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Ecology and salmon related articles

Locke Presents Salmon Plan

by Erik Robinson
The Columbian, December 16, 2004

Gov. Gary Locke on Wednesday handed over to Bush administration officials the first locally generated blueprint for rescuing salmon in the Pacific Northwest.

"This is the way we will recover wild salmon in Washington state," he said.

The recovery plan, three years and $2.5 million in the making, lays out a series of some 600 actions that were unanimously adopted last week by the five-county Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board. The plan applies to 5,700 square miles of drainage basins from the gorge to the coast on the Washington side of the river.

"Clearly, this is not going to sit on a shelf," Locke said in an interview afterward. "People are going to use it."

The governor said the budget he is submitting to the Legislature today includes "tens of millions of dollars" in salmon-recovery contributions by the state government, but the plan will have as much value as a blueprint for directing hundreds of millions of federal dollars.

"Those places that have recovery plans are places we want to invest in," Bob Lohn, regional administrator of the National Marine Fisheries Service, said in an interview.

In addition, Lohn said he intends to utilize the state's plan as the foundation of the federal recovery plan the agency has to adopt under the federal Endangered Species Act. It covers imperiled steelhead, as well as chum, chinook and coho salmon on the Washington side of the lower Columbia River.

One volunteer said the plan prioritizes and directs scattershot stream restoration efforts throughout Southwest Washington.

"Our challenge now is to expand our capability," said Ed McMillan, a Vancouver retiree who volunteers with a local salmon-recovery group. "This plan is huge, and it's a huge challenge."

The mammoth plan maps river basins, identifies shortcomings for imperiled salmon and prioritizes changes needed in 18 watersheds to best recover salmon. It recommends actions that range from targeted harvest reductions and replacing damaged culverts, to hauling salmon around dams such as PacifiCorp's on the North Fork of the Lewis River.

Locke said the plan also could be a powerful tool in shaping development, especially where it identifies critical habitat areas.

"The views of the local area will be incorporated into that federal plan, which is binding on everyone," he said. "What's interesting is if people are not satisfied by the response of local governments or the state, then individual citizens and individual stakeholders can sue under the federal Endangered Species Act to compel local governments to action."

Some activists criticized the state for allowing gravel mining on the East Fork of the Lewis River, calling it an example of salmon protection succumbing to economic interests.

"We've got plans now," said Dick Dyrland, a retired federal hydrologist and member of Fish First and Friends of the East Fork. "Enough is enough. Now the pressure's got to be: start implementing."

The Legislature created the Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board in 1998 with representation from citizens and local governments from Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania, Lewis and Wahkiakum counties. The wide representation is unusual and gives the plan a better chance of success, said Mark Bagdovitz, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

"We all know that having a great plan isn't good enough," he said. "We have to do more."

Erik Robinson
Locke Presents Salmon Plan
The Columbian, December 16, 2004

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