TERO grads join forces with Snohomish County Public Works to benefit salmon recovery

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Salmon habitat restoration, honoring treaty rights, and tribal members showcasing successful employment within the construction trades are themes currently in action at an on-reservation construction project. Heavy construction equipment has owned Marine Drive between 19th Ave NE and 23rd Ave NE since September 10, while Snohomish County Public Works replaces a poorly conditioned culvert with one that is fish-friendly by design.

A culvert is basically an underground pipe that allows water to pass beneath roads and other obstructions. The Marine Drive culvert carries water flow from Hibulb Creek to the Snohomish River estuary, which is a fish bearing stream. 

According to Snohomish County officials, the existing 24-inch corrugated metal culvert under Marine Drive is in poor condition and undersized. The current culvert is a fish barrier, while the new larger box culvert will meet fish passage requirements.

“Originally engineers designed road crossing culverts to maximize the capacity to carry water with the smallest possible pipe size. This was efficient and economical,” stated Snohomish County representatives. “A fish-friendly design approach is a culvert wide enough and sloped properly to allow the stream channel to act naturally.”

On June 11 of this year, the Supreme Court split a decision resulting in the enforcement of a lower court order requiring Washington State to pay for the removal of over 900 culverts that have become clogged or degraded to the point of blocking salmon migration. 

It was a decision that had been passing through the courts for 17 years. The U.S. government sued Washington back in 2001, on behalf of 21 Northwest tribes, to force the state to replace culverts blocking fish passage with structures that allow fish to pass through. Because the pipe-like culverts block salmon from reaching their spawning grounds, they deprive the tribes of fishing rights guaranteed by treaty.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that the treaties promised tribes there would always be salmon to harvest, and that the State has a duty to protect those fish and their habitat,” said Lorraine Loomis (Swinomish), chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. “The ruling will open hundreds of miles of high quality salmon habitat that will produce hundreds of thousands more salmon annually for harvest by everyone.”

Snohomish County officials also point out, “The ability of salmon and steelhead to swim upstream to their traditional spawning grounds, while allowing juvenile salmon to move upstream and downstream unimpeded for rearing is vital to their recovery across Washington.”

This specific culvert replacement is vital to salmon recovery and habitat restoration on the Tulalip Reservation, and it’s of particular significance to three TERO Vocational Training Center (TVTC) graduates who are part of the construction team.

Jay Davis, Jess Fryberg and Brando Jones graduated from TVTC before starting their construction careers.

Jess Fryberg (Tulalip), Brando Jones (Tulalip) and Jay Davis (Sioux/Turtle Mountain Chippewa) all trained in the construction trades at TVTC and graduated with hopes of pursuing a career pathway that was previously unavailable. Now, each is earning prevailing wages and gaining lifelong skills while working on a project beneficial to protecting treaty rights and salmon recovery.

“Construction has opened up a variety of work for me and each site I’ve worked on teaches me something new,” shared Jess, a 24-year-old tribal member. “Working on this culvert project on the Rez has been a great opportunity. Plus, a long time down the road I’ll be able to tell my kids I helped build it.”

For 27-year-old, single father Brando Jones, he moved from Tacoma to Tulalip two years ago just to have an opportunity to change his future by attending TVTC classes. It was a big move that is now paying off huge dividends as he won sole custody of his son, Dakota, and is building a solid foundation for a career in the construction trades.

“Being able to work on my own reservation while building a future for me and my son is such a good feeling,” shared Brando. “The fact that this replacement culvert will help salmon and protects our treaty rights is a bonus all on its own.”

The Marine Drive culvert construction is expected to complete in the next few weeks, while its positive impact to local salmon habitat restoration is expected to last generations.

Protecting our Salish Sea, the salmon and the southern resident orcas

Jessica Janes helps clean up the coast.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip news

The traditional Tulalip story, the Seal Hunting Brothers told by Martha Lamont, is the story of two young Tulalip men who lived at Priest Point. The brothers would travel the Salish Sea hunting for seals, salmon and shellfish for the entire community. The brothers prepared and delivered plates of fresh seafood to the elders as well as to their sister and her family, informing their sister to save some food for her husband, who was a carver and often away from home. The sister, however, disregarded her brother’s advice and distributed her husband’s share amongst herself and her children.

When the carver returned home, there was no food in sight. He asked his wife if her brothers dropped off any food for the family while he was away, to which she replied no. Upset at this news, the carver constructed a lifelike seal carved from cedar and enchanted the structure with magic to trick the brothers. They took the bait. The brothers harpooned the cedar seal statue while on a hunt and were pulled deep into the ocean only to wash ashore days later, miles away from home. Realizing what their brother-in-law did, they began their long journey home where they were presumed to be dead.

Upon their return to Tulalip, the brothers shared their story with their family and decided because of the complexities of the situation, they should live away from the tribe. They chose to begin a new life upon the waters that long provided food for their community, the Salish Sea, and became killer whales. Their descendants are said to be the southern resident orcas that still frequent the Salish Sea waters searching for Chinook salmon.

Similar stories of the brothers are shared within Indigenous communities all along the waterways of the Salish Sea, comprised of the waters now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia. As the story goes, the brothers chose to stay close to home and often provided seafood to the Coast Salish peoples in times of famine.  The story teaches many important values of the Northwest tribes as well as explains our strong connection with the orca, who is often honored within the culture through stories and artwork.

The southern resident orcas are intelligent, sociable mammals who share a lot of the same values and traditions of the Coast Salish people. For instance, the southern resident orcas are known to perform ceremonial practices during social gatherings when all three pods, J, K and L, meet up, which is known as a superpod. The most recent superpod was held last week in the waters near Vancouver Island where footage of the gathering was caught by the locals and tourists of Victoria, British Columbia. The orcas also travel with the same pod for their entire life, relying on each other’s strengths within a multi-generational family, much like many Native communities.

Another similar interest we share with the orcas is our love for salmon. The importance of salmon to Coast Salish people has been well documented over the years and is integral to each tribe’s way of life. The tribes of Washington State were guaranteed fishing rights when signing the treaties with the United States Government in exchange for land. Since the Fish Wars, the Boldt Decision, and even up until today, tribes exercising that right have been met with a number of challenges.

