Fishy Business Authors to Speak at Rural Development Meeting

Rural Resource Associates
Tonasket, WA


Larry Bailey and Michelle Boshard will speak at the Washington State Rural Development Council Annual Meeting in Yakima on June 8, 2004 on "Economic Development and the Environment: Forward - Into the Past." Bailey and Boshard have been involved with salmon recovery for several years and both have directed large community fisheries programs in Washington State and in British Columbia. They have made many presentations at major conferences about how to involve communities and landowners in salmon recovery to ensure economic benefits to local communities from the billions spent.

Bailey is a novelist and writer who became involved in salmon recovery in an attempt to avoid the kinds of battles that have gone on in watersheds all over the west such as the Methow and Klamath river valleys. In the process he became the founder and Executive Director of the Upper Columbia Group, part of a Washington State legislatively-mandated community salmon recovery program. He and Boshard who is a BSc in Freshwater Science and a member of the Association of Professional Biologists of British Columbia, are writing a book about their years in the salmon recovery world. The book, to be called Fishy Business, is being considered by several publishers and is expected to hit the bookstores next year. The introduction to the book is available on the Fishy Business website at http://www.Fishy-Business.US A series of articles in several newspapers is also planned by the two for this summer as well as several major conference appearances.

Bailey and Boshard say that from their experience it is clear that the current salmon recovery process is being controlled by government agencies and their consultants to the detriment of the rural landowners and communities their decisions affect. "Unlike the agencies and tribes and special interest groups who are well-funded, there is almost no funding for public input into these plans," Bailey says. "On the current round of subbasin planning, actually the third round, they spent millions of dollars on staff time and consultants for more than a year collecting 1600 pages of documents then only make 400 pages available, and expect the public to "comment" in a two week period. If no one comments, then they say we’ve had our chance. If we do comment, even with technically sound, well-written and scientifically based material, we get the angry reactions like you see on our website to our comments on the Okanogan and Methow plans. Afterwards they will complain that the landowners and communities don't understand what they're doing and won't support it."

“I know everyone is tired of fighting over this stuff,” Bailey says. “Believe me, I am too. If you read the book, you will see why. But when you look at the consequences to our rural communities, I think we have to fight. One of the consultants who will appear in the book refers to rural people as ‘the vanishing tribe.‘ If we don’t want that prediction to prove true, we need to have more local control over the programs and processes that affect our lives. Any time there are billions of dollars involved, the scramble for the money isn't gentle. Badly-spent money can do as much harm as well-spent money can do good.”

Boshard says Fishy Business, the book, is being written in an unusually open process with drafts and supporting documents posted on the website during the writing. "We want everyone involved with salmon recovery to help write this book," she says, “even people who don’t agree with the approach we take. Often agency folks tune out when they get even a whiff of
dissent from the public. I understand that they hear a lot of negativity and want to tune it all out, but if they really want things right and to stop the negativity, then they need to listen and debate what’s being said by the public. It only ends up making their final product better. Science is based on debate, not foregone conclusions. If they don’t or can’t engage in a debate, then they are just guilty of trying to usurp control of things and exclude new thought."

"We've provided many different ways to have input into this project and we hope people will take a little time to participate. The facts in this book will have links to supporting documents or other research and be a place people can see for themselves what's going on. I personally have tried the partnership and facilitation approach for my whole career, and will again if it would work. But so far I've been given smiles and nods and lip service, but there has been no real change. I agree with the government official who wrote me to say it's regrettable we can’t find a more positive way to forward the process. But when you're sitting across from people who are meant to be serving the public and telling them honestly, clearly and in a positive way what will work and they don’t listen or change things, then you have to find another way to tell them. It's really unfortunate to have to use political routes instead of just getting the job done."

“Our message is positive,” Bailey says, “although many in the agencies and consulting firms try to dismiss what we say as just causing trouble. I’m sure it is trouble for them. If you look on the Fishy Business website you can see how some of them have responded in very nasty personal terms. You also can see, however, that by a huge margin, most of the responses have been very positive and from all kinds of people from volunteers to professionals to politicians. We have people sending us their own stories and volunteering to do research for us. It seems to me that everyone would like to see a process that involves everyone from the beginning, a process that for once achieves a real consensus in the communities that are impacted. If we can do that, we will have a plan that can lead to real on-the-ground projects, not more rounds of planning.”

Bailey and Boshard will appear at the Rural Development Council Annual Meeting at the Yakima Center Red Lion on June 8th at 2:45 following congressman Doc Hastings.


CONTACT: Michelle Boshard
(509)486-2400 CELL:(509)322-3584 FAX:(509)486-4835



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