The ESA requires the federal government to develop recovery plans for listed salmon. NOAA-Fisheries (NOAA-F) has determined that such recovery plans be developed on an Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU), or regional basis. State law also directed development of a statewide strategy to recover salmon on an ESU basis. NOAA-F has designated ESUs for different salmon species and areas. Based on this, five regional organizations have formed to coordinate development of draft ESU-level recovery plans.

Regional recovery organizations are a fundamental element of the Governor's salmon recovery strategy. All five regions that are actively engaged in developing recovery plans for listed salmonids have an organizing body that has a leadership role in the process. Local governments, tribal governments, interested organizations, and many others have seats at these regional tables and are active participants. Four of five have committed to developing a draft recovery plan for their portions of listed ESUs by June 2005, and all hope to have a final draft for submission to NOAA-Fisheries by December 2005.


A primary purpose of regional recovery organizations is to prepare a recovery plan that gains regional consensus on measurable fish population results, integrates actions necessary in harvest, habitat and hatcheries, and gains commitments to achieve results. To do this, they will coordinate a multitude of plans across watersheds into one regional plan, and help connect local social, cultural, and economic needs and desires with science and ESA goals.

A regional organization may have many roles:
  • provide a forum for communities to create a local vision of the goals they are striving to achieve;
  • organize, compile, coordinate and facilitate the iterative process for combining local plans to produce a regional recovery plan, ensuring it contains the necessary elements, as described in the state model;
  • maintain active participation of local, state and federal agencies, tribes, citizens and other stakeholders in the regional process at both the policy and technical levels;
  • demonstrate how cross-watershed and cross-activity (e.g., Lead Entity strategies, sub- basin planning, water resource planning, salmon recovery planning) coordination can enhance effectiveness and/or efficiency for individual local planning efforts;
  • provide technical or facilitation support to local efforts and/or link local groups with experts from state, tribal or federal agencies;
  • promote implementation of the plan's elements by the responsible parties;
  • provide leadership to coordinate actions needed across watersheds to implement a recovery plan;
  • analyze and demonstrate how the combined actions of all the contributing local or watershed plans integrate to meet the salmon recovery goals
  • integrate, through a collaborative partnership, the salmon planning and recovery activities of all recovery participants (federal and state agencies, tribes, local governments, citizens, and other stakeholders ) for habitat, hatcheries, harvest, and hydropower;
  • foster timely completion of the plan;
  • broaden support for salmon recovery activities across the region; and
  • provide a place of information sharing and public outreach throughout the process.


Local decision-making for salmon recovery is an effective approach for addressing ESA. It creates a partnership between private and public interests, tribes, and all other levels of government. It encourages local interest and creativity, and tailors actions to the needs of each region of the state. Local boards can actively engage the public, make access to the process easier, and promote local economic and cultural values in the products. And, very importantly, regional (i.e., ESU scale) plans will be more readily accepted by NOAA-Fisheries as formal elements of ESA recovery plans; in other words, the work and desires of locals is more likely to be reflected in the formal recovery plans adopted by the federal agencies because of the regional processes that are underway.

Salmon Recovery Regions

Areas with Salmon, Trout, or Steelhead are that Listed, proposed for Listing or have High Potential for Future Listing under the Endangered Species Act

Text Version of Listings
Washington CoastalPuget SoundUpper Columbia RiverNortheast WashingtonLower Columbia RiverMiddle Columbia RiverSnake River