Over recent years, the salmon population has seen a dramatic decline. A number of manmade dams and blocked culverts are preventing salmon from swimming upstream during spawning season and less salmon are returning each year. In fact, many tribes opted not to fish this season in hopes more salmon will spawn and increase salmon population. Pollution remains another constant concern for aquatic life in the Salish Sea with chemicals and waste pouring into the waters from storm water runoff and local ferries traveling the straits. The lack of salmon has caused tribes to stray from their traditional diets and therefore more tribal members are faced with health concerns.

The same can be said about the southern resident orcas. The lack of salmon and polluted waterways caused some serious health concerns for the whales including reproduction. The orcas are crying out for help. This past summer’s heartbreaking story about southern resident orca, Tahlequah (J35), carrying her dead newborn calf for seventeen days on a ‘tour of grief’ caused tears across the entire nation. And the recent proclamation of Scarlet’s (J50) death is further evidence that we need to take immediate action.

In the sixties and seventies, a third of the southern resident population were hunted at a young age and held captive at marine life amusement parks like SeaWorld. Orcas often live well past their eighties, but unfortunately all but one of the orcas captured have died at a young age. Tokitae, the last remaining poached orca, resides at the Miami Seaquarium and the Lummi tribe has been fighting for years to return the whale to the Salish Sea.

As a result of starvation, theme park poachings and pollution, the southern resident orcas were placed on the endangered species list in 2005 after a significant drop in population of nearly twenty orcas over the course of a decade. Since then, the number of orcas has been steadily declining. With the passing of Scarlet, only seventy-four orcas remain.

Because of the recent news, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee established a southern resident orca task force whose main focus is orca protection and recovery. Members of the task force include representatives from Washington state, a handful of tribes and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The passing of both J35’s calf and J50 is opening up an important conversation about respecting Mother Earth and taking care of the environment. More and more citizens are participating at rallies in support of the salmon and orca such as the Festival of the Steh-Chass in Olympia and the Salmon Celebration in Seattle. The most recent effort united over thirty communities throughout Washington state and British Columbia.

September 15 marked International Coastal Cleanup day, where seaside communities participated in clearing their local beaches of any trash or harmful products. Communities of the Salish Sea, along with a number of non-profits like 350 and the Orca Network, banned together to tailor International Coastal Cleanup day to the Pacific Northwest communities by organizing Salish Sea Day of Action, which provides information and resources about the state of the Salish Sea, the southern resident orcas and the salmon habitat at the cleanup events.

Citizens of Tacoma, Port Townsend, Edmonds, Shoreline, Bellingham, Lopez Island and Mount Vernon, as well as Victoria and Vancouver, gathered in their respective hometowns to clean the beaches, offer prayer, honor and thank the water for its plentiful resources on the rainy Saturday morning.

“Today is a day of action for the Salish Sea and we wanted to join in,” says Amanda Colbert of the Orca Network at the Action for Orcas event in Mount Vernon. “It’s also International Costal Cleanup so there are quite a few events all up and down the coast with multiple organizations. Orca Network decided we wanted to be a part of this because, as you know, any trash, pesticides and chemicals that wind up in any of our rivers eventually leads to the ocean. I’ve run a beach cleanup once out here before and I just thought that this would be another wonderful opportunity to jump in and get the community on board.”

The Orca Network event attracted many participants and the sands of the Bayview State Park in Mount Vernon were trash free in no time. During the cleanup, attendees passionately spoke of protecting the environment and the southern resident orcas.

Ryan Rickerts, volunteer.

“The oceans are definitely in trouble,” says Ryan Rickerts of Bellingham. “Most of the planet is covered by water, it’s our source of everything. Coming here today is a way for me to connect and give back a little bit. The orcas are in real big trouble, so I wanted to be around likeminded people that care about the ocean, the orcas and wanted to do something to help. Hopefully we keep this up; good energy is building. With the orcas that have been dying, hopefully that creates a sense of urgency for people to get together. The Swinomish hosted the orca task force meeting a couple weeks ago and I think it’s good for people to come together to keep talking about it and try to find solutions. We have to take action and it helps to have conversations and get everybody at the same table because it’s going to take everyone.”

Tulalip tribal member and Water Protector, Kayah George, hosted a prayer service the day following Salish Sea Day of Action where she shared spiritual and cultural teachings about the water during Sunday worship at the Woodland Park Presbyterian Church.

“What concerns me about what’s happening in the Coast Salish Sea is the same thing that has been concerning my people for hundreds of years,” Kayah passionately expressed in a video leading up to Salish Sea Day of Action and her prayer service. “It is the disrespect. The utter and complete lack of respect for our brothers and sisters in the sea and for the sea itself. It’s not seen as a living thing; they see it as something that’s disposable.”

The number of supporters at the Salish Sea Day of Action events shows that people are beginning to listen to the calls for help by the beautiful coastal killer whales. And through a combined effort, we can all make a difference in protecting the orcas by restoring the salmon habitat, and that begins with the removal of dams, culvert repairs and environmental awareness.

“There are plenty of ways that people can start,” shares Amanda. “A lot of it is being focused on what you buy at the grocery stores. There are cleaner, greener products out there that are biodegradable. We have to move away from single use products. A lot of what was picked up here today was plastic wrappers, straws and cups that are only used once. So it’s helpful anytime anybody can pick up a water bottle or a green bag. If you don’t want to give up straws, there are companies making reusable metal or BPA-free plastic straws. What we treat our lawns with also has a huge impact. We get a lot of rain here so a lot of things end up in the storm drains. I’m thankful for all the volunteers that came out today and for the opportunity to reach and talk to people about our southern residents and what they’re going through.”

To stay up to date on the southern resident orcas, please visit www.OrcaNetwork.org or check out the Department of Ecology at www.ecology.wa.gov to find out more about the Orca Task Force, Salish Sea spills and cleanups, salmon recovery and upcoming meetings and events.

