Two weekend stories about tribes fighting for salmon habitat

During the tribe’s Return of the Salmon ceremony, members of Port Gamble S’Klallam royalty hold the baskets of fish before being ceremoniously returning the salmon to the water.

Lynda Mapes and Chris Dunagan both wrote stories over the weekend on how tribes in western Washington are fighting the continued decline of salmon habitat.

Dunagan in the Kitsap Sun wrote about the last three years in the “culvert case,” in which tribes have fought for the repair of hundreds of state-owned culverts. Over ten years ago the tribes sued to get the culverts fixed. Now five years after a federal judge ruled in favor of the tribe, no on the ground solution has been found.

From the Sun:

Legal briefs were filed in October 2009, and attorneys in the case assumed that a ruling would be forthcoming. But in June of 2010, Martinez held another hearing to take oral arguments from the attorneys. That was the last anyone heard about the case, which involves 19 tribes.

Billy Frank, chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, said he has no inkling why the ruling is taking so long.

“We have been waiting and waiting and waiting, and the judge hasn’t ruled,” he said. “We have asked our attorneys, ‘Why is this taking so long?’ They haven’t figured it out.”

The second story by Mapes took a broader view of the Treaty Rights at Risk effort. Despite years and millions of dollars worth of effort, we’re still losing salmon habitat.

From the Times:

There have been spectacular advances: Dikes are being ripped out of the Nisqually and Skokomish river deltas, and dams taken out of the Elwha River — habitat restorations on a grand scale costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

But it is not enough: The day-to-day losses — of trees cut and land paved; road culverts blocking fish passage; logging roads leaching silt into streams; development converting open land, especially outside of urban growth boundaries — all overwhelm the gains made to date, tribal, state and federal research all found.

That is no surprise to Frank, who says he sees a lot more process than progress.