Statewide Steelhead Management Plan: Statewide Policies, Strategies, and Actions

An icon of the Pacific Northwest, wild steelhead have provided important cultural and economic benefits throughout the region’s history. To help conserve and restore this important resource, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted a Statewide Steelhead Management Plan that provides a framework for rebuilding wild steelhead runs throughout the state.

The statewide plan, approved in March 2008, is designed to guide state fish managers as they work with tribal co-managers and local fish-recovery groups to develop management strategies for steelhead populations in seven specific areas of the state. One of those areas is the Puget Sound region, where NOAA Fisheries listed 44 stocks for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act in May 2007.

This website provides information on the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan and its development since 2006. It also includes a scientific assessment of Washington’s current steelhead populations, fisheries and management practices. This assessment was conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) from 2004-06 to serve as a foundation for the planning effort.

Key components of the statewide plan address:

  • Natural production
  • Habitat protection and restoration
  • Fishery management
  • Artificial production
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management
  • Research
  • Outreach and education

Groups involved in advising the state in the development of the statewide plan include, but are not limited to, the Wild Steelhead Coalition, the Hatchery Scientific Review Group, Washington Trout and members of the WDFW Steelhead and Cutthroat Advisory Policy Group.

Executive Summary

In 2004, the Director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife challenged the agency to develop a scientific foundation for a Statewide Steelhead Management Plan (SSMP). The scientific foundation for the SSMP comes from the Department’s steelhead science paper �"Oncorhynchus mykiss: Assessment of Washington State’s Anadromous Populations and Programs” (Draft February 2, 2008), which provided several findings and recommendations to rebuild Washington’s wild stocks. The findings and recommendations represent the underpinnings of the Statewide Steelhead Management Plan.

The steelhead management plan is necessary because in spite of seventy years of conservation efforts directed at the state’s steelhead stocks, many of these stocks are at a fraction of their historic numbers. Five of the seven distinct population segments that exist in Washington are currently federally listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Public review of O mykiss and the SSMP as well as comments and concerns expressed during the SEPA process contributed to the management plan. The plan provides a framework of policies, strategies, and actions that present overarching guidelines for department managers to collaborate with tribal co-managers and other interested parties, including watershed and regional groups, in the development of watershed and regional management plans (RMPs). RMPs will identify the long-term goals, benchmarks for modifications to management actions, escapement objectives, and the expected trajectory for the diversity, spatial structure, productivity, and abundance of each wild stock within its management area.

Policies, strategies and actions in the plan apply to steelhead program operations as well as administration. Steelhead operations include chapters dealing with natural production, habitat protection and restoration, artificial production, and fisheries management. These chapters explain how the Department will deal with steelhead and their habitats and are strongly interrelated.

Steelhead administration includes policy decisions that affect the administration of operations programs related to steelhead and their habitats. These chapters provide guidance to the Department for decisions affecting regulatory compliance, monitoring, evaluation and adaptive management, research and outreach & education programs. Their implementation increases the probability of success for the operations policies.

A summary of the policies for each chapter can be found under Goals and Policies following the Introduction. The Policy Statement for each chapter is shown in a box at the beginning of the chapter. Each chapter contains a short narrative followed by the strategies and actions to support achieving the goals and policies.

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