Score: 61

Home to Seattle and the San Juan Islands, the Puget Sound and its coast remains surprisingly intact ecologically for a region that has undergone so much development. Sprawl, overfishing, and storm-water runoff all cause problems. Though sustainability is a buzzword in Seattle, one panelist complained that "there is more green talk than true green action."

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"A mixed bag, but given that it’s the most urbanized region in the Pacific Northwest, the region is remarkably intact. The proposed Puget Sound Maritime Heritage Area could be a real boost in protecting and promoting the region's unique character."

"A shadow of its former self. The beauty is superficial and belies deep, deep problems. Marine mammals in Puget Sound have some of the highest levels of PCBs in the world. Two species of salmon are already extinct. Urban sprawl and storm-water runoff threaten one of the planet's most magical places.  Chief Seattle is turning in his grave."

"A big mix: port-town mayhem, which has evolved organically and has its own charm; quiet waterfront parks; and very high-income residential areas. The natural beauty is irrepressible, but you need a lot of money to hang around in those places."

"Very varied area—outstanding natural beauty, as well as major urban areas. Multiple uses: industrial shipping, commercial fishing, and leisure. It is a challenge to harmonize all interests, but it's not overcrowded as a tourist destination."

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