Festival of the Steh-Chass Celebrates Salmon Protection and Restoration

Native American rapper Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas headlined the Festival.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Pre-colonization, the Port of Olympia was once a plentiful estuary that was occupied by the Steh-Chass people on Squaxin Island territory. Salmon swam in abundance through the inlet and there was no shortage of wildlife in the estuary, providing food for the Steh-Chass community comprised of a number of tribal members from Squaxin Island, Nisqually, Chehalis and Suquamish. The Salish Sea waters freely flowed from the Puget Sound through the estuary along the Deshutes River, ensuring nourishment for the people. 

As time passed, the area eventually became the home to Washington State’s capital and in the 1950’s, the state built a dam on 5th Ave. The dam separated the lake from the Puget Sound, creating a reservoir used to reflect the Washington State capital building on its surface. The once bountiful estuary is now a decorative body of water known as Capital Lake where currently no native wildlife reside. Not to mention that nearly every spawning season since its construction, the dam has been home to a number of seals who pick off salmon attempting to swim upstream. 

Billy Frank Jr. was a strong advocate for the removal of the dam. Salmon Defense, a non-profit established by the twenty Northwest Washington tribes, continues his vision today, years after his passing. And for nearly three decades, the Deschutes Estuary Restoration Team (DERT) has been fighting the same fight, actively working to reconnect the reservoir back to Puget Sound and restore the estuary. 

Over Labor Day weekend, Salmon Defense and DERT teamed up, along with the Tulalip, Puyallup, Nisqually and Squaxin Island tribes, to host a festival celebrating Indigenous culture while honoring local tribes and the water in the name of salmon recovery and estuary restoration. 

The first annual Festival of the Steh-Chass was held September 1, at Heritage Park in Olympia overlooking Capital Lake. The weather was sunny and clear and a stage was setup at the center of the park where the Washington State Capital was visible in its background. The start of the festival, however, began at the 5th Ave dam as tribal members and Olympia community members welcomed the canoe families of Squaxin Island, who pulled into the Port in traditional cedar canoes. The crowd then followed the canoe family as they sang the traditional songs of their people while walking through Heritage Park.  

“What we wanted to do with this festival is create a space for Indian people to gather, talk, sing and celebrate Indian people and reawaken the Indigenous spirit of this area,” says Salmon Defense Director and Willie Frank III’s wife, Peggen Frank. “The Salmon Defense has been wanting to do something to raise awareness for the salmon, for the crucial state we’re in. The salmon are collapsing and it’s really scary. For me, as a tribal person, the reason why I’m fighting for the salmon is not only because of what [Billy Frank Jr.] taught me – and that’s when salmon are healthy, we’re healthy and without clean water we won’t survive – but the coastal people have a beautiful culture and the salmon are a vital piece of that culture. 

“The tribes are so powerful here because of their treaty rights,” she continues. “That’s how Salmon Defense was created from the Northwest Washington treaty tribes to litigate, advocate and educate on behalf of Pacific Northwest salmon. When they put the dam in and created this pond, they destroyed two-hundred and fifty acres of salmon habitat. If we remove the dam and are able to start the restoration process, we’ll have both Coho and Chinook salmon. Those are the two main species that our resident orcas eat. If we’re not able to create, protect and enforce policies that save salmon, that enhance salmon restoration, that support tribal treaty rights, we’re not going to be able to save the orca.”

Information booths were stationed along the park’s walkway from organizations such as Northwest Treaty Tribes, Salmon Defense and DERT. Children got to enter the belly of a giant salmon, named Finn the Fish, and learn about the watershed habitat through traditional art that was painted on the inside of the fish. 

“We came out today because anytime there’s an opportunity to join forces in protecting our water, I think it is absolutely our responsibility,” says Tulalip Tribal member, Theresa Sheldon. “I think it’s amazing to bring our young people together; we have to get our youth more involved because our youth’s voices are so powerful. When they’re fighting and protecting the Mother Earth and doing this justice for the environment, that will transcend boundaries and crosses over any politics and gets to the root core of who we are as Indigenous People.”

As the day progressed a number of talented Native American singers and artists took the stage, including Suquamish singer and WaterIsLife activist, Calina Lawrence, as well as singing trio, Thunderbirds Raised Her, who are a group of young sisters from Lummi. The crowd was moved by both acts as they sang about important issues in Native America like protecting the water and growing up on a reservation. The songs were in contemporary R&B fashion while incorporating elements such as hand drums and their traditional language into the music. Several other Native performers kept the crowd entertained throughout the day including Seattle hip hop artist Momentum X and the Indigenous Sisters Resistance group, as well as a fashion show by Indigenous Designer Abriel Johnny.

The festival’s headliner did not disappoint. Event goers rushed the stage as Native American rapper and advocate, Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, began to perform an array of the hip hop group’s hits that had the crowd dancing. 

About halfway through his set, Taboo asked the sound crew to cut the music so he could talk to the people about protecting our natural resources. He explained that he was so moved by the NODAPL movement that he postponed recording a new project and tour dates with the Black Eyed Peas to ‘go to Standing Rock to be with my people’, after receiving full support from bandmates. Taboo also spoke about the resiliency of Indigenous people before performing his MTV Video Music Award Nominee song, Stand Up/Stand N Rock.

Following Taboo, Willie Frank III took to the stage to close out the Festival of the Steh-Chass. 

“As we talked about all day today, the message is to make this lake flow into our Puget sound, make it an estuary again and bring the salmon back to Capital Lake,” he passionately expressed. “It’s so good to see all these youth out here taking part in this, they are truly our next generation, they are our future. Our elders are the most important piece of our culture and now we have the youth coming up, and we’re going to educate them. We’re going to do what we need to do to protect our salmon, to protect our natural resources.

“The salmon defense was an idea from my late father, Billy Frank Jr., and it’s been four years since he’s passed. I know he’s looking down on us with a big smile shouting, ‘get rid of the damn dam!’ My hands go up to everybody who help put this together, it’s been a great day. We’re still here and we’re not going anywhere.” 

Pacific Northwest Tribes unite to protect and defend salmon

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The life and legacy of Billy Frank Jr. was honored on March 19, as a dynamic group of tribal leaders and state representatives assembled for the Billy Frank Jr. Pacific Salmon Summit, held at the Orca Ballroom in the Tulalip Resort Casino. The goal was to continue the teachings of a fearless leader and historic visionary, while igniting others to carry the torch to advance and strengthen policies to protect and defend salmon and salmon habitat.

