Science and ISP

The Role of Science

Decision-makers will face many hard choices as they attempt to improve the condition of Washington's salmon, steelhead, and trout resources and the habitats on which they rely, while they also maintain a healthy and vibrant state economy.

One of the guiding principles of the draft salmon strategy states: "The Statewide Salmon Recovery Strategy must be credible, based on the best available science and must set priorities and be adaptive." This will help ensure that decisions are as objective as possible, that risks and tradeoffs among options are clarified, and that conservation actions are focused on the most important problems.

Managers and decision-makers need scientific information on resource conditions, management options, and consequences of those options. They can use this information to help weigh decisions about how natural resources can be used and conserved.

Science is not a panacea. Scientific information and analyses can help provide direction and answer some key questions, but will not solve all problems. For example, science simply may not be able to address some questions, due to technological limitations; or results from investigations may take too long to meet current needs.

There is always more that we don't know than what we know about nature and how our actions will result in the desired outcomes. The pursuit of knowledge using science that leads to an answer to one question usually leads us to ask several new questions that we had not known to ask before. This is just the nature of science at work.

  • The goal of science in the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon is to ensure that managers and policy-makers use the best scientific information available when making decisions. This means that scientific information must be identified but it does not mean that only scientific information will be used in making decisions. Policy decisions must be based on a diversity of information including legal, social, cultural, economic, and policy considerations, as well as science.

Scientists will not make policy decisions. Scientists will, however, be able to identify the best scientific information, provide a key role in analyzing the benefits, risks, and impacts of alternative courses of action, and advise policy-makers on a wide range of scientific topics.

How is scientific advice and information incorporated?

Various mechanisms are used to incorporate scientific information and guidance in decision-making. State agencies routinely use their in-house scientific resources in activities related to salmon recovery. Federal agencies, tribes, local governments, and other recovery partners also have scientific staff resources working on recovery issues on an ongoing basis. In addition, independent scientific assistance and review has a key role in ensuring the best available scientific information is used in salmon recovery activities.

In August, 2000, the state Office of Community Development adopted procedural criteria for local governments regarding the identification and evaluation of scientific information associated with local critical areas. These criteria are commonly referred to as the Best Available Science Rule. In addition, in 2002 the Office of Community Development published a list of citations meeting the characteristics of Best Available Science. The Best Available Science rule, the citations document, and other information can be found at the Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development's Web site.

Similar to state agencies, federal agencies, tribes, local governments, and other recovery partners also have scientific staff resources working on recovery issues on an ongoing basis.

Independent Science Panel

In 1998, the Washington State Legislature passed Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2496 creating a five-member "Independent Science Panel" (Panel), whose purpose is to provide scientific review and oversight of the state's recovery efforts, and to review recovery plans at the request of the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office. In addition, the 1999 and 2001 Legislatures directed the Panel to work on scientific issues pertaining to monitoring salmon recovery and watershed health. The Panel does not have authority to make policy decisions. The five members of the Panel were appointed by the Governor in May, 1999. Staff support for the Panel is provided by the Governor's Salmon Recovery Office.

Documentation of Panel reviews is available, including technical reports, technical memoranda, correspondence, and other materials.

Interagency Science Advisory Team

Before the Independent Science Panel was created, the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet created the Interagency Science Advisory Team. This team helped coordinate and focus the collective scientific expertise from Joint Cabinet agencies and other agency partners on issues associated with the development of the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon. The advisory team included representatives from Washington's departments of Fish and Wildlife, Natural Resources, Ecology, Transportation, Trade and Economic Development, the Puget Sound Water Quality Action Team, western and eastern Washington local governments, the US Environmental Protection Agency, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and US Forest Service.

A report prepared by the Team is available online in PDF format.

"A System for Prioritizing Water Resource Inventory Areas in Western Washington for Protection and Restoration of Wild Salmonids" (August 1999) Report to the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet

The size of the full report in PDF format is 5MB. For smaller downloads it is also provided in smaller components below.

Salmon Recovery Funding Board

The Salmon Recovery Funding Board (Board) was created by the Legislature in 1999 to direct funding for salmon protection and restoration activities in watersheds throughout the state. The Board is in the process of developing review mechanisms to ensure that funded activities are guided by scientific information. More information can be found at the Board Web site.

Other scientific review groups operate in Washington whose purposes should be complementary. For example, the Northwest Power Planning Council and the National Marine Fisheries Service established an Independent Scientific Advisory Board to provide independent scientific advice and recommendations on issues related to regional fish and wildlife recovery programs under the Northwest Power Act and the Endangered Species Act in the Columbia River Basin. Similarly, an Independent Scientific Review Panel provides review of projects being considered for funding under the Northwest Power Planning Council's Fish and Wildlife Program.

Science-related Links


NOAA/NMFS Northwest Fisheries Science Center
NMFS - Cumulative Risk Initiative
NMFS - Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
USDA Forest Service Stream Systems Technology Center
USGS - Water Resources of Washington State
Watershed Science Institute
Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere & Oceans
EPA Western Ecology Division

Academic Institutions

University of Washington - College of Ocean & Fishery Sciences
University of Washington - Center for Streamside Studies
University of Washington - Forest Resources
Wetland Ecosystem Team
Pacific Northwest Ecosystem Research Consortium
Washington State University
Oregon State University
Olympic Natural Resources Center
University of Washington Sea Grant

Scientific/professional organizations

National Science Foundation
National Academies
National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis
Society for Ecological Restoration
American Fisheries Society
Society for Conservation Biology
The Ecological Society of America

Data bases/Information systems

Stream Net
Washington Geographic Information Council
University of Washington - PRISM
National Biological Information Infrastructure