southern Resident orcas.

Click here to see the list of (and talking points for) elected officials and other leaders who need to hear from us regarding Southern Resident orca protection and recovery.

The featured speakers include Stephanie Buffum, Friends of the San Juans’ Executive Director, and Dr. Deborah Giles, Research Scientist for the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology and Research Director for Wild Orca.

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Friends of the San JuansWatch the Video: 3/20 Protect What You Love Orca Event

Local high school students support Environmental Priorities in Olympia with us!

by Katie Fleming on February 14, 2019 No comments

In late January we traveled to Olympia with six high school students from Friday Harbor High and Spring Street International Schools to participate in the 2019 Environmental Priorities Coalition’s lobby day. We joined 500 other Washington State citizens and environmental groups to promote a transition to 100% clean electricity, orca emergency response, oil spill prevention, and reducing plastic pollution.

“Going to Olympia to see our government in action was really informative and inspiring,” said Ayla Ridwan, sophomore at Friday Harbor High School.

During lobby day, we met with our 40th district representatives Debra Lekanoff and Jeff Morris. We discussed our support for electrifying state ferries, addressing climate change, protecting Southern Resident orcas and reducing plastic pollution in the Salish Sea.

“We want to see policies passed this year that restore shoreline habitats, ban single-use plastic bags state-wide, and implement a clean energy plan in our state,” said Raylee Miniken, sophomore at Friday Harbor High School.

We were incredibly proud of the students during our time at the state capitol. They were very effective at speaking up for the Salish Sea with our state leaders. We know they made an impact and will help move some of the important environmental legislation forward.

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Katie FlemingLocal high school students support Environmental Priorities in Olympia with us!

Announcing Our New Staff Attorney: Jennifer Barcelos

by Friends of the San Juans on February 1, 2019 No comments

Friends of the San Juans is pleased to announce the appointment of Jennifer Barcelos as incoming staff attorney and Director of Law and Policy.

Following a nationwide search for a transformative leader, Jennifer Barcelos has joined our team as Director of Law and Policy. In her new role, Jennifer will be responsible for protecting the islands and waters of the Salish Sea to ensure they remain healthy for future generations.

Jennifer is an attorney, a changemaker, and an entrepreneur. She became a devoted environmental advocate in 3rd grade (after winning her local science fair for an exhibit on the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on seabirds).  Jennifer graduated Phi Beta Kappa from U.C. Berkeley, she received a master’s degree in Environmental Science from Yale, and served as a Gates Public Service Law Scholar at the University of Washington School of Law. Upon graduation, Jennifer taught for two years at UW Law School, co-founded the climate justice nonprofit, Three Degrees Warmer, and built a successful women-led tech startup in the wellness industry.

Jennifer is the author and editor of multiple papers and publications, including the textbook “Climate Change: A Reader” published in 2011 by Carolina Academic Press. Jennifer has conducted field work around the world, from Cambodia to Kashmir (where she received a grant to study the environmental and public health impacts of the military standoff between India and Pakistan). Drawn to politics early, Jennifer worked as a staff member to former Vice President Al Gore and served in environmental leadership roles for two presidential campaigns.

“Jennifer has extensive background in capacity-building, education, climate change, and leadership. She is a strategic thinker and we look forward to working alongside her to protect the San Juans Islands and Salish Sea,” said Friends of the San Juans’ Board President Janet Alderton.

Barcelos brings an international perspective to Friends of the San Juans at a time of incredible challenge for our communities and natural environment.  “Jennifer’s strategic vision and dedication to community-based problem solving will help steward our conservation efforts during this critical time as we work towards raising awareness about key issues affecting our islands and the Salish Sea—such as human impacts on Southern Resident orca, marine biodiversity, ocean pollution, and a rapidly changing climate. Her extensive background in conservation and personal commitment to sustainability align with our mission,” stated Friends of the San Juans’ Executive Director Stephanie Buffum.

At its roots, Friends of the San Juans stems from a rich 40-year history of engaging people in the wonder and awe of the San Juan Islands. Jennifer will work closely with the Board and staff, advancing our role in connecting more people to island and ocean issues. She resides with her family on Orcas Island.

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Friends of the San JuansAnnouncing Our New Staff Attorney: Jennifer Barcelos