FIFE, WA - 5/9/02 -- State and federal support
for Puget Sound salmon recovery efforts might already have peaked
despite an unfinished agenda, the region's chief architect of
salmon recovery told American Indian fisheries managers here
The $110 million allotted by Congress this year to aid
imperiled West Coast salmon runs might be matched next year, then
decline dramatically, suggested William
Ruckelshaus, chairman of the state Salmon Recovery Funding Board.
Ruckelshaus is also
leader of a public-private salmon recovery strategy being
developed for Puget Sound and is widely viewed as the closest
thing to a salmon czar in the region.
"After 2003, money will be tight," Ruckelshaus
predicted based on recent meetings with Congressional leaders in
Lean state budget
Ruckelshaus, a former head of the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency and U.S. deputy attorney general, addressed the annual
meeting of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.
The state with its tight budget will be hard-pressed to
continue the support, which has resulted in $100 million worth of
state funding for salmon habitat improvement and land acquisition
projects funded by the salmon recovery board in the past 30
months, he said.
That's about how long Puget Sound chinook salmon and nine other
salmon stocks have been on the federal Endangered Species Act
list, an action that triggered a barrage of government and
volunteer projects to save salmon.
In Puget Sound alone, roughly $145 million was spent on salmon
recovery in the past year, according to a preliminary report by
Evergreen Funding Consultants of Seattle.
Projects aimed at reducing salmon impacts from development and
habitat projects account for more than $100 million of the total,
said Dennis Canty, a senior partner in the firm.
However, he said, a review of the public works projects that
account for $50 million in annual spending shows that the money
often goes to the projects least connected to salmon recovery
strategies adopted by the state, tribes and others.
"There's a tremendous amount of money spent on salmon
recovery, but it's spent far and wide," he said.
It's critical that tribal and nontribal fisheries managers
develop methods to monitor progress made in the regional salmon
recovery effort, Canty said.
Right now, there is no
systematic way to measure progress, he said. Each
watershed in the region is doing things differently and has
"It's difficult to demonstrate progress to the people who
are writing the checks," he said. "It makes funding
Roughly $2 billion to $3 billion is needed for projects to help
restore Puget Sound chinook salmon runs to harvestable, sustainable
levels, he estimated.
At current funding levels, that makes it a 20- to 30-year
Won't happen overnight
"This is, in
effect, a massive experiment," Ruckelshaus said.
"I'm confident we can do this, but it won't happen
Tribal leaders acknowledged salmon recovery work is far from
"It's sort of consumed us as one of those issues that
won't go away," noted Squaxin Island tribal member Bobby
Whitener. "It's going to get more complex, rather than less
Billy Frank Jr., a Nisqually tribal member and chairman of the
fisheries commission, sounded a theme he has sounded before: the
Puget Sound ecosystem, including the salmon, can't
survive under a continued onslaught of population growth and
"We've got to slow down instead of building more and
more," he said. "We're running out of time."