Billy Frank Jr., who died four years ago in May, committed his life to protecting his Nisqually people’s traditional way of life and to protecting the endangered salmon whose survival is the focus of tribal life. Beginning with his first arrest as a teenager in 1945 for “illegal” fishing on his beloved Nisqually River, he became a leader of a civil disobedience movement that insisted on the treaty rights (the right to fish in “usual and accustomed places”) guaranteed to Washington tribes more than a century before.

His activism ultimately led to the Supreme Court’s landmark Boldt Decision in 1974, affirming Native American treaty fishing rights. The Boldt Decision held that the government’s promise to secure the fisheries for the tribes was central to the treaty-making process, and allocates 50 percent of the annual catch to treaty tribes.

Pacific salmon have long played an essential role in the cultures and lives of the Indigenous People of the Pacific Northwest. Today, salmon and their precious habitat are in a critical state because of unchecked commercial fishing, waterway contamination, habitat destruction, net-pen farming, and road culverts that restrict fish habitat.

In order to ensure future generations can continue to practice their traditional ways of life, existing efforts to protect the salmon must be enhanced and strengthened. That is why the Billy Frank Jr. Pacific Salmon Summit was the perfect opportunity for tribal leaders, fishery managers, policy makers, state representatives, scientists, and the public to come together and discuss strategies for protecting salmon for the future.

The Pacific Salmon Summit opened with traditional drumming and prayers by the Tulalip Canoe Family. As the welcome song echoed through the Orca Ballroom, students from Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary proudly displayed their banner created from hundreds of salmon cutouts they created during Billy Frank Jr. spirit week.

Speaking beneath a conference banner bearing Billy Frank Jr.’s portrait and the slogan, “The Truth Will Lead Us,” Quinault Indian Nation President, Fawn Sharp, gave the summit’s keynote address.

“I saw Billy as a historic visionary. He had this ability to go back to treaty time and had an incredible understanding of what those words meant,” Fawn said. “As a visionary, he understood the many challenges facing humanity, facing our generation. Billy would want people to come together to have a real discussion and understand the current state of the salmon.

“You’re going to find this is the beginning,” she continued. “Because the salmon is – as Billy said so many times – the true measure of our health and our life. And who’s paying attention to that? We are.”

A most diverse gathering, the summit brought together a broad range of people to share information and exchange ideas about how to continue to restore and protect salmon. Together, participants in the inaugural Billy Frank Jr. Pacific Salmon Summit identified and developed an advocacy strategy to strengthen protection policies for salmon and salmon habitat.

“We freely step up and we take on the battle to protect our salmon because the salmon is our culture,” explained Tulalip tribal member, Glen Gobin, who was the summit’s master of ceremonies. “We hold events like this to keep people vitalized, to keep that passion alive, and most importantly to keep our future alive. The future is for each and every resident in Washington State. We have to pull together and take ownership of what that means; it’s not somebody else’s responsibility, it’s each and every one of our own responsibility to take control of our future. We need to heal this environment and protect our salmon so that our children and great-grandchildren have a future.”

The summit wrapped up with a call to action to challenge the status quo, and to create meaningful partnerships with co-managers who will work as diligently and responsibly to protect the salmon as tribal programs do. A work group was formed to develop proposed actions and investigate conflicts and failings in reaching recovery objectives. Their common goals include increased use of hatcheries and more aggressive salmon habitat restoration.

There was also a joint declaration with representatives of several Pacific Northwest tribes and First Nations from Canada calling for a shutdown of Atlantic salmon net-pen farming all along the West Coast. Like Billy Frank Jr. said, “It is going to take all of us working together to turn the tide for the Salmon.”

The summit was sponsored by the Tulalip, Lummi, Puyallup, Squaxin Island, Snoqualmie and Nisqually tribes and organized by Salmon Defense, a nonprofit salmon recovery group founded by the late Billy Frank Jr.

Adapting to Change: Tulalip Community Addresses Climate Change

Community members share their top five climate change concerns,.Natural Resources will utilize and refer to this data while developing the adaptation plan throughout the next six months.

 

“We’re going to be developing strategies to preserve tribal customs and culture first and foremost.”

– Colin Wahl,Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Scientist

 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Countless studies have shown that since the 1900’s, the Earth’s heat has increased by about 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit. That is at an alarming rate considering that leading up to the Industrial Revolution, the planets heat only increased by about nine degrees over the span of 5,000 years.  Due to the burning of fossil fuels, excessive carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere over the last century. Carbon dioxide is produced by humans, animals and plants; but also by human activity such as generating electricity and using gasoline for vehicles.

Carbon dioxide traps radiated heat from the sun, at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the planet’s temperature to increase. The more heat that is trapped, the warmer the planet becomes. If the Earth’s population continues to burn fossil fuels at its current rate, over the next century, future generations will face extreme weather including draughts, floods and storms. Recent studies claim that in the year 2100, heat waves will last up to twenty days and will result in many deaths around the entire world.

Climate change is inevitable, however, many environmentalists believe the process can be slowed by means of conserving energy, utilizing other forms of transportation and recycling. The Tulalip Tribes are among the many tribal nations, environmentalists and scientists studying the cause and effect of climate change and how it will affect future generations.

Tulalip’s Natural Resource Department recently held a community dinner at the Tulalip Administration Building to discuss climate change and how it will impact Tulalip and its surrounding areas.

“It is a great honor to be here to start talking about climate change,” said Tulalip Vice Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “We are beginning to look at what we can do to help better the environment. I really want to see us building green, utilizing solar power and really ramping up our recycling efforts and the reuse of materials. There’s a lot of things that we’re talking about, in regards to climate change, and we need to start taking those steps in the right direction.”

The community dinner included presentations by Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Scientist, Colin Wahl, as well as guest speaker Clarita Lefthand-Begay of the Navajo Nation, who is an Environmental Professor at the University of Washington.

Colin’s presentation provided a brief overview of climate change, explaining ocean acidification, sea level rise and how global warming will impact salmon runs in the future.

