MT. VERNON—The state's top fish and wildlife official said Thursday that local governments and citizen groups will play a key roll in Washington's efforts to recover troubled wild salmon runs.
Speaking here before a gathering of county officials, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings said the success of rescuing troubled wild salmon runs will hinge on local officials providing leadership at the grass roots level.
"The really hard work in recovering salmon is not — and will not — occur in Washington, D.C. or Olympia," Koenings said in an interview prior to delivering his remarks. "It will occur in the many cities and counties across our state and be carried out by partnerships between government and citizen groups.
"To be successful, salmon recovery must occur from the bottom up, not the top down," Koenings said.
Koenings' comments to county officials came about two weeks after the federal government announced it would afford protection under the Endangered Species Act to seven species of salmon, including Puget Sound's wild chinook, the first listing to affect a major urban area.
The listings brought the total number of fish species listed in Washington to 16. Almost every county in the state will be impacted by the listings.
Koenings said the Department of Fish and Wildlife will continue to play a key role in Governor Gary Locke's statewide salmon recovery strategy. The Department also will continue to play a major role in implementing the salmon recovery legislation adopted last year by state lawmakers.
Koenings noted that despite the sacrifices in harvest already made by the state's tribal and non-tribal fisher's, many wild fish runs remain in jeopardy. In the months and years ahead, efforts must focus on using the best science available to restore freshwater fish habitat.
"Most of our salmon mortality is occurring in freshwater habitat that has been degraded over the years by unwise water and land use practices," Koenings said in the interview.
"The simple fact is we must make our rivers and creeks and streams better environments for fish if we are truly serious about wild salmon recovery."
Koenings, a fisheries and water scientists who was appointed WDFW's director in January, said the Department is committed to ensuring the state's harvest and hatchery practices are consistent with recovering troubled fish runs.
At the same time, the Department will continue to provide the science and practical know-how to recover wild fish, and enforce laws against poaching and other activities that threaten fish, he said.