Priorities for Action
Salmon have lived in the Pacific Northwest for more than 10,000 years and have demonstrated an amazing ability to adapt and survive. Salmon have proven they will prevail if given the chance. Twenty years ago, Washingtonians made the choice to give salmon that chance and have saved salmon from the brink of extinction. However, now is the time for a renewed commitment. The salmon are ready. Here are the priorities for action if recovery is to be successful.
Protect and Restore Habitat for Salmon, People, and Climate Resiliency
Adapt land-use and other regulations to accommodate salmon and other natural resources.
- Integrate and give priority to the needs of salmon and other natural resources in land-use plans, long-term infrastructure planning processes, and related regulatory programs.
- Increase compliance and enforcement of existing land-use laws.
- Implement Net Ecological Gain standards to buffer against growing development pressures.
- Adopt policies and incentive programs to reduce carbon emissions and support programs to reduce nutrients and organic carbon from entering waterways.
- Adopt incentives for businesses and private landowners willing to make ecosystem improvements on their land.
- Support Governor Jay Inslee’s commitment to work with Indian tribes in Washington to establish a statewide standard for protecting fully functioning, healthy, riparian habitat for salmon.
- Increase investments in innovative solutions to mitigate impacts of stormwater, pollution, and related development. Implement modern standards to address point and non-point pollution sources and to clean up stormwater running from roads into waterways.
- Increase community and industry awareness and understanding of climate change, ocean acidification, and stormwater impacts on salmon and both local and larger ecosystems.
Ensure Clean, Cold Water in Streams and Improve Fish Passage
- Reconnect fish habitat by removing artificial barriers and reconnecting floodplains, and work to avoid future floodplain encroachment. This will increase the resiliency to climate change for salmon and people.
- Identify and protect cold sources of groundwater and springs to cool summer streams and increase water in streams during the late summer when streams are vulnerable to droughts.
- Pursue fish passage projects and re-introduction efforts to place salmon above dams where they’ve been blocked.
- Ensure that recovery actions are coordinated across all the factors affecting salmon, especially those that most closely influence one another such as habitat, harvest, hydropower, hatcheries, and predation. When implementing recovery plans, all factors must be considered together so that their collective benefits can be fully realized. Management of each individual factor should be informed by recovery plans to ensure this coordination is planned, prioritized, and carried out.
- Pursue activities to manage native and non-native predators in the Columbia River, and secure additional funding and research to pursue solutions in Puget Sound and other parts of the state.
Fully Fund Salmon Recovery
- Increase funding and create stable funding for operating the organizations that implement and coordinate on-the-ground efforts.
- Increase funding for grant programs that target priority capital projects (e.g. Salmon Recovery Funding Board’s Targeted Investments, Puget Sound Acquisition and Restoration Program)
- Increase private sector investments in salmon recovery.
- Fund the science necessary to evaluate salmon and habitat status and progress toward recovery. The lack of funding for monitoring is hampering the State’s ability to evaluate trends and effectiveness of actions.
Build the Next Generation of Leaders
- Salmon recovery has a long list of past leaders, including Billy Frank Jr. and William Ruckelshaus. These leaders laid the foundation for success, and now is the time to engage the next generation of salmon recovery leaders. Efforts need to be made to educate and inspire these critical leaders.
William D. Ruckelshaus
Salmon recovery work would not have progressed as it has without the leadership of William D. Ruckelshaus, who passed away in 2019. When awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 to Mr. Ruckelshaus, President Barack Obama cited his “tireless work to protect public health and combat global challenges like climate change.”
His distinguished career in environmentalism began when he was appointed as the first administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. He is credited with shaping its guiding principles, including banning the pesticide DDT and striking an agreement with the automobile industry to require catalytic converters, which reduce air pollution.
Mr. Ruckelshaus exhibited the same leadership when his efforts turned to the regional salmon recovery issue. He was a founding member of the Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board and served as its first chairman from 1999 to 2007. He was instrumental in establishing Washington’s unique, locally driven approach to salmon recovery. He led the board as it struggled with how to develop a salmon recovery grant program, which continues today and forms the backbone of salmon recovery efforts in Washington.
Much of his life was dedicated to protecting the planet. He served as a member of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which brings attention to the importance of restoring saltwater areas needed for salmon recovery, and was co-founder of Washington’s Shared Strategy process, the framework within which Puget Sound watersheds prepared groundbreaking plans for recovering salmon. Mr. Ruckelshaus also chaired the Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership to organize the cleanup and restoration of Puget Sound, the second largest estuary in the United States.
He was an inspiration and mentor to many young environmentalists and should be thanked for the cleaner air and water enjoyed today.
Read more about Mr. Ruckelshaus in the Legacy Washington profile.
Photograph of Mr. Ruckelshaus taken by Laura Mott.
In 2019, Governor Jay Inslee committed to work with the tribes to improve protections for riparian habitat to build climate resiliency and achieve salmon recovery.