“Salmon is one of the major issues of climate change we’re concerned about,” explained Colin. “As Patti [Gobin] said, the Tulalips are fish people and the tribal culture really relies on fishing and maintaining the salmon populations. We’re going to have to maintain our protection and restoration strategies in the future, but we might have to adjust some of those strategies to consider how climate change impacts salmon. Some of these strategies might include things like protecting cold water habitat in streams and rivers as well as generally trying to slow the progression of climate change through policies that actually decrease carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.”

Colin stated that due to the impacts from sea level rise, various areas of the reservation will experience beach loss. Areas that will be affected include Tulalip Bay, Hermosa Beach, Priest Point and the Qwuloolt Estuary. Colin used charts to compare and contrast the areas today and the same area eighty years in the future. He also explained that the Natural Resources Department is in the early stages of developing a Climate Change Adaption Plan which will take approximately six months to complete before the implementation process begins.

“We’re going to be developing strategies to preserve tribal customs and culture first and foremost,” Colin stated. “We’re also developing strategies to protect tribal property and infrastructure. We’re working with all the different departments within the administration, including Planning in particular, they’ll be an essential element throughout the process. We also need to protect and restore treaty resources, or continue to do so, so that the Tribe’s customs and culture can extend into the future.

“Historically, Indigenous cultures are very resilient in the Puget Sound area,” he continued. “The ancestors of the Tulalip Tribes, like the salmon, have adapted to the changing environments for thousands of years. This is a little more difficult now, because in the past the people could follow the species wherever they went. Since treaty times, the tribes are tied to place, tied to a reservation, tied to these legally defined boundaries. So, there might be issues with species shifts where there’s more salmon up north compared to south.”

Clarita spoke with the community before leading an open forum discussion. During her presentation she spoke in detail about the dangers of climate change, stating that by the year 2100, the earth will regularly experience extreme heat waves, air pollution as well as water and food borne illnesses. She also states that the food of future generations including shellfish, fish, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables will all be negatively affected by climate change. Clarita explained that the populations most affected by climate change will be elders, children, pregnant women, individuals with compromised immune systems as well as poverty-stricken families.

The climate change dinner concluded with an open discussion for the community to voice their concerns regarding the impacts of climate change. Clarita and the Natural Resources team wrote documented the many concerns. Following the discussion, the participants were given five post-it stickers, each a different color, and asked to rate their top five concerns. Natural Resources will utilize and refer to this data while developing the adaptation plan throughout the next six months.

PUD Fish Passage Project: great for the fish, great for the environment

Marie Zackuse, Tulalip Tribes Chairwoman.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

On Thursday, May 11, Snohomish County Public Utility District (PUD) officials joined with the City of Everett, the Tulalip Tribes, and various state and federal resource agencies to recognize the success of the Fish Passage Project. The location of this gathering was on-site at the Jackson Hydroelectric Project Powerhouse in Sultan, Washington.

“It’s an honor to be here today to celebrate completion of the PUD Fish Passage Project. We raise our hands to all of you who have helped ensure safe passage of our precious salmon,” stated Tulalip Chairwoman Marie Zackuse during the Sultan celebration. “Our water and salmon are the foundation of our culture. Our people occupied lands ranging from the islands near Seattle, north to the Canadian border and east to the Cascades. Some of our people descended from a village near the mouth of the Sultan River. Today, one-hundred years after the diversion dam was built, we can finally welcome our salmon home.”

Back in 1919, the City of Everett oversaw the first timber crib dam on the Sultan River built for water supply. In 1929, a decade later, Everett built a new concrete diversion dam at the same location to meet water needs of their growing region. The way the diversion was managed, there were times of the year that the Upper Sultan River was completely dry. Although the Lower Sultan River received enough water from other tributaries to allow salmon to spawn, miles of the Upper Sultan River were no longer accessible to spawning fish resulting in massive population losses.

Fast forward to 2011, when the PUD received a new 45-year hydroelectric license, requiring volitional fish passage construction at the Diversion Dam based on a biological need for more habitat.  In May to December 2016, the Diversion Dam received several modifications that allow for unrestricted access (upstream and downstream) for resident and anadromous fish to additional six miles of habitat, an area not accessible to them since 1929. Within the few short months since the dam’s modifications, Natural Resources and Fisheries staff have already seen Coho and Steelhead return in the area above the dam and anticipate Chinook will return in the upcoming season.

“Creating passage for fish past the 1930’s era diversion dam was a significant endeavor, but the best part is the fish are already taking advantage of this new opportunity,” said PUD Natural Resources Manager Keith Binkley. “These actions, as well as others on the horizon, are indicative of the substantial and collaborative effort by those of us who know and care about this river system.”

Earlier this year, the PUD’s Diversion Dam Project received the National Hydropower Association’s “Outstanding Stewards of American’s Waters Award” in the category of “Recreational, Historical, & Environmental Enhancement.”

For more information on the PUD Fish Passage Project and several other projects taking place in the Jackson Hydroelectric Powerhouse house area please visit www.snopud.com/jhp

For Tulalips, protecting treaty rights means restoring habitat

From a research boat on Oct. 12, Tulalip Tribes treaty rights commissioner Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

From a research boat on Oct. 12, Tulalip Tribes treaty rights commissioner Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

 

By Chris Winters, The Herald, Oct 22, 2016

 

TULALIP — From the deck of a 30-foot research boat owned by the Tulalip Tribes, Terry Williams pointed out the remnants of a bulkhead along Mission Beach where not long ago there was a string of beach houses.

In 2013, the leases on the tribal property weren’t renewed and the homes were removed. The main concern was erosion of the beach and the bluffs overhead damaging the fragile marine environment below.

Williams, who is the Tulalips’ treaty rights commissioner, said increased rainfall and stronger windstorms would saturate the sandy bluffs and cause them to slide down onto the houses below.

“It gets to the consistency of a milkshake and tends to fall,” Williams said.

On a bright fall day, several parts of the bluff showed clear evidence of slides. Houses were visible above.

Coastal landslides tend to silt up the nearshore environment, which is considered a critical piece of the salmon ecosystem.

“Those areas are really important for forage fish for threatened and endangered salmon,” said Joshua Meidav, the Tulalip Tribes’ conservation science program manager.

The beaches were created and rejuvenated over millennia by the gradual erosion of the bluffs. Development along the shore, including bulkheads, docks and clifftop homes, interrupted that natural process.

