The newly released federal plan for steelhead recovery in the Mid-Columbia, which includes the Walla Walla River basin, is on the right track. It was crafted through collaboration between 20 federal, state, tribal and local entities using methods that work.
And it doesn't involve any dam breaching.
"The great thing is, the federal plan relied heavily on the plan we drafted locally," said Steve Martin, director of the Snake River Salmon Recovery Board, developers of the recovery plan for Southeastern Washington.
Local participants included Columbia and Walla Walla county commissioners, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and citizens representing Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Walla Walla and Whitman counties. In addition, Columbia and Walla Walla county conservation districts, the Tri-State Steelheaders and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife were involved. The plan focuses on efforts to restore and protect the steelhead population throughout 35,000 square miles of central Washington and Oregon.
Barry Thom, acting director of the the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Fisheries Service, said the goal is to create self-sustaining fish populations that no longer need federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
It's too bad that others in government, particularly politicians and judges with so-called environmentalist agendas, don't see the benefits of collaboration in working toward a common, realistic goal.
The folks who put together this regional recovery plan are the people who are familiar with the environment and the issues that challenge the long-term survival of steelhead. This plan appears to be driven by experience and science rather than raw politics.
This type of effort is what is needed across the Pacific Northwest in the ongoing effort to save the wild salmon in the Snake and Columbia rivers.
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