The Vision

The recovery plan identifies actions for habitat, hatcheries, harvest, hydropower, and ecological interactions with fish that if implemented, will contribute to the recovery of salmon and steelhead trout. The region has made the most progress in completing habitat restoration projects.

When the fish were first listed, there was much fear that the listings would pit fish against farmers and that new regulations would stifle development. Instead, the people in the region are working together to bring back the fish and support local economies. Steelhead and salmon in the Yakima River basin have made a dramatic turnaround since the 1980s, while the Klickitat River continues to be a destination for both wild fish and tribal and recreational fishing.

Since the recovery plan was adopted in 2009, the region has made significant progress including the following:

  • New work is focusing on combining flow, infrastructure, habitat, and predator management to increase smolt survival.
  • Large floodplain projects are restoring river habitat while reducing hazards for nearby communities.
  • More than 3,000 acres of salmon habitat have been protected.
  • 336 barriers to fish migration have been removed, opening nearly 400 miles of habitat to salmon.
  • Nearly 135 miles of streams have been restored or protected.
  • Coho, sockeye, and summer Chinook salmon have been reintroduced in the Yakima River basin.

Remaining challenges include the following:

  • Poor ocean and migration conditions are driving recent declines in steelhead and salmon runs. Migration conditions must improve to gain the full benefits of extensive investments in restoration of upstream habitat.
  • Many priority streams have low summer flows and warm water, forcing fish higher up tributary streams and challenging juvenile rearing success.
  • Fish still are unable to access many cold headwaters above dams.
  • Balancing river management for irrigation and power generation with fish survival.
  • Bull trout, which require very cold water, are severely impacted by climate change; many of the region’s bull trout populations are struggling.

Background: Salmon recovery in Washington is driven by regional salmon recovery plans. The recovery plans provide the actions and rationale for where to invest and when. Each region reports on the actions implemented related to what is recommended in the regional recovery plan. The information about recovery plan implementation is grounded in the regional organizations’ extensive knowledge of recovery issues and recovery progress.