Now when the bluff slides, it tends to come down all at once, Williams said.

“The reality is that this is all changing,” he said.

An issue of rights 

Climate change is a concern to Williams and the Tulalips in ways that go well beyond the usual worries about flooding and slides. It’s an issue of treaty rights.

While treaty rights are most commonly understood in the context of dividing the salmon harvest, their reach extends beyond the fishing grounds to tribal relationships with local, state and federal governments, said Ray Fryberg Sr., the Tulalips’ Executive Director of Natural Resources.

Most commonly that manifests in cooperative work with federal, state and local governments, and even private landowners, on many kinds of projects designed to restore salmon habitat.

On other occasions, the tribes have sought redress in the federal courts when they felt government wasn’t living up to its obligations.

“We’re like the last vanguard,” Fryberg said. “They have policies and procedures but there’s no enforcement.”

Most recently, that manifested in the “culverts case.”

In 2001, 21 tribes argued successfully that Washington state violated their treaty rights because culverts that carried streams under roads harmed salmon runs.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in June, and ordered the state Department of Transportation to replace or fix 818 culverts at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion over the next 17 years.

It was a significant advancement of treaty rights into the realm of habitat restoration.

“The culvert case is the case that says there has to be a restoration so that ongoing harm doesn’t continue,” said Robert Anderson, a law professor and the director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington.

In this case, the state of Washington was found to have damaged habitat for salmon, and was ordered to make repairs.

Habitat protection and restoration were key elements in the second phase of a landmark decision by U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt.

In 1974, the first phase of the Boldt decision provided the basis for the co-management system, in which tribal and non-tribal fishermen divide the salmon harvest each year. The second phase, decided in 1984, focused on the habitat for the salmon.

“Phase II said that there’s not going to be a treaty resource of the salmon unless the environment is protected,” Fryberg said. “We get a certain amount of say-so in that.”

The part of the Phase II Boldt decision that obligated the federal government to restore habitat was overturned on appeal. However, the federal appeals court still said that the state of Washington and the tribes needed to take steps to protect and enhance the fisheries.

What those steps should be was left unstated.

“It’s difficult to argue that the federal government has an obligation to restore the ecosystem to, say, pre-treaty conditions, or treaty-time conditions,” Anderson said.

Some of the damage to habitat had already been done by that time, he said. Also, it’s a lot harder to assess the damage done by small changes, such as a single tide gate on private land, compared with the cumulative effects of the state’s culvert construction.

Momentum for restoration work can be created, however, when treaty rights are considered in tandem with the Endangered Species Act’s listing of various populations of salmon and steelhead.

“I think there’s a strong argument with the federal government to take steps to restore habitat,” Anderson said. “Maybe not a legal argument, but a treaty trust obligation to do it, and that they should do it.”

A seat at the table 

In practical terms, that means that the tribes have been aggressive in forming partnerships to pursue environmental projects.

Representatives from the Tulalips and the Suquamish Tribes were included in last week’s announcement of a new governmental task force to identify goals to protect Puget Sound.

Tribes also have broad leeway to take on projects of their own that help restore habitat, or at least halt the progress of degradation.

It’s not a blanket authority to do anything anywhere, but it means tribes have a seat at the table whenever a treaty trust resource is affected.

As a coordinating body among the 20 treaty tribes of Western Washington, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission has a role supporting restoration programs to have a greater impact.

A lot of the commission’s work focuses on the marine nearshore environment, said Fran Wilshusen, the NWIFC’s habitat services director. That also means studying how the marine environment interacts with estuaries, river systems and the upland watersheds.

“We’re trying to pull the lens back and look at how the whole system is connected,” Wilshusen said.

That includes small projects, such as the Tulalips’ 2013 pilot study to release beavers in the western Cascades, where their activity of building dams is expected to help return the upper reaches of streams to their natural state, which happens to be better spawning territory for salmon.

Larger efforts include the Tulalips’ restoration of the 400-acre Qwuloolt Estuary in Marysville. A similar project was restoration of the 762-acre estuary in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge outside Tacoma by the Nisqually Tribe.

The ongoing Nearshore Restoration Project focuses on restoring beaches and marine environments damaged by beach erosion. It’s a Snohomish County project, and local tribes have a place at the table, serving on the boards of several organizations that provided money for the project, including the county’s Marine Resource Committee and the Northwest Straits Commission.

One project under way is an agreement between the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service to maintain a 1,280-acre tract in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as a source of wild huckleberries.

There aren’t that many places left in the mountains that are accessible by road that still provide habitat for the berries, which are important to tribal culture, said Libby Halpin Nelson, a senior environmental policy analyst with the Tulalips.

“They are healthy and they are a traditional food that is always looked for in ceremonies,” Nelson said.

The project includes removing small conifers that could “shade-out” the berries. In essence, the tribe is mimicking the effect forest fires used to have before fire suppression became standard response, she said.

Rights at risk 

For all the work that’s been done to protect and restore salmon habitat, the fish runs continue to decline.

In spring, projections of low numbers of returning salmon, especially coho, led to a breakdown of negotiations between the tribes and the state. Tempers flared and fishermen protested when tribes were given permission to catch a small number of spring Chinook while the non-native sportsmen had to wait.

July report from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s “Treaty Rights at Risk” initiative pointed out just how dire the situation was for many watersheds, including the Snohomish and Stillaguamish rivers: Habitat was being lost faster than it could be replaced and nearly every single indicator of the health of salmon populations was trending downward.

The challenges looming on the horizon are even more formidable.

A poster on Fryberg’s office wall has a picture of the late Nisqually leader Billy Frank Jr. and his warning to all Native American tribes: “As the salmon disappear, so do our tribal cultures and treaty rights. We are at a crossroads, and we are running out of time.”

With each new study, it becomes clearer that changes are elapsing at an increasing speed.

“Ten, 15 years ago, what we said would happen in 50 years is already happening,” Fryberg said.

The Tulalip Tribes hosted two summits this year, one in April concerning rising sea levels, and another in September that looked at adapting to climate change in general. Fryberg said the tribe is planning a third focused on the state of salmon recovery.

“Collectively, we have to be making some effort,” Fryberg said. “We have a responsibility to the future to try and do something.”

