Extinction of our famed salmon is not an option.
THE proposed budget cuts coming from President Donald Trump will eliminate all federal funding for salmon recovery. This would be a devastating setback for a remarkable, citizen-led effort to restore healthy salmon runs in Washington.
Trump’s budget wipes out the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery fund, a federal grant program that is helping restore salmon along the entire Pacific Coast, from Alaska to California. This federal funding is the backbone of recovery efforts in Washington along with millions of dollars of state and local matching funds. Without the funding, the burden would fall entirely on state and local resources, which will significantly slow our efforts and ultimately lead to the extinction of some salmon species.
Our iconic salmon offer many benefits — a timeless cultural value; ongoing jobs and income for recreational and commercial businesses; a crucial driver for healthy land, air and water; and a source of joy and renewal for Washingtonians. And animals, such as orca, depend on salmon to survive.
Fishing is also big business. More than $1 billion is spent on recreational fishing and shellfish harvesting-related equipment and trips annually in Washington. Commercial salmon fishing brought in $39 million in 2014. The loss of this federal funding may mean the state won’t be able to pay for the monitoring and operations that segregate hatchery from wild fish required by the Endangered Species Act, threatening elimination of salmon fishing in some areas.
Investing in salmon recovery makes good sense, too. Every $1 million spent on watershed restoration results in an average of 16.7 jobs created. In addition, 80 percent of money invested in restoration projects stays in the county where the projects are located, providing needed cash in more rural and distressed counties. Salmon restoration funding has resulted in more than $1.1 billion in total economic activity in Washington since 1999.
When we restore our rivers, we help not only salmon, we help ourselves. We reduce flood risks. We improve water availability and quality for drinking, farm irrigation, swimming and boating. We restore natural shorelines and estuaries to do a better job filtering pollutants and supporting fish and shellfish. We protect healthy forests that absorb carbon, provide refuge for wildlife and cool the waters for salmon and other fish.
Loss of these federal funds undermines two decades of work by thousands of volunteers across Washington. For 20 years, school groups, community clubs, businesses, tribes, farmers and nonprofit groups have been planting trees along rivers, removing culverts, adding fencing to prevent cows from entering streams and placing logs to slow the current and create hiding and resting places for salmon.
Our work is starting to pay off. Of the 15 salmon and steelhead populations listed under the federal Endangered Species Act, two are nearing recovery goals, several are showing progress, and some lag behind. To complete the task, our work needs to continue for years to come. It has taken decades to decimate the salmon populations, and we need more time to recover them. Without federal funding, recent gains may be lost, greatly increasing the risk of extinction of some salmon.
This is no time to cripple the recovery program. People and organizations are in place to make a difference, and we know how to recover salmon. But we can’t do it alone. We need, and value, our federal partners. It would be mindlessly destructive for federal funding to be eliminated. If current plans, projects and personnel are stopped, the efforts of decades will unravel. Without an enduring national commitment, our precious salmon may indeed go extinct despite our best state and local efforts.
Extinction is not an option. We call upon our congressional delegation to reverse the impulse to destroy the vital federal investment and “stand up for salmon,” so that extinction is never the outcome.