Environment & Health

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COVID-19 has made it clear that the success of an economy is reliant on the health of its residents. Attention to health as a consequence of economic, planning, and infrastructure decisions can improve quality of life for residents, reduce health care costs, and lessen impacts from lost productivity. More importantly, improving equity in health outcomes is critical to sustaining a productive region with a high quality of life. Regional efforts that improve the health outcomes of all residents across communities in the area elevate the region as a competitive destination for new talent and investment.

The region’s natural environment is a priority in economic policy decisions to support the health of people and ensure growth is sustainable. The natural environment of the central Puget Sound region is a significant asset to the regional economy. Each year natural resource lands generate a conservative estimate of $11.4 to $25.2 billion each year to the region’s economy. The regional open space network covers about 3 million acres of public and private land with 339 miles of trail, including natural lands, farmlands, working forests, aquatic systems, regional trails, and urban open space.

Climate change is a threat to the regional and global economy that will require technologies and services to mitigate and respond to these impacts. The region can leverage its innovative nature to address these challenges, and to do so in a way that provides economic opportunities for regional businesses and workers.

Challenges and Opportunities

The region has identified the following key issues, opportunities, and challenges in sustaining the region’s economy:

A metropolis set within the wilderness

The region’s thriving urban centers with easy access to natural spaces make it an increasingly desirable place to live, work, and visit.

Preserving the region’s environment & health

Regional efforts that improve the health outcomes of all residents across communities elevate the region as a competitive destination for new talent and investment.

(New/Expanded) Addressing health inequities

Existing geographic health inequities and disparities have been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.

Addressing global climate challenges

Developing solutions to global climate challenges is an opportunity for the region to be a leader in providing the goods and services to respond to this challenge.

The region’s healthy environment provides economic opportunities

The region’s natural environment and resource lands provide opportunities for jobs in fishing, farming, forestry, material extraction, tourism, and recreation.

Strategic Response

The region has identified the following strategic focus areas for addressing the identified challenges and opportunities:

Preserve, enhance, and improve the region’s environmentally critical lands

The region should work to expand planning and funding efforts that safeguard the natural environment, preserve farmlands, waterways, wildlife corridors, and other environmentally critical areas.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Preserve the beauty and natural ecological processes of the region through the conservation of natural resources and the environment through the regional planning policies within VISION 2050.
  • Preserve and enhance open space, protect wildlife corridors, and preserve and restore native ecosystems.
  • Develop a toolkit to aid county and city efforts to conserve open spaces in the region.
  • Support conservation planning, project funding, landscape maintenance, and critical areas regulation at the local level.
  • Continue efforts to protect, conserve, and recover working farms, forests, and waterways.
  • Protect Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) funding and preserve these funds for job creation, environmental, public health, and equity benefits for communities across Washington.

(New/Expanded) Ensure the region is a healthy place to live for all residents

The region should work to ensure a healthy population by strengthening public health systems, protecting the natural environment, and expanding access to the region’s open spaces, with emphasis on addressing current and historical inequities.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Build upon lessons learned from the public health responses to COVID-19 to continue to address health inequities in the region.
  • Improve access to open space, particularly for underserved populations, including completing gaps in regional trails.
  • Continue to implement VISION 2050 policies that safeguard the region’s natural environment and ensure that all residents live in healthy places.

Protect the global environment

The region should expand efforts to reduce environmental impacts of the region’s population and economy, while working to expand regional industries that provide goods and services that address climate change challenges.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Encourage the development of established and emerging industries focused on resilience and climate change while increasing regional economic and environmental resilience to climate change, natural disasters, and other stressors.
  • Decrease reliance on fossil fuels for the region’s land, sea and air transportation systems through the development and adoption of alternative energy technologies.
  • Develop common ground on the best approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including through encouraging federal action on greenhouse gas reduction measures and support for a global climate accord.
  • Implement the Washington State Department of Commerce’s green economy recommendations.
  • Support efforts by regional ports to expand programs and investments that reduce environmental impacts and protect natural resources.

