Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Shared Strategy for Puget Sound
February 6, 2003
It’s great to be here. I want to thank Bill Ruckelshaus not only for the introduction, but also for his tireless efforts on behalf of our state’s salmon. For all of us here today, thank you, Bill.
We’re here today because we share certain convictions. We care about salmon. We care about our state’s natural resources, and our environment. And we care about the quality of life in Washington—both today and for future generations. We care about making sure our state remains a great place to live, work and raise a family. We share a commitment to a sustainable future that includes the natural resources and healthy environment we enjoy and treasure.
Our ability to honor this commitment is being tested these days. We face tough economic times. A national recession, the nation’s third highest unemployment rate, and the largest deficit in the history of our state—$2.4 billion.
We have responded to these tough times by exhaustively studying all that we do—examining some 1,400 state government activities. Then, like a family on a very tight budget, we sat down and looked at how we’ve typically spent our money. We decided how we need to spend it now to get the results we want and need most. We decided how best to live within our means. This meant some deep cuts across state government.
To some, investment in salmon recovery may seem like an easy area to substantially cut, or even eliminate. After all, we’ve had some good fish returns in the last two years. Can’t we back off for a while, until things get better and we can afford such activity? In tough times, shouldn’t we be focusing on the needs of people instead of fish?
The answer is that yes, we should be focusing on the needs of people. And that’s exactly why investment in salmon recovery remains critically important to our state.
An investment in Washington salmon is an investment in business and jobs. Salmon are an important component of the state’s economic development strategy.
An investment in salmon is an investment in our quality of life. When salmon populations decline, we know we have problems with our watersheds, our water quality, and the diversity of wildlife species dependent on the watershed.
An investment in salmon is an investment in our collective identity, our history, our culture and our lives. Salmon are a natural characteristic of Washington state, and a part of our heritage. For the tribal leaders here today, this is especially true, and we honor the place of salmon in your lives and culture.
An investment in salmon is an important investment in our state and our future.
This investment must continue. While we’ve had some good fish returns in recent years, much have been hatchery fish. We focus on wild fish populations for a reason. Healthy wild fish provide the genetic diversity on which long-term viability of salmon depends. And it will take several generations of fish to know if we’ve reversed the general downward trend in fish populations.
It’s also important to remind people that if we don’t take care of our salmon, the law will. Third party lawsuits filed under the Endangered Species Act may result in court decisions that affect businesses, agriculture, fishing, and water and land use. We must never let things come to this in our state.
As I said, this investment must continue. And this investment will continue. We anticipate $43 million in state and federal funding for salmon recovery projects through the Salmon Recovery Funding Board in the next biennium. While this is $8 million less than what I’ve proposed before, it is still a significant investment. And the reduction is moderate compared to the level of cutbacks in other areas.
But the fact is that we will be working with reduced resources. That’s why the partnership approach we embrace with this conference—our shared strategy—is so critically important. In this room, we have representatives from all sectors involved in salmon recovery. We have tribal leaders here today. We have local, state and federal officials. We have fish advocates, and we have business and agricultural leaders.
Shared strategy is built on the premise that the most important ingredient in salmon recovery is partnership—working with the people who live in the watersheds. Communities must be a part of our partnership. We need their time and energy to get the job done. We need their views to learn what works and what does not. We need their involvement to be successful.
In Washington’s portion of the Columbia Basin, we are also engaged in a watershed-based salmon recovery effort. Like Shared Strategy, the underlying vision in the Columbia Basin is that locally-based, citizen efforts are critical if we are to succeed.
I believe these partnerships in salmon recovery will succeed. And if we succeed in Washington, we can help lead the way for watershed-based solutions to natural resource and environmental problems around the country.
As a state government we are committed to the success of salmon recovery. I mentioned the $43 million in funding for salmon recovery projects. I have also recommended $8 million in grant funding for water infrastructure projects and $11 million in watershed planning and implementation. This investment should also benefit salmon. These are tough economic times, but we need to make these investments in our future.
We have the partnership needed for effective salmon recovery. We’re making a significant investment. But we need more. We’ve talked about sharing strategy and involving communities. It’s important that we lead this effort in ways that help the cause. Accordingly, I propose four strategies in salmon recovery.
Strategy #1: Let’s take the lead in planning, and act as soon as possible. Let’s get as many fish recovery plans to NOAA fisheries as we can. We have seven major salmon regions that will produce plans according to the state strategy.
Let’s show the public and the appropriators of salmon funds that we’re prepared to implement specific measures that will bring real benefits. It’s critical that we pick-up the pace in drafting recovery plans so we can move to implementation – habitat restoration projects on the ground. Lost activities jeopardize support for funding.
Strategy #2: Let’s strengthen our working relationships with the top regional officials at NOAA fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. These relationships are the key to implementing our plans effectively. These agencies have agreed to designate to a top official to work with us at the state level. They’ve agreed to designate a point person to work with each regional effort. Let’s take the initiative in making these relationships work for salmon recovery in our state.
Strategy #3: Let’s streamline regulatory processes. We must never compromise environmental protection. But we can focus on being more efficient in such things as issuing permits. We’ve had great success in improving the Department of Ecology’s ability to work with businesses more efficiently.
I think we can duplicate that success at the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Let’s focus on improving customer service, establishing clear standards, and providing education and technical assistance to the regulated community. To support these efforts, my budget proposal includes $300,000 to implement the recommendations of Department of Fish and Wildlife’s HPA Taskforce.
These recommendations include additional training for department staff, development of additional programmatic permits and enhancement of post-project monitoring. The resources we save through improved efficiency can be put to better use.
Strategy #4: Let’s integrate watershed-based efforts. Water quantity, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat issues are all interconnected. The true spirit and purpose of a watershed-based approach is to find ways to integrate all of these interests together. We are just beginning to explore such an integrated approach, working with the Legislature and the Salmon Funding Recovery Board.
By taking the lead in planning, strengthening working relationships, streamlining regulatory processes, and integrating watershed-based efforts, we will clear the way for communities to make better and faster progress in salmon recovery.
Your continued leadership and dedication are essential to success each of you is a leader in this effort. This is an impressive and committed partnership. We believe in our cause, and we know that extinction is not an option. We must succeed in wild salmon recovery, and we will. I am confidant that, working together, we will lead our state to a brighter, sustainable future, a future that includes abundant and healthy wild salmon populations.