Washington’s diverse landscape and waters are a significant economic impact for the state. National park tourism in Washington state generates more than $264 million annually. The state’s coastal economy supports 165,000 jobs and produces $10.8 billion in economic activity each year, and Maria has fought to preserve Washington’s pristine waters and abundant fisheries. Maria has continually worked to protect the health and livelihoods of Washington families and workers by holding polluters accountable for cleanup efforts at ASARCO in Pierce, Everett, Thurston, and King Counties, ensuring a safe, efficient process for the toxic waste cleanup on the Hanford site, and protecting Hanford workers as they  complete the world’s largest environmental cleanup project.

Washington’s forests, mountains and waters make the state a national destination. Washington’s rich and diverse natural lands are why millions of people visit Washington state every year – and why millions of families live in the Evergreen State. Maria has been a leader in the U.S. Senate in protecting these natural lands for generations to come. 

Maria passed bipartisan legislation to expand Mount Rainier National Park; she passed a bill to protect 100,000 acres of land near Mount Baker; and she passed legislation to protect the upper White Salmon River.

Maria has also led on efforts to preserve the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail along Washington’s northern border and the Ice Age Floods Trail that runs from Spokane to Ilwaco. Maria continues to work on legislation that would conserve cherished lands in the San Juan Islands, as well as legislation that would preserve two million acres of roadless areas in Washington state’s National Forests.    

National park tourism in Washington has a significant economic impact, contributing more than $264 million annually and supporting 4,560 jobs in the state. In 2011 Washington’s national parks hosted 7.3 million visitors.

Learn more about Washington's national parks.

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The coast of Washington state boasts resource-rich waters, iconic species including Orca whales and Pacific salmon and a robust fishing industry. The state’s coastal economy supports 165,000 jobs and produces $10.8 billion in economic activity each year. Drilling for oil along the coast of Washington would put the state’s coastal economy at risk – a risk exacerbated by a seismically active coastline. A single oil spill from an offshore oil rig caused by an earthquake could decimate coastal resources, causing severe environmental damage and the loss of thousands of jobs.

Working with her West Coast colleagues, Maria introduced legislation in 2010 that would ban offshore drilling on the outer continental shelf of California, Oregon and Washington state. The legislation would protect the $34 billion coastal economies of the three states, which support nearly 570,000 jobs combined.

Maria said, “It is simply unacceptable to risk irreparable harm to our coastal communities, economies and ecosystems just to feed our oil addiction with a short-term fix – especially when new technologies are emerging that give us real alternatives.”

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Maria has championed the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, America’s last great wild frontier, thwarting efforts to allow oil and gas drilling on the refuge’s coastal plain. A study by the Department of Energy shows that even if oil companies were allowed to drill in the refuge, gas prices would only come down by two or three cents a gallon one penny when the area reached peak production in 2030. Maria also opposes the backdoor tactics used by drilling proponents, including attempts to waive bedrock environmental safeguards and attempts to downplay oil spills in the nearby North Slope area.

Maria has cosponsored legislation to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil exploration every Congress since entering the Senate in 2001. Year after year she has fought off powerful interests and big oil companies to save the refuge from the irreversible damage of oil drilling.  After successfully stopping legislation that would have given a green light to Arctic drilling in 2005, Maria led a bipartisan Senate coalition that called on key leaders to drop the oil proposal. Her leadership was instrumental in blocking backdoor attempts that would have allowed oil drilling to destroy an irreplaceable national refuge and put the Pacific Coast at risk for a catastrophic oil spill.

“When the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was under attack, Cantwell exhibited exemplary leadership against attempts to open it up to drilling.  Time and again, Sen. Cantwell has done what is necessary to protect the refuge.  She continues to show her commitment to conservation year in and year out.  She is a tireless champion and passionate leader on protecting the Arctic refuge from oil and gas drilling.” – Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, 2/2/06

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Approximately 600 oil tankers and 3,000 oil barges travel through Puget Sound’s fragile ecosystem annually, carrying about 15 billion gallons of oil to Washington’s five refineries. Recognizing the damage a major oil spill would cause to Washington state’s economy, environment and quality of life, Maria is a leading advocate for streamlining oil spill response to protect Washington communities.