COVID-19 has made it clear that the success of an economy is reliant on the health of its residents. Attention to health as a consequence of economic, planning, and infrastructure decisions can improve quality of life for residents, reduce health care costs, and lessen impacts from lost productivity. More importantly, improving equity in health outcomes is critical to sustaining a productive region with a high quality of life. Regional efforts that improve the health outcomes of all residents across communities in the area elevate the region as a competitive destination for new talent and investment.

The region’s natural environment is a priority in economic policy decisions to support the health of people and ensure growth is sustainable. The natural environment of the central Puget Sound region is a significant asset to the regional economy. Each year natural resource lands generate a conservative estimate of $11.4 to $25.2 billion each year to the region’s economy. The regional open space network covers about 3 million acres of public and private land with 339 miles of trail, including natural lands, farmlands, working forests, aquatic systems, regional trails, and urban open space.

Climate change is a threat to the regional and global economy that will require technologies and services to mitigate and respond to these impacts. The region can leverage its innovative nature to address these challenges, and to do so in a way that provides economic opportunities for regional businesses and workers.

Challenges and Opportunities

The region has identified the following key issues, opportunities, and challenges in sustaining the region’s economy:

A metropolis set within the wilderness

The region’s thriving urban centers with easy access to natural spaces make it an increasingly desirable place to live, work, and visit.

Preserving the region’s environment & health

Regional efforts that improve the health outcomes of all residents across communities elevate the region as a competitive destination for new talent and investment.

(New/Expanded) Addressing health inequities

Existing geographic health inequities and disparities have been exacerbated by the impacts of COVID-19.

Addressing global climate challenges

Developing solutions to global climate challenges is an opportunity for the region to be a leader in providing the goods and services to respond to this challenge.

The region’s healthy environment provides economic opportunities

The region’s natural environment and resource lands provide opportunities for jobs in fishing, farming, forestry, material extraction, tourism, and recreation.

Strategic Response

The region has identified the following strategic focus areas for addressing the identified challenges and opportunities:

Preserve, enhance, and improve the region’s environmentally critical lands

The region should work to expand planning and funding efforts that safeguard the natural environment, preserve farmlands, waterways, wildlife corridors, and other environmentally critical areas.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Preserve the beauty and natural ecological processes of the region through the conservation of natural resources and the environment through the regional planning policies within VISION 2050.
  • Preserve and enhance open space, protect wildlife corridors, and preserve and restore native ecosystems.
  • Develop a toolkit to aid county and city efforts to conserve open spaces in the region.
  • Support conservation planning, project funding, landscape maintenance, and critical areas regulation at the local level.
  • Continue efforts to protect, conserve, and recover working farms, forests, and waterways.
  • Protect Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA) funding and preserve these funds for job creation, environmental, public health, and equity benefits for communities across Washington.

(New/Expanded) Ensure the region is a healthy place to live for all residents

The region should work to ensure a healthy population by strengthening public health systems, protecting the natural environment, and expanding access to the region’s open spaces, with emphasis on addressing current and historical inequities.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Build upon lessons learned from the public health responses to COVID-19 to continue to address health inequities in the region.
  • Improve access to open space, particularly for underserved populations, including completing gaps in regional trails.
  • Continue to implement VISION 2050 policies that safeguard the region’s natural environment and ensure that all residents live in healthy places.

Protect the global environment

The region should expand efforts to reduce environmental impacts of the region’s population and economy, while working to expand regional industries that provide goods and services that address climate change challenges.

Identified near-term actions:

  • Encourage the development of established and emerging industries focused on resilience and climate change while increasing regional economic and environmental resilience to climate change, natural disasters, and other stressors.
  • Decrease reliance on fossil fuels for the region’s land, sea and air transportation systems through the development and adoption of alternative energy technologies.
  • Develop common ground on the best approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including through encouraging federal action on greenhouse gas reduction measures and support for a global climate accord.
  • Implement the Washington State Department of Commerce’s green economy recommendations.
  • Support efforts by regional ports to expand programs and investments that reduce environmental impacts and protect natural resources.