Last week, Washington State’s Governor Jay Inslee announced a monumental salmon recovery plan. As part of the state’s 2022 legislative priorities, Gov. Inslee outlined a $187 million investment in recovering salmon and steelhead in Washington, 13 of which are federally-listed, and improving habitats. Granted, this outline is just an idea at this point. It will need to go through the state legislature, and the devil will be in the details. However, the Governor’s plan to elevate salmon and steelhead recovery is certainly a welcomed development.
“Healthy salmon populations mean healthy water systems. We are updating our salmon strategy to provide a comprehensive, statewide foundation for salmon recovery,” Gov. Inslee said. “This approach is based on the latest science and tailored to address the stressors in the diverse regions of our state, spelling out the many different actions we must take to protect and restore salmon.”
The $187 million investment will improve Washington’s leadership on the ever-complicated task of restoring salmon and steelhead throughout the PNW. Specifically, the plan will:
In a Medium post, Gov. Inslee provides more context for the above objectives. For example, under “Protecting Habitat,” he brings attention to the Lorraine Loomis Act, which will protect riparian corridors with measurable standards. To implement this legislation and new standards, Washington will need to direct $123 million to fund the projects.
Two other budget-items included in the plan are commercial gillnet fishery buyouts and Skagit River protections. Commercial gillnets have been hot-button topics in the Columbia River Basin for years because they can indiscriminately harm wild and threatened fish. $16.7 million would go towards buying out these commercial gillnet licenses on the Columbia River, to reduce the size of the fishery and its impacts.
Chances are you’ve heard about the Olympic Peninsula’s famed Skagit River. Gov Inslee’s plan would direct $4.5 million towards protecting “the upper reaches of the Skagit River from future development.” Proactive investments in habitat conservation are essential activities for ensuring a future of wild salmon and steelhead. To see the full list of objectives and funding–which include improving fish passage, monitoring and enforcement, reducing pollution entering streams and rivers, and hydropower impacts–check out the full policy brief.
It is worth noting, that more than $7 million would go to hatchery improvements. For much of the PNW, hatcheries afford anglers the majority of their opportunities and support so many communities. However, their impact on wild fish and recovering salmon and steelhead cannot be ignored.
“We are on a mission. Protecting and restoring our salmon is personal to me — it’s a legacy left to us by previous generations and we should do the same for our grandchildren,” Gov. Inslee said. “I’m committed to taking greater steps to ensure their survival. I will work closely with tribal partners and other leaders throughout the state to get the job done. It’s a mission that requires coordination across our government and a comprehensive approach — and my budget and policy priorities reflect that.”
Cover picture by @Ben Matthews