OLYMPIA -- The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has directed the
department to prepare a final environmental impact for a state Wild Salmonid Policy
that is based on the department's preferred alternative.
The EIS will set the framework for a Wild Salmonid Policy to be adopted by the
Fish and Wildlife Commission in the fall.
The commission on Friday directed the department to prepare a final EIS based
on the alternative previously recommended in the draft EIS.
Language was added to the preferred alternative that stressed the importance of
maintaining Washington's strong forestry and agricultural economies while rebuilding
wild salmon runs.
Commissioners still can request changes to the EIS until the final form is ready
to be printed.
The commissioners also have great latitude in developing a Wild Salmonid
Policy this fall as long as it is within the five options contained in the EIS. The law
requires the commission to wait for seven days after the distribution of the final EIS
before adopting the Wild Salmonid Policy.
Bern Shanks, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, said he is hopeful
that the Wild Salmonid Policy will be adopted by Washington's treaty tribes as well as
the commission in September.
"In addition to the tribes, we also will need the enthusiastic support of Gov. Gary
Locke and his Natural Resources Sub-Cabinet," Shanks said. He noted the support of
agencies such as the departments of Agriculture, Ecology, Natural Resources and
Community, Trade and Economic Development will be crucial to the policy's success.
Biologists believe restoring and protecting wild salmon habitat is a key element
in any strategy to rebuild the runs. WDFW, however, has little power to control land-
use decisions that can degrade or destroy salmon habitat.
The preferred alternative would set up watershed-based citizen councils to reach
local decisions on providing wild salmon the clean, cold water and other life needs they
require. WDFW and other state agencies would provide expert advice to the citizen
Amendments to the department's preferred alternative would:
- Stress the importance of maintaining forestry and agriculture economy. Technical assistance and other incentives to landowners were recommended as part of watershed plan development
- Add Indian tribes to the list of the local entities to be involved in local watershed planning entities
- Acknowledge the role of existing regulations, voluntary measures and individual landowner initiatives in developing watershed use plans
- Provide for flexible management of riparian (stream-side) areas, as long as stream protection is maintained
- Allow locally-adapted hatchery-origin fish to be counted toward meeting natural spawning escapement objectives.