The quote from Billy Frank was from an essay he wrote in 2012, and it’s the next sentence that points to what needs to be done: “That’s why we are asking the federal government to come to align its agencies and programs, and lead a more coordinated recovery effort.”

Williams’ entire career has been focused on building bridges between tribal, state and federal governments.

Shortly after the Boldt decision, he was involved in setting up the co-management regime in the state, and then negotiating the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada and its First Nations, backed by research developed by Tulalip staff scientists.

In the 1990s he was tapped to open the Indian Office in the Environmental Protection Agency. But many efforts to restore salmon runs were coming up short.

“We were putting tremendous amount of money into restoration and we were losing ground,” Williams said.

He realized that many federal and state agencies operated in their own silos, and often they might set regulations that aren’t in line with each other or broader goals.

“It’s the authority of each individual agency, federal, state or local, that gives them the ability to create rules and standards,” Williams said. “Eleven agencies have independent programs and authorities in Puget Sound. Most are not geared toward Puget Sound recovery goals.”

At the climate change summit in September, Williams noted the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to temporarily halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline after months of protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. He said that was recognition that regulators were out of alignment with the Obama Administration’s agenda.

While a court has allowed some of that work to start up again, the government’s order came with an announcement that the federal government would consult with tribes on major infrastructure projects in the future.

The consultation process already existed since President Obama created a cabinet-level position to coordinate government-tribal relations, Anderson said.

“Here the Obama Administration seems to be signaling that, ‘Hey, maybe we ought to be doing more,’” he said.

That may lead simply to more federal agencies talking to each other and more often with tribal governments, which is still a step forward.

From the Tulalip research boat, Williams pointed out a section of Hermosa Point where he’s lived since the 1970s. Here too, the bluffs have slid, and some of the houses are perched on the edge, hanging over the lip.

“When I bought my house we were looking at getting closer to the bluff, but decided that wasn’t a good idea,” he said.

If stronger regulations are enacted, it would prevent some houses from being built, and that would translate into lower insurance costs for government. That would also help protect fragile ecosystems.

“The more we can understand it, the better we can prepare,” Williams said.

“What we’re seeing in climate impacts right now is just the beginning.”

 

An eroding hillside near Hermosa Point on the Tulalip Reservation. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

An eroding hillside near Hermosa Point on the Tulalip Reservation. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Evidence of a recent slide along a hillside near Arcadia Road on the Tulalip Reservation on Oct. 12. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Evidence of a recent slide along a hillside near Arcadia Road on the Tulalip Reservation on Oct. 12. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Fishermen in Tulalip Bay with the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Fishermen in Tulalip Bay with the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Being Frank: Hatcheries Bridge Gap Between Habitat, Harvest

 

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By  Lorraine Loomis, Chair, NWIFC

 

Despite their unbreakable connection, salmon harvest and habitat restoration continue moving down separate roads in western Washington. Many people either don’t see or choose to ignore the fact that habitat determines harvest, and that we continue to lose habitat faster than it can be restored.

Indian and non-Indian harvest has been cut to the bone this summer because of expected historically low returns, especially coho. Yet habitat loss and damage – the root of the problem – continues every day throughout our watersheds and nearshore marine waters.

Poor ocean survival conditions certainly played a role in the low salmon returns of the past several years. But even when we can restore or protect salmon habitat, we aren’t helping ourselves enough.

You might be surprised, but fish really do grow on trees. Trees keep water temperatures low, the way salmon like it. Their roots help to prevent soil erosion that can smother salmon eggs. When they fall into a river, trees provide diverse rearing habitat for fish. When the salmon spawn and die, their nutrients feed the trees.

Yet from 2006 to 2011 we lost the equivalent of two Seattle-sized forests or about 170 square miles, according to the treaty tribes’ 2016 State of Our Watersheds Report. The report can be viewed at nwifc.org/sow.

When we lose habitat, we also lose the natural production of salmon it provides. The collapse of our fisheries is simply mirroring the collapse of the eco-systems that support them.

For more than 100 years, hatcheries have tried to make up for that loss, but hatchery salmon depend on the same declining habitat as naturally spawning salmon.

About half of the salmon harvested in western Washington are hatchery fish. Continued habitat loss means we will have to depend on hatcheries for as long as lost and damaged habitat continues to restrict natural salmon production and threaten treaty rights.

Hatcheries are simply a tool. Some provide fish for harvest while reducing harvest pressures on weak stocks. Others serve as nurseries to protect threatened salmon stocks. All are essential to salmon recovery and should be integrated in our salmon recovery efforts for every watershed. We need every tool in the box to reinforce remaining salmon populations as we work to restore habitat.

The importance of this tool should be reflected in its funding, but as the need for hatchery fish has increased, state funding for hatcheries has declined or remained flat. Treaty tribes have stepped up to fill the gap in recent years and provide more salmon for everyone by picking up the costs at a number of state hatcheries where production was threatened by budget shortfalls.

The connection between harvest and habitat is clear. We cannot expect to harvest salmon – either hatchery or naturally spawning – as long as we continue to destroy salmon habitat. In the meantime, hatcheries must continue to help bridge that gap and be included as the essential part of salmon recovery that they are.

 

 

 

 

Lorraine Loomis is the chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

 

State still obstinate on tribal rights; fix culverts to save salmon, now

The money, time and effort spent denying tribes their rights could be far better spent on salmon recovery.

 

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By  Lorraine Loomis, Special to The Seattle Times

THE state of Washington should end its long, failed history of denying tribal, treaty-reserved fishing rights and halt its appeal of a federal court ruling requiring repair of hundreds of salmon-blocking culverts under state roads.

Instead, the state should embrace the court’s ruling, roll up its sleeves and work with tribes to end the spiral to extinction in which the salmon and all of us are trapped.

The money, time and effort spent denying tribes their rights could be far better spent on salmon recovery. More salmon would mean more fishing, more jobs and healthier economies for everyone.

The appeal stems from Judge Ricardo Martinez’s 2013 ruling that failed state culverts violate tribal treaty rights because they reduce the number of salmon available for tribal harvest. Martinez gave the state 15 years to reopen 90 percent of the habitat blocked by its culverts in Western Washington. More than 800 state culverts thwart salmon access to more than 1,000 miles of good habitat and harm salmon at every stage of their life cycle. The state has been fixing them so slowly it would need more than 100 years to finish the job.

