“Being Frank” More Salmon Habitat Protection Needed

 

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

We’ve seen some incredible salmon habitat restoration projects the past few years, but there’s a big difference between restoring habitat and protecting it.  We must remember that restoration without protection does not lead us to recovery.

The Elwha River on the Olympic Peninsula continues to heal itself after the largest dam removal effort in U.S. history. Two dams on the river had blocked salmon migration and denied Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s treaty fishing rights for more than 100 years.

In another big project, the Tulalip Tribes and partners recently returned tidal flow to the 400-acre Qwuloolt Estuary. The estuary was drained and diked for farming in the early 1900s, blocking access to important salmon habitat.

Both were huge, costly projects that took decades of cooperation to accomplish. Every habitat restoration project – large or small – contributes to salmon recovery. But if we are going to achieve recovery, we must do an equally good job of protecting habitat, and that is not happening.

Treaty Indian tribes are seeking federal leadership to help turn this tide.

Salmon recovery efforts cross many federal, state and local jurisdictions, but it is the federal government that has both the legal and trust responsibility to recover salmon and honor tribal treaty-reserved rights. Through our Treaty Rights at Risk initiative, we are asking the federal government to lead a more coordinated and effective salmon recovery effort.

One way is to ensure that existing federal agency rules and regulations do not conflict with salmon recovery goals.

An example is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ jurisdictional boundary they use for permitting shoreline modifications. The Corps regulates construction of docks and bulkheads in marine waters, and uses a high water mark based on an average of each day’s two high tides to determine its jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act.

But the Clean Water Act specifies the protection boundary should be the single highest point that an incoming tide can reach.

In Puget Sound, the Corps’ boundary is 1.5 to 2.5 feet below the highest tide. When you apply that to 2,000 miles tidelands, a large portion of important nearshore habitat is left unprotected.

That needs to change. We need to be protecting more habitat, not less.

Another example is agricultural easements issued by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service that can block salmon habitat restoration efforts.

Federally funded agricultural easements pay landowners to lock in agricultural land uses permanently, regardless of whether those areas historically provided salmon habitat and need to be restored to support recovery.

The federal government needs to change the program to ensure agricultural easements do not restrict habitat restoration and other salmon recovery efforts.

These are just a couple of examples of how federal actions can conflict with salmon recovery goals to slow and sometimes stall our progress.

We know that habitat is the key to salmon recovery. That’s why we focus so much of our effort on restoring and protecting it. Many amazing restoration projects are being accomplished, but the more challenging task of protecting that habitat is falling short.

We must do everything we can to protect our remaining habitat as we work to restore even more. One way to do that is to harmonize federal actions and make certain they contribute effectively to recovering salmon, recognizing tribal treaty rights and protecting natural resources for everyone.

Stillaguamish Tribe chairman named to Indian fisheries post

Shawn Yanity

Shawn Yanity

 

By Kari Bray, The Herald

Shawn Yanity, chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe, has been elected vice chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

“I’m there for the commission to help carry the voice of the 20 tribes in their interests,” Yanity said. “It’s a huge honor, and it’s a huge responsibility.”

The commission, based in Olympia, represents 20 tribes in the state, with a member from each tribe serving in the group. A chair, vice chair and treasurer are elected from among the commissioners.

Former Chair Billy Frank Jr. died in May at age 83. He is remembered as a lifelong fisherman, a passionate advocate for the fishing and hunting rights of Northwest tribes, and a longtime leader of the commission.

Lorraine Loomis, fisheries manager for the Swinomish Tribe and previous vice chair of the commission, was selected as the new chair.

Yanity, 49, became chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe in 2004 and has been on the fisheries commission since 2000.

“Together we focus on all the treaty issues, everything from clean water to salmon, shellfish, groundfish and wildlife,” Yanity said.

The commission provides resources for tribes facing specific concerns, such as microbiologists to handle disease outbreaks at fish hatcheries. The group also acts as a sort of database on Washington fish and their habitats, from mountain streams to the salty coastline.

Commission goals include upping wild salmon populations, pushing for legislation to prevent pollution in Puget Sound and cleaning up rivers and streams around Western Washington, Loomis wrote in a message to the commission earlier this year.

“Our tribe can be a little more active in this,” Yanity said. “It’s an honor for us to do that, but now we have to step up to the plate a little more and honor those responsibilities and traditions.”

Frank left his wisdom and teachings for the commission, Yanity said. The group aims to follow in his footsteps, pushing for cleaner waters, protecting native fish populations and advocating for the tribes’ treaty rights to fish and hunt throughout the state.

“The commission has a lot of important work that’s set out before us, and the committee is still as strong and dedicated to protecting the treaty resources as we’ve always been,” Yanity said. “But we know that we lost a great leader.”

 

Lorraine Loomis Elected Chair of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Lorraine Loomis

Lorraine Loomis

By: Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

OLYMPIA – Lorraine Loomis, a Swinomish tribal member, has been elected chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

She replaces the late Billy Frank Jr., who served as NWIFC chairman for more than 30 years. Frank died on May 5, 2014 at the age of 83.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected chair of the NWIFC,” said Loomis. “No one can ever replace Billy. It will take all of us to carry on his work.”

Loomis, who was serving as vice-chair of the commission, will fill the remainder of Frank’s term as chair through May, 2016. Shawn Yanity, Stillaguamish tribal chair, was elected to replace Loomis as vice chair. Ed Johnstone, Quinault Indian Nation, will continue as NWIFC treasurer.

Loomis, 72, has been Swinomish tribal fisheries manager since 1975. She has extensive experience in fisheries management throughout the region. She currently serves on the Fraser River Panel of the Pacific Salmon Commission that manages sockeye and pink salmon under the U.S./Canada Pacific Salmon Treaty. Loomis also coordinates tribal participation in the annual North of Falcon salmon season development process with the State of Washington.

“Our treaty rights are at serious risk today,” Loomis said. “Salmon recovery is failing in western Washington because salmon habitat is disappearing faster than it can be restored. If there are no salmon available for harvest, our treaty rights mean nothing. We must stop this ongoing loss of habitat, but so far the trend shows no sign of improvement. We are looking to the federal government, as our trustee, to take a more active role in salmon recovery and lead a more coordinated salmon recovery effort.”

The NWIFC is a support service organization for the 20 treaty Indian tribes in western Washington that are co-managers of the region’s natural resources with the State of Washington. The commission provides services to tribes in areas such as fisheries management, habitat protection and fish health. The NWIFC also provides a forum for tribes to address shared natural resource management concerns and enables the tribes to speak with a unified voice.

The NWIFC is headquartered in Olympia, with satellite offices in Forks, Burlington and Kingston and employs a staff of 70.