Olympic Peninsula, WA

Olympic Peninsula, WA


The Salmon Stronghold Initiative

Although state and federal programs have invested extensively in watershed restoration efforts and other recovery strategies, to date no listed population of Pacific salmon has been removed from the federal threatened and endangered species list. Unfortunately, the same forces that drove many populations to warrant federal protection continue to threaten those that remain healthy. Accordingly, while recovery efforts must be given time to succeed, a holistic conservation strategy must also include support for preventative approaches that can maintain strong salmon populations and the functioning habitats that they rely on.

The "stronghold approach" is a wild salmon conservation strategy designed to meet this need.  It recognizes a portfolio of watersheds that supports "wild, diverse, and abundant" salmon populations that make the greatest contribution towards regional  conservation goals (for example, those contained in NOAA recovery plans).  The approach seeks to  increase technical and financial support  for  the  conservation  of  strongholds  and  to  sustain  this support over the long term by integrating strongholds into new and existing policies. In cooperation with the North America Salmon Stronghold Partnership and state-based stronghold partnerships, WSC is advancing the stronghold approach through the following steps:

  1. Implement a science-driven approach to identify core centers of wild salmon abundance and diversity (salmon strongholds);
  2. Identify and map salmon strongholds, and confer stronghold status to watersheds or groups of watersheds;
  3. Prioritize prevention-based strategies necessary in and across strongholds, and leverage technical and financial support for implementation; and
  4. Sustain support by integrating the stronghold approach within new and existing policies and programs.

Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act

The Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act will establish a new, proactive U.S. policy recognizing the need for conservation of salmon strongholds as a complement to recovery of federally-listed salmon populations. It will also create a grants program to support cooperative conservation efforts that implement locally-led, high value conservation actions in healthy wild salmon ecosystems across Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, and Alaska.

In April 2009, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the entire West Coast Senate delegation introduced federal legislation to protect and restore the healthiest remaining wild Pacific salmon ecosystems in North America—"Salmon Strongholds." A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House on April 22nd by Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA 1st) and Mike Simpson (R-ID 2nd), with co-sponsorship from members in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California.

In June 2009, the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, Oceans, and Wildlife held a favorable hearing on the Act. Three of our partners, Sara LaBorde (North American Salmon Stronghold Partnership; WA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife), Jack Williams (Trout Unlimited), and Tom Weseloh (California Trout), testified in support of the legislation. The National Marine Fisheries Service's Acting Assistant Administrator and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Director of Fisheries and Habitat Conservation also testified in favor of the salmon stronghold strategy, signaling support from the Obama Administration.

The Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard in the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony on the legislation on April 15, 2010. Guido Rahr, Wild Salmon Center's President & Chief Executive, testified on behalf of the legislation, along with Dr. Gordon Reeves (U.S. Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station), Sara LaBorde (WA Dept. of Fish & Wildlife), and Joe Childress (United Fisherman of Alaska).

In December 2010, during the final week of the last Congressional session, WSC was successful in getting the Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act included in a natural resources omnibus bill ("America's Great Outdoors Act"), a package of over 100 conservation bills introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Despite broad bipartisan support behind many bills in the package, a blanket hold was placed on all bills with new funding authorizations and programs, effectively preventing passage of the legislation.

In July 2011, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and the entire West Coast Senate delegation reintroduced the bill.

In November 2011, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reviewed the Pacific Salmon Stronghold Conservation Act (S. 1401) and reported the bill out of committee favorably.

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