Housing policy is… salmon policy? How state laws permitting more homes could ease two crises at once.

Sightline –

Across the Pacific Northwest, urban sprawl is decimating salmon habitat.

Fish scientists who study the effects of urbanization on salmon, steelhead and orcas are unanimous: To save these iconic and vital species we must prevent sprawling development from ruining the sensitive watersheds they depend on.

And this realization leads to an inescapable conclusion: Limiting further sprawl means we must provide more homes for more people in already-developed parts of our metro regions.

In addition to giving more families the option to live closer to jobs and daily needs, such infill of human habitat is a great deal for salmon habitat. Every apartment building, rowhouse, or cottage built in an already-developed area prevents the disruption of far more expansive swaths of habitat  on the metro fringe.

That disruption is severe, not only because watersheds are paved and mangled, but also because the resulting long car commutes mean more and bigger roads, and more pollutants washing from them into streams—to say nothing of the climate-harming carbon emissions.

Sure, Paris-style densities in close-in areas might make things a little worse for some of those watersheds, but there, most of the damage has already been done. More homes on less land helps keep much larger and more ecologically functional areas intact to support salmon recovery.

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