State’s upcoming steelhead management plan will be scrutinized

JEFFREY P. MAYOR; The News Tribune
Published: March 15th, 2007

Olympia, WA - Natural production goals – improving the spawning success of wild fish – will be the framework for the draft steelhead management plan state officials want to release this spring.

Staff members with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, with input from treaty tribes and other groups, are close to completing the final draft of a document that will guide management of steelhead in all seven regions of the state.

“It has a natural production goal. That is the priority that sets the tone for everything else, from hatchery production to things like a habitat component,” said Heather Bartlett, who is leading the writing of the plan for the state agency.

Before that document is released, Bartlett said, a scientific paper reviewing current steelhead data and research will be released. The paper will provide the framework for alternatives for managing steelhead.

“What the public will get is the statewide state draft plan and the developed alternatives associated with that plan,” she said.

Steelhead management came to the forefront in 2004, when the state Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to prohibit anglers from keeping any wild steelhead caught on the Olympic Peninsula. The ban was in place for much of the state.

Proponents said the ban was needed to protect dwindling runs of native fish. Opponents and the department itself argued that the runs on the Peninsula were healthy and didn’t warrant such a move.

The ban was eventually lifted and replaced by a one-native-fish limit on 14 rivers and streams, mainly on the Olympic Peninsula.

In the meantime, the department began development of the scientific paper and management plan.

Bartlett admits the process has taken longer than expected but says that will prove beneficial.

“The difference in what we’re doing with the steelhead plan, we have actively engaged stakeholder input with this plan. In this case, we’re starting from just a basic framework and we’re building off those recommendations made in the science paper,” she said.

It’s a more engaging process; it’s going to be slower. “But what we take to the commission will be more vetted by the stakeholders than anything we’ve done before,” Bartlett added.

Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640


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