Governor's Salmon Recovery Office
Questions and Answers
Guidance on Watershed Assessment for Salmon
Why assess watersheds?
What is a watershed assessment?
The effectiveness of salmon conservation and recovery efforts will improve as we improve our understanding of the environments that support salmon. In addition to ocean environments that are beyond our direct control, salmon use watersheds for the most critical phases of their lives - for migrating, spawning and rearing. Over the years human activities have profoundly affected the watersheds on which salmon rely.
A watershed assessment is simply a tool that helps us understand how a watershed "works," how it has changed as a result of human activities, how it may change in the future, how those changes affect salmon and their habitat, and what needs to be done and where to protect and/or return the habitat to a healthy state for salmon.
Is this Guidance for Watershed Assessment for Salmon necessary?
While each watershed is unique and has a distinctive set of issues, a consistent assessment approach ensures credible and defensible evaluations. Much watershed assessment work has already been or will be performed. To date the work is often not coordinated and is focused on identifying symptoms of habitat conditions rather than diagnosing the causes of those conditions. The Guidance on Watershed Assessment for Salmon (Guidance) provides a framework that brings together different assessment work and guides future assessment work. A consistent approach will help ensure a greater likelihood that those projects we fund with public monies have the highest potential for long-term success.
What questions are answered by watershed assessment?
A watershed assessment addresses the following key questions:
what habitat conditions are limiting salmon production?
what processes or land uses are causing the habitat conditions?
what linkages exist between salmon and habitat conditions?
How is the Guidance organized?
The document has three parts.
How can the Guidance be used to make decisions about preservation,
protection and restoration projects?
- Part I is an overview.
- Part II organizes assessments in "stages" around the three key questions (listed above). Each stage reflects different levels of information and analysis. Part II also links the products of each stage to a range of decisions that can be made.
- Part III "Categories of Projects" helps users align the level of assessment information available with type of preservation, protection or restoration project.
The Guidance recognizes that actions to fix relatively simple problems can be effective when limited information is available, especially when the causes of the habitat problem is obvious and confidence in the reliability of the project is high. The Guidance also recognizes that complex problems and projects involving higher risks will require more comprehensive information and analysis.
How might this Guidance affect funding for projects
and other salmon recovery activities?
The Governor's Salmon Recovery Office and the agencies of the state's Joint Natural Resources Cabinet have urged the Salmon Recovery Funding Board to use the Guidance in evaluating projects in future funding cycles. Furthermore, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Environmental Protection Agency have supported the concepts in the Guidance, and encourage that it be used in the decisions they and other agencies make regarding habitat restoration and salmon recovery.
How does this guidance support other assessment efforts?
Many existing technical assessments, such as Limiting Factors Analyses completed by the Washington State Conservation Commission under the Salmon Recovery Act and assessments completed by Planning Units under the Watershed Planning Act, provide much of the information identified in the Guidance. Local groups will need to evaluate the adequacy of the information for their watershed.
In addition, although the Guidance focuses on salmon habitat its key components and products are useful in other initiatives, such as the inventory of shoreline conditions under the Shoreline Management Act, the designation and protection of critical areas under the Growth Management Act, and water quality and water supply assessments.
To the extent that increasingly consistent analyses and information from individual watersheds is available, the ability to address recovery questions at broader areas or regions (e.g., Puget Sound, Lower Columbia), will be enhanced.
Who developed it?
The Guidance was developed by an interdisciplinary technical workgroup under the direction of the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office, with participation from the National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a tribal representative, and others. The agencies of the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet have endorsed the Guidance for use by the state.
Who should use the Guidance?
The Guidance is intended to help watershed groups, agencies, and others understand what kinds of assessment are needed to support decisions they make on various types of projects to protect and restore habitat for salmon. It will assist funding entities such as the Salmon Recovery Funding Board and watershed groups evaluate the adequacy of assessment information, identify areas that need further assessment, and support projects with the greatest benefit to salmon.
Are there things the Guidance is NOT?
The Guidance is not:
Whom do I contact about the Guidance?
- a manual explaining how to do assessment - we are exploring the need for a complementary "how to" document;
- regulatory - however, we are urging funding organizations and state agencies to include the Guidance as part of their programs and processes;
- "final" - after a year or so we will revisit the Guidance to see what might need to be changed based on the actual experience of users.
To order a copy of the Guidance contact:
Governorís Salmon Recovery Office
PO BOX 43135
Olympia WA 98504-3135
FAX (360) 902-2215
or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
To download it from the internet link to: http:/www.governor.wa.gov/gsro/publications.htm
To talk to someone call: (360) 902-2216