PORT TOWNSEND — Retired astronaut turned activist John Fabian of Port Ludlow was awarded the Eleanor Stopps Environmental Leadership Award from the Port Townsend Marine Science Center for his efforts to protect Hood Canal.
Fabian is the co-founder of the Hood Canal Coalition, a citizens group that rallied in 2002 to fight a proposal known by many as the “pit-to-pier project.”
The proposed project from Thorndyke Resources was to build a 4-mile conveyor belt and 1,000-foot pier that would move gravel from the former Fred Hill Materials Shine pit to barges in Hood Canal.
“A group of us got together and decided that wasn’t good for the environment and wasn’t good for the Hood Canal bridge,” Fabian said at the Marine Science Center’s Stewardship Breakfast at Fort Worden on Wednesday morning.
Fabian’s Hood Canal Coalition is now 6,000 members strong.
In September 2016, Thorndyke dropped its appeal of the conservation easement granted by the state Department of Natural Resources.
Fabian said he’s always been environmentally aware, an idea that was instilled in him from his time as a NASA astronaut.
“Those of us that are lucky enough to see the earth from space have to care about the environment since we’re very aware that this is the only earth we’ve got,” Fabian said.
Aside from his more recent work as an environmental activist locally and his time at NASA, Fabian also holds a doctorate in aeronautics and astronautics from the University of Washington.
Fabian served in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot, was the director of space for the Pentagon and studied space systems for a decade.
“Like Eleanor, he is a powerful coalition builder,” said Janine Boire, Port Townsend Marine Science Center executive director.
“Through his pioneering work with the Hood Canal Coalition, Dr. John Fabian has led a determined effort to preserve the pristine ecosystem that is inextricably linked to the health of the Salish Sea.”
Fabian said he was honored.
“I am very privileged to receive this award, especially related to the work I’ve done here,” Fabian said.
He noted that many other organizations in and around East Jefferson County are, like the Hood Canal Coalition, working to preserve the ecosystems, endangered species and water quality of the Puget Sound and Hood Canal.
“My advice is to get involved,” Fabian said. “There are lot of good organizations and if you’re not interested in giving your time then you can always pull out your checkbook.”
This is the 13th annual Eleanor Stopps award, which was created in memory of Stopps who waged a grassroots campaign for the conservation of Protection Island.
Stopps, who died in 2012 at the age of 92, testified before the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress about the need to protect the island, which is a critical habitat and breeding grounds for puffins, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, harbor seals, elephant seals and myriad other species.
In 1982, her fight ended in the establishment of the Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge.
The award is given annually to residents of Jefferson and Clallam counties who have led successful conservation efforts. It has been sponsored by the Port Townsend Marine Science Center since 2009.