Maria authored and helped pass into law 2010 oil spill prevention legislation that improves oil spill response and implements long-sought environmental safeguards to protect America’s waterways from contamination.  Maria played a key role in passing a provision that extended full oil response coverage west to Cape Flattery, along the full length of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This provision closes a gap in spill protection that previously left portions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and its high-volume shipping lanes without vital oil spill response equipment.  

Maria has been a leader on bolstering oil spill protection for the Puget Sound. Maria championed efforts to require a year-round rescue tug in Neah Bay. At Maria’s urging, the Coast Guard changed a federal rule in December 2008, which cleared the way for Washington state legislators to pass legislation permanently stationing a response tug at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The tug is the state’s first line of defense against oil spills, protecting the treacherous and environmentally fragile area around Cape Flattery and the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

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According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, commercial fishing in Washington generates $3.9 billion in state economic impact. Commercial and recreational fishers in Washington enjoy hundreds of miles of the Pacific coast and more than 2,000 combined miles of shoreline in Puget Sound, San Juan Islands, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and Hood Canal. Washington state is also home to 4,000 rivers and streams and 7,000 lakes. Washington’s robust fishing and wildlife industry supports more than 60,000 jobs in the state of Washington.

Maria co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that updated and extended the nation’s primary law guiding fishing in federal waters, known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. This legislation manages fishery resources, improves catch-share programs and preserves essential fish habitats that support tens of thousands of Washington jobs. Maria successfully fought to pass provisions to Magnuson-Stevens that are important to Washington fisheries, including national guidelines for science-based fishing quota programs and bottom-up management practices that strengthen the role local fishermen play in developing fish quota programs and resource conservation efforts. These guidelines prevent overfishing, help build fish stocks back to historical levels and improve safety at sea. By ensuring productive fish stocks in the future, Maria’s provisions are helping to provide certainty and job security for Washington fishing communities.

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Maria has been a leader in the fight to protect key salmon populations from disappearing in Washington. For the last several years, she has called on key Senate committees and executive agencies to support the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which provides grants to state and tribal governments to restore and enhance Pacific salmon runs. In September 2011, Maria welcomed a major investment in Pacific salmon recovery efforts, saying, “Pacific salmon are an economic driver in the Pacific Northwest. This program provides critical funding to facilitate the recovery and sustainability of Pacific salmon populations, and the commercial and recreational industries that rely on them for their livelihood.”

The program will support local watershed habitat restoration through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, as well as expand hatchery and harvest reform projects, and improve salmon monitoring through the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund has helped to restore more than 700,000 acres of fish habitat and open more than 4,400 miles of stream for fish passage since it was established in 2000.

Maria is also working to support the protection and restoration of the healthiest remaining wild Pacific salmon ecosystems in North America, known as “salmon strongholds.”  Maria introduced the Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act of 2011 (S.1401), which would help protect salmon strongholds. Maria’s legislation would also expand programs that identify stronghold populations, which would help maintain the health of all stronghold habitats, as well as support the continued success of the Washington fishing industry by protecting stocks while maintaining fishing access.

“I’m very thankful that Senator Cantwell is introducing this important bill to help ensure our last remaining healthy rivers and their wild salmon stocks are protected for future generations”Stone Gossard, Wild Salmon Center board member and Pearl Jam founding member

  • Protecting Bristol Bay Jobs: Maria has urged the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider the impact on Washington state jobs as it determines whether to permit a mine in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Bristol Bay is one of the most productive salmon runs in the world, generating a total value of at least $500 million dollars each year for commercial and recreational fisheries. Thousands of Washington state jobs, including processing and the restaurant industry, depend on healthy, sustainable salmon populations from Bristol Bay.

    “Hunters and anglers in Alaska and Washington applaud Senator Cantwell’s strong position on Bristol Bay. The commercial fishing and sport fishing resources in this area are an economic engine that have far reaching positive impacts and we need to make sure that the hard working families and businesses who make a living in Bristol Bay are protected.” –Tim Bristol, Alaska Program Director for Trout Unlimited, a national conservation organization
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