Lorraine Loomis, a Swinomish tribal member, is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and fisheries manager for the Swinish Tribe.

Lorraine Loomis, a Swinomish tribal member, is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and fisheries manager for the Swinish Tribe.

The U.S. government filed this case in 2001 on behalf of the tribes. It is a sub-proceeding of the U.S. v. Washington litigation that led to the landmark 1974 ruling by Judge George Boldt. His decision upheld tribal, treaty-reserved rights and established the tribes as co-managers of the resource with the state of Washington.

Martinez ruled that our treaty-reserved right to harvest salmon also includes the right to have those salmon protected so they are available for harvest.

Our right is meaningless if there are no fish to harvest because their habitat has been destroyed. Today, we are losing the battle for salmon recovery because habitat is being lost faster than it can be restored.

The state argues that the treaties do not explicitly prohibit barrier culverts. But treaty rights don’t depend on fine print, they depend on what our ancestors were told and understood when the treaties were signed. They would never have understood or agreed that they were signing away the ability of salmon to get upstream.

The state claims that fixing its culverts is a waste because there are other barriers on the same streams and other habitat problems that need attention. But state biologists testified that passage barriers must be removed if salmon are to recover. State culverts are often located on the lower reaches of the rivers, and are the key to restoring whole watersheds.

 

Other road owners are doing their part. Under state law, timberland owners will fix all their barriers by this fall. Hundreds of other culverts have also been fixed. The state’s “you first” approach would mean no progress at all.

The state argues that a tribal victory would open a floodgate of litigation from the tribes on any state action that could harm fisheries.

But Judge Martinez ruled that the state’s duty to fix its culverts does not arise from a “broad environmental servitude,” but rather a “narrow and specific treaty-based duty that attaches when the state elects to block rather than bridge a salmon-bearing stream.”

 

A culvert’s waters lead to Mosquito Lake near Deming, in 2007. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

A culvert’s waters lead to Mosquito Lake near Deming, in 2007. (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

 

During the Fish Wars of the 1960s and ’70s, tribal fishermen were arrested, beaten and jailed for exercising treaty-reserved rights. The beatings and arrests may have stopped, but the state has never stopped challenging tribal treaty rights, even though they have been upheld consistently by the courts.

Reserving the right to fish so that we can feed our families and preserve our culture was one of the tribes’ few conditions when we agreed to give up nearly all of the land that is today Western Washington. The treaties our ancestors signed have no expiration date and no escape clauses.

 We have upheld our promise and have honored the treaties. The state of Washington should do the same.
Lorraine Loomis, a Swinomish tribal member, is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe.

Tulalips, Forterra to preserve land near Wallace River for salmon

 

By Chris Winters, The Herald

GOLD BAR — A 1.25-mile stretch of forested land along the Wallace River will now be protected forever as salmon habitat.

The land, covering 121 acres on five parcels, was purchased by the environmental nonprofit Forterra in July for $490,000. Forterra, formerly known as the Cascade Land Conservancy, transferred the property to the Tulalip Tribes in November for future management.

A conservation easement ensures the property will never be developed.

“There’s a stewardship plan that we’ll be working on with the Tulalips” to maintain the tract’s value to the watershed, said Michelle Connor, Forterra’s executive vice president of strategic enterprises.

The property on the north bank of the Wallace River consists of five parcels that are a mix of wetlands and mature second-growth forests. It was last logged several decades ago.

“The trees have grown back nicely and the land is actually in pretty good shape,” said Daryl Williams, the Tulalip Tribes’ natural resources liaison.

The tract is located just west of Gold Bar and close to the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, the Wild Sky Wilderness and other protected lands managed by the state Department of Natural Resources.

The land lies across the Wallace River from a state salmon hatchery, and provides habitat for bull trout as well as four types of salmon: chinook, coho, pink and chum. The land is also home to black bear, elk, deer and beaver.

Williams said the land is likely to remain in its present state, as it already provides ideal habitat for fish in the water as well as for land mammals.

“Right now we don’t have any money to do anything with the property,” Williams said. “Perhaps we’ll thin some of the trees to allow some of the others to grow faster.”

The deal came together when Forterra learned the owner of the parcels, a property investment firm called Robinett Holdings, soon would put them up for sale, Connor said.

“When we first learned the property was coming on the market, we contacted the Tulalip Tribes to see if (the land) would be conservationally significant,” Connor said.

That turned out to be the case, she said.

“The property itself has historical oxbows and natural features that in and of themselves are very, very important,” she said.

It also fit in with the Tulalips’ efforts to restore the watersheds associated with the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie rivers.

“We’ve been spending a lot of time and effort trying to restore areas on the watershed,” Williams said.

“With new development and redevelopment, we’re losing habitat faster than we’re replacing it,” he said. “We need to do a better job with what we have.”

The deal marks the second large habitat protection project the Tulalips have undertaken. Last year the tribes breached the levees and restored tidal influence to the Qwuloolt Estuary in Marysville. The 315-acre tract took 20 years to convert from farmland to a salt marsh and cost nearly $20 million.

The transfer of the Wallace River tract is also consistent with Forterra’s goals in working with local Native American tribes on preservation, Connor said.

Last year Forterra carried out a similar property transfer with the Makah Tribe involving 240 acres near Lake Ozette on the Olympic Peninsula that is considered critical salmon habitat.

“We see that repatriation of indigenous lands is an important part of our conservation mission,” Connor said.

Snohomish County was the primary provider of funds for the land purchase and transfer, providing $280,000 in Conservation Futures funds toward the purchase, and toward other costs associated with obtaining the conservation easements and transferring the property to the tribes.

County Parks Director Tom Teigen said the Conservation Futures Advisory Board often tries to strike a balance between acquiring land for active recreation, agriculture and habitat preservation, but this particular exchange stood out for its potential benefits to salmon.

“At the end of the day, preserving that property and getting that much acreage as well as the riverfront is significant,” Teigen said.

Forterra also received $250,000 from the state Recreation and Conservation Office toward the property purchase.