Tribes’ State of Our Watersheds to assess recovery progress

OLYMPIA – The treaty tribes of western Washington are taking a look at the outcome of salmon recovery efforts over the past decade since Puget Sound chinook, Lake Ozette sockeye and Hood Canal summer chum were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.

The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Program (SSHIAP) is preparing a State of Our Watersheds report to gauge habitat recovery.

The project is an outgrowth of the tribes’ long-term commitment to protecting, restoring and preserving salmon habitat. Tribes seek to improve state/tribal cooperative management, expand existing partnerships, forge new relationships and promote collaboration wherever possible.

“We will ask our member tribes to identify a set of key indicators they would like to highlight in the report, to illustrate the progress or lack thereof toward habitat recovery within each of their watersheds. One suggestion is to use the current salmon recovery plans as one of the information sources to start this evaluation,” said Bruce Jones, SSHIAP section manager. “A key question we’ll ask is, ‘Are we making progress in the recovery of habitat within our watersheds?’ ”

State of Our Watersheds is an effort to intensify the focus on habitat as the key to salmon recovery. The project will improve upon State of Our Watersheds reports produced in 2004 and 2005. The earlier reports captured the status of salmon stocks, but not the effectiveness of management decisions that had been made.

The first phase of the 2010 report will assess the Skokomish and Snohomish watersheds by looking at habitat, fish populations, harvest, water quality and quantity, land-use and change.

“We need to make sure threats such as development and water withdrawals are being balanced by responses through the federal Clean Water Act, state stormwater rules and other laws,” said Billy Frank Jr., chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “The restrictions imposed on harvest must be balanced by restrictions on habitat loss and degradation.”

For more information, contact: Bruce Jones, SSHIAP section manager, NWIFC, 360-528-4369 or [email protected].