Washington State made a 30-year, statewide commitment to recover salmon, and we have sustained it for the past 19 years. We are implementing regional recovery plans with local leadership and local creativity.
As envisioned in our Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon: Extinction is not an Option (1999) we have crafted a successful and effective locally led, bottom-up structure to stop the decline of wild salmon, rebuild their populations, and restore the habitat and watershed conditions upon which they depend.
Washington has sustained an unprecedented statewide locally led effort by thousands of people including state agencies, Indian tribes, and regional organizations 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 that work with local watershed groups 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, and hatchery 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 entities work closely with the regional recovery organizations and are often part of the organization itself. Lead entities work in watersheds to develop strategies to restore salmon habitat and then recruit and partner with organizations to do the work. Lead entities play a key role in efficiently bringing together tribes, federal and state agencies, local governments, citizens, nonprofits, businesses, and technical experts to make local decisions about how best to recover salmon. Lead entity technical and citizen committees evaluate and prioritize projects and make funding recommendations to the State.
Indian tribes in Washington are fiercely committed to protecting and recovering salmon. Tribal governments are responsible for hundreds of successful salmon habitat restoration projects. Jointly with state government, treaty Indian tribes co-manage the salmon resource and produce about 40 million salmon annually. Tribes use their treaty rights to protect salmon and habitat for the benefit of all Washington citizens.
Every day, people make decisions that can either benefit or burden our 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 our waterways. See more things you can do for salmon. Landowners and forest 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.
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, steelhead, and bull trout 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 our 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.