While progress in recovering salmon is being made in some areas of the state, far too many species still are precariously close to extinction. One fundamental reason is that funding for salmon recovery has not met the need.
A 2011 study10 pegged the statewide cost of implementing habitat-related elements identified in regional salmon recovery plans for 2010-2019 at $4.7 billion in capital costs. As of today, only $1 billion has been invested or just under 22 percent of the need–a funding rate that will not achieve recovery.
Recovering salmon habitat requires both restoration and protection measures. Restoration helps watersheds that are damaged by past human activity, while land-use and regulatory programs provide the necessary backstop for habitat loss. Unfortunately, without increased funding, restoration projects are unable to keep pace with ongoing habitat losses in the more urbanized parts of the state where land-use and regulatory programs are not adequately protecting habitat in the face of population growth and development.
In addition, with the funding to-date, many of the smaller, easier projects have been completed. What remains are the larger projects that affect bigger landscapes, the harder projects to change people’s behavior, and the more complex projects that require fundamental changes in how a growing population is accommodated. The current funding programs do not fully encompass these larger investments.
The Salmon Recovery Funding Board has started to address this issue by setting aside some of its funding for targeted investments aimed at larger projects or additional priorities; however, this set-aside only will begin when funding reaches higher levels. In addition, some of these projects will require extensive work, partnerships, and potential changes to how work traditionally has been done.
Salmon recovery brings jobs to local businesses. A study9 showed that 80 percent of funding for watershed restoration projects stays in the local counties, which often are more rural areas and have fewer jobs and revenue-generation opportunities.