The development of the West brought with it the decline of salmon. As cities and counties grew, we paved over pristine habitat, overfished, dammed rivers, hardened shorelines, and polluted the waterways. By the 1990s, the damage was undeniable.
In 1991, the federal government declared the first salmon in the Pacific Northwest endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In the next few years, 14 additional species of salmon and steelhead and 3 species of bull trout were listed as at-risk of extinction. By the end of the decade, wild salmon had disappeared from about 40 percent of their historic breeding ranges in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. In Washington, the numbers had dwindled so much that salmon, steelhead, and bull trout were listed as threatened or endangered in nearly three-fourths of the state.
Today, nearly 20 years later, we see that salmon recovery efforts have been instrumental in helping some species turn the corner towards recovery and have slowed the decline of several other species; however too many others remain precariously close to the brink of extinction.