In the late 1990s, our state adopted a statewide strategy to recover salmon. State and private forest landowners' contribution to the overall strategy was embodied in the Forest & Fish Law which was adopted by the Legislature 16 years ago. It stemmed from the collaborative effort of private forest landowners, tribes, conservationists, and local, state and federal government agencies.
A major component was to ensure that the road system on state and private forest lands would reduce sediment to streams and that culverts would not block fish passage on forested streams in Washington state.
As part of that plan, state and private forest landowners identified more than 7,000 barriers to fish passage and have corrected 5,600 barriers, which opened 3,800 miles of streams for fish habitat. The remaining work is scheduled for completion by 2021.
To fulfill the shared commitment to salmon recovery across the state, a coordinated effort to repair fish passage barriers needs to happen across all landscapes.
In far too many cases, the good work that state and private forest landowners have done to restore and protect our streams is being negated by fish barriers on state highway and local city and county roads, leaving miles of habitat unavailable for fish. State funding is the greatest obstacle.
State and private landowners are committed to doing their part.
Some long-term funding is necessary in order to ensure that the work done by state and private forest landowners on the statewide strategy to recover salmon can be followed up downstream by state and local authorities.
Currently, state decision-makers are discussing funding options to replace fish passage barriers. As they work on funding options, they must consider how to implement a coordinated strategy that encompasses an entire watershed approach in order to truly achieve salmon recovery.
We will continue to keep you and the members of the Working Forests Action Network apprised of developments on this important subject.