temp ps photo cropped

Region Facts

Major Factors Limiting Fish Recovery

  • Degraded floodplain and channel structure
  • Degraded near-shore, marine, and estuarine conditions
  • Shoreline degradation and loss of in-river woody material
  • Degraded water quality and temperature
  • Impaired stream flows
  • Excessive sediment
  • Barriers to fish passage

Fish listed under the Endangered Species Act

  • Chinook: Listed as threatened in 1999
  • Steelhead: Listed as threatened in 2007
  • Bull trout: Listed as threatened in 1999

Vision Statement

The collective, overarching goal of the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan is to recover self-sustaining, harvestable salmon runs in a manner that contributes to the overall health of Puget Sound and its watersheds and allows us to enjoy and use this precious resource in concert with our region’s economic vitality and prosperity.

Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Region

Restoring self-sustainable, harvestable salmon runs is a concept that’s about more than just saving salmon. By protecting salmon, we are protecting our livelihoods, our lifestyle, the food we eat, and the water we drink. We are honoring tribal treaty rights and defining the legacy we leave.
Puget Sound’s watersheds contain farms, forests, parks, small towns, and busy cities. There is also a diverse network of freshwater, estuarine, and marine waters that includes more than 20 major river systems. The region already is home to about 4.5 million people and 70 percent of all the jobs in the state – numbers that aren’t expected to shrink, and neither are the impacts of development on salmon habitat.
More than 750 partner organizations are working to reverse more than 100 years of impacts to salmon and the ecosystem, but we continue to fall short of our salmon goals. We still are losing essential habitat.
The news isn’t all bleak. The decommissioning of the Elwha and Glines Canyon dams on the Elwha River is the largest dam removal project in U.S. history. Removing these dams will provide spawning fish access to more than 70 miles of river and tributary habitat that have been blocked since 1913. The project is still in progress but already there is good news: hundreds of Chinook salmon, a number of steelhead, and even one pink salmon have been observed in the river above the site of the former Elwha Dam.
Recovery will take time. Limited funds and limited capacity add to the need for the region to focus on large-scale efforts and continued, collaborative commitment at the local level to restore and protect fish and the ecosystem they, and we, depend on.
In 2007, the Puget Sound Partnership became the state agency responsible for recovery of salmon and restoration of the Puget Sound ecosystem. In 2012, the partnership completed an updated 2012/2013 Action Agenda for the restoration and protection of the ecosystem, and produced its second biennial report, 2012 State of the Sound.
With support from the Puget Sound Partnership, the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council has provided guidance for implementation of the Puget Sound recovery plan in many ways, including but not limited to the following:
• Developed a formula for allocating Salmon Recovery Funding Board and Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration funds among watersheds.
• Secured $42 million from the Washington State Legislature in Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration funding in the 2007-2009 biennium, $33 million for the 2009-2011 biennium, and $15 million for the 2011-2013 biennium.
• Secured National Estuary Program capacity grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for each watershed. These grants helped maintain staffing levels to implement projects and programs in each watershed.
• Serves as the policy body for salmon recovery efforts.
• Kept all 14 watersheds and a diverse set of stakeholders at the table, working together to recover salmon.

Salmon recovery is good for economies, communities, and watersheds

Salmon in Puget Sound are a gift to our culture and economy. Such an endowment of historic abundance is unique to just a few places on earth. Salmon rear in floodplains of Puget Sound’s rivers, grow larger in Puget Sound estuaries, travel the Puget Sound shorelines, feed in distant ocean waters, and return again to their home rivers. The marine nutrients that fuel the growth of salmon helped grow Washington’s legendary forests. In this way, salmon are integral to the health of the Puget Sound habitats, and everything done to those habitats is done to the salmon. In turn, everything done to the salmon is done to the ecosystem.
By recovering salmon we recover the ecosystem and we restore jobs. The “restoration economy” is fueled by investments in breaching dikes, removing dams, and setting back levees, and results in jobs for engineers, machine operators, biologists, and many more. This cycle in turn should produce more fish, allowing anglers an improved catch and returning more nutrients to Puget Sound forests.

Salmon Recovery Organization


Brief History

The Puget Sound region has a structure for salmon recovery as diverse and interconnected as the geography itself. Even before formal listing of the salmon as threatened, King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties united through a tri-county salmon recovery effort. Building on the tri-county effort, a group of more than 150 representatives of federal, state, tribal, and local governments and salmon recovery organizations came together to shape a “Shared Strategy” for salmon recovery. Overseen by a Development Committee and with guidance from a group of fisheries scientists, local watersheds developed a science-based and watershed-based recovery plan. The Development Committee, with the addition of a representative from each of the 14 watershed salmon recovery chapters, became the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council, charged with overseeing implementation of the recovery plan.
In 2012, the core structure of the Puget Sound recovery organization consists of the recovery council, Regional Implementation Technical Team (RITT), watershed leads, and the Puget Sound Partnership. A multitude of other partners make implementation possible.

Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council

The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council’s structure is designed to foster regional collaboration on implementation and policy development. Each of the 14 watersheds has a representative at the table. All Puget Sound tribes are invited to be members at the recovery council. Environmental, business, agricultural, and state and federal government agencies are encouraged to send representatives who can support policy development and implementation at the watershed and regional scale. The recovery council continues to use a consensus-based decision-making model, but can vote if consensus is not reached on pressing matters.

Puget Sound Recovery Implementation Technical Team

The Recovery Implementation Technical Team is the regional technical team that supports implementation of the salmon recovery plan. The team advises the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Council on technical issues.

Puget Sound Watershed Leads and Salmon Recovery Lead Entities

The watershed leads group consists of members of each of the 14 watershed chapter areas, the 15 lead entities in the Puget Sound, as well as supporting state agency staff.

Puget Sound Partnership

When the Shared Strategy for Puget Sound sunset at the end of 2007, the Puget Sound Partnership assumed the responsibility of supporting the regional salmon recovery structure. In the updated salmon recovery legislation, the Washington State Legislature specifically designated the Puget Sound Partnership as the regional organization for Puget Sound salmon recovery with the exception of Hood Canal summer chum. Salmon recovery is a core component for this state agency leading Puget Sound recovery.

Involving the local community

Volunteers from local communities and partner organizations donate thousands of hours each year to participate in Citizen Advisory Groups and Technical Advisory Groups associated with each lead entity. Local governments and local businesses donate staff resources and funding to recovery organizations and on-the-ground projects. Landowners are critical partners, contributing portions of their property to conservation easements or restoration projects. Volunteers also contribute labor to restoration efforts in all watersheds. The grassroots energy and commitment of local communities fuels and sustains salmon recovery efforts in the Puget Sound region.

Recovery Plans

In 2005, the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan estimated that a $120 million annual investment was necessary to meet recovery goals. Thus far, actual funding has fallen short of the number, and consequently, the funding gap continues to widen.
Recovery plan progress has been increasing steadily in Puget Sound. However, recovery needs extend beyond funding, and often require difficult decisions. Decisions that affect salmon recovery are made at the federal, state, regional, and local scales and are often in need of reconciliation at the watershed level. These types of decisions include issues around land use such as the agricultural buffers and Critical Areas Ordinances and the management decisions around harvest, hatchery, habitat protection, and habitat restoration. All of these decisions have inter-related impacts and are in need of integration.


The Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Plan was written with 2050 goals. Some watersheds have 10-year goals, and all watersheds develop 3-year work plans.