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Originally published Friday, June 17, 2011 at 3:14 PM

Kathy Fletcher's People for Puget Sound translated the challenges

Truly rallying People for Puget Sound was the triumph of the organization Kathy Fletcher founded to help recover and preserve the Sound. Her legacy as she retires is the ability to engage and involve people.

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KATHY Fletcher's title was executive director of People for Puget Sound, the organization she founded in 1991 to help restore and preserve the region's vast, beloved waterway.

Fletcher is retiring from People for Puget Sound after a long, tenacious career of focusing governmental policy and public support on water-quality issues, the health of the species who call the Sound home, and the shoreline and upland habitat that shape the Sound's future.

Another job description might better capture the spirit that empowered her work and success: translator.

Her ability to make complex scientific and technical information understandable for the rest of us was a vital skill in educating and involving the public.

Fletcher made it clear that protecting salmon and orcas included the necessary, tedious work of updating water-quality standards and enforcing existing rules.

The breadth of the tasks involved is revealed in the campaigns and programs taken on by Fletcher and People for Puget Sound, with measurable progress in oil-spill prevention, reducing toxins entering the Sound and work on septic systems along Hood Canal.

Success has come via collaborative efforts with other environmental groups in Olympia. Indeed, Fletcher's gift for translation also radiated in the halls and hearing rooms of the state Capitol.

Her ability to understand science and convey information impresses experts with their own deep credentials, such as Dr. Usha Varanasi, the retired science and research director of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

Varanasi praised Fletcher's ability to promote the concept that Puget Sound's recovery and good health are integrally linked to the good health and vitality of the people who live near and use Puget Sound.

Fletcher is stepping away from work that attracted her skills and interest since she was a biology student at Harvard University. Returning to her Northwest roots, she became involved in early, remedial efforts of state government to understand the environmental challenges with Puget Sound.

Her capacity to lay out those challenges in a way that educates and engages the public is a signature of her success and part of the legacy for others to maintain.


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