Thousands of People are Stepping Up
Washington State made a 30-year, statewide commitment to recover salmon, and has sustained it for more than 20 years. Regional recovery plans are being implemented with local leadership and local creativity.
Extinction Is Not an Option
As envisioned in the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon: Extinction is not an Option (1999), Washington State has crafted a successful and effective, bottom-up structure to stop the decline of wild salmon, rebuild their populations, and restore the habitat and watershed conditions upon which they depend.
This unprecedented, locally led effort has brought together thousands of people across the state, including state and federal agencies, Indian tribes, regional organizations, and nonprofits to recover salmon and steelhead stream by stream.
Washington State established eight geographical salmon recovery regions to respond to the Endangered Species Act listings. Seven of those have regional organizations, which are governed by local boards and work with local watershed groups, salmon recovery partners, Indian tribes, state and federal agencies, and other community groups to reach consensus on how to recover salmon. Working together, they set fish population goals; develop strategies for addressing harvest, habitat, hatchery, and other salmon recovery issues; and build commitment to achieve results.
All regional organizations have written recovery plans, which have been adopted by the federal government. Recovery efforts in the Northeast Washington Salmon Recovery Region are coordinated among state and federal governments and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians through the bull trout recovery team.
Lead entity watershed groups and the Washington Salmon Coalition (the lead entity coordinating group) are critical for developing local salmon habitat recovery strategies and ensuring projects get completed.
Lead entities work in watersheds to develop strategies to restore salmon habitat and then solicit restoration projects. They evaluate and prioritize those projects using local technical and citizen committees made up of Indian tribes, federal and state agencies, local governments, individuals, nonprofits, businesses, and technical experts. Lead entities submit their recommendations to their regional salmon recovery organization, which makes funding recommendations to the State.
Once projects are approved, lead entities work closely with others who do the projects, including cities, counties, Indian tribes, nonprofits, fisheries enhancement groups, conservation and irrigation districts, state and federal agencies, and colleges and universities.
Indian tribes are foundational for salmon recovery in Washington. In addition to being sovereign nations with thousands of years of knowledge, expertise, and insight, tribes have led many of the largest restoration and recovery efforts in the state. Tribes serve on the local and regional recovery boards and work closely with partners and state agencies to advance recovery priorities. Treaty Indian tribes also co-manage fisheries and other the natural resources with state agencies.
Individuals make decisions every day that can either benefit or burden the natural environment. People can contribute to salmon recovery by making good land-use decisions, using products that don’t harm salmon, and keeping pollution out of waterways. See more things you can do for salmon.
Landowners also play vital roles because many of the restoration projects occur on their land. Private forestland owners also have been actively removing barriers to fish migration.
Cities and counties play a pivotal role in salmon recovery. They control much of land where actions occur, help secure funding, and help establish policies necessary for salmon recovery. In addition, counties and cities are responsible for protecting salmon habitat through the Growth Management Act, the Shoreline Management Act, land-use plans, critical area ordinances, shoreline management plans, and other practices.
Multiple federal agencies have a role in salmon recovery. Two key agencies are the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is responsible for recovering salmon and steelhead under the Endangered Species Act, and the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for managing the recovery of bull trout. The agencies fund recovery efforts and approve or write recovery plans, as well as provide science and monitoring information.
A half-dozen state agencies play pivotal roles in salmon recovery. The Department of Fish and Wildlife co-manages with treaty Indian tribes salmon fishing and hatcheries. It also restores and protects habitat, works with local governments to protect habitat, and participates in programs to remove barriers to fish passage in streams. The Department of Ecology improves and protects water quality, manages and conserves water resources, and manages coastal and inland shorelines to ensure the state has sufficient supplies of clean water for communities and the natural environment. The Salmon Recovery Funding Board, Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, and the Recreation and Conservation Office provide statewide policy and funding for salmon recovery.
The Department of Transportation is working to remove barriers to fish passage under roads in the state highway system. The Department of Natural Resources also is removing barriers, cleaning up aquatic lands, and regulating forest practices that impact salmon. The Conservation Commission provides voluntary programs for private landowners to implement conservation on their property and for counties to use locally driven watershed plans and voluntary, incentive-based tools to protect critical areas. The Puget Sound Partnership serves as the regional organization for the recovery of salmon in the Puget Sound area.
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Banner photograph is of the North Wind Weir tree planting by Norbert Woloszyn.