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Supes seek salmon solution – in Yakima
Siskiyou County — “What do they have that we don’t?” – Supervisor Jim Cook
That was a recurring theme when Siskiyou County supervisors Jim Cook and Michael Kobseff traveled to Yakima, Wash. for a Feb. 17 meeting with Washington locals who have implemented a very successful coho salmon fish culture project.
Cook and Kobseff were accompanied by local RCD project coordinator Gary Black, local California Farm Bureau (CFB) leader Jim Morris, CFB State President Paul Wenger and me. Tod Jones and Roger Warren of Redd Zone, who have been working with Siskiyou County on a pilot project, also joined the contingent.
Asked why the supervisors are spending such effort on fish, Supervisor Kobseff responded, “Siskiyou County needs to get its people and economy free from expensive and time consuming coho-related regulation. That can only happen with successful coho recovery.”
Current agency policy virtually eliminates low-impact fish culture techniques aimed at recovery. For over three years, the county has actively sought to plug this gaping hole in salmon recovery. The county has repeatedly proposed pilot projects with technology well tested in Alaska. The Siskiyou Daily News has reported these attempts.
To date, the county has been stymied in its effort.
Beyond success, the lure of the Yakima Basin projects was the unique coalition responsible for getting them on the ground. Most surprisingly, local government and the Yakama Nation combined to bring it all together.
I noted that anyone familiar with the dynamics of the Klamath Basin can’t help taking notice of tribes and local government successfully working together, particularly in an area as contentious as fish culture.
The Farm Bureau people had similar focus.
“Growing things is what farmers and ranchers do,” said Morris.
“Projects like what Siskiyou County is proposing and what the Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board (YBFWRB) has done can be extremely valuable to California agriculture,” Wenger added. The effort the CFB state president made to attend the Yakima trip added emphasis to his view.
Black had particular interest in some of the agency differences between Washington and California.
“If only we had that level of cooperation,” he mused.
In establishing the YBFWRB, local government and tribes found a workable vehicle for accomplishing benefit to Basin fish and wildlife. Locals arranging and attending the meeting and field tour were Executive Director Alex Conley, staff biologists David Fast, Bill Bosch and Todd Newsome, Board Chairman Nancy Lillquist and board members Paul Ward of the Yakama Nation, and Leo Bowman, a Benton County commissioner. Lillquist is also a member of the Ellensburg City Council.
So what were the answers to Cook’s persistent question?
Cook was his usual unabashed self in answering, “With the coalition of local government and tribes, they have a powerful ability to force agencies to get out of their bureaucratic ruts and off their butts!”
Other differences that the Californians noted are that the YBFWRB is composed only of entities with governmental authority: counties, cities and tribes. There is no decision-making power allotted to interest groups. In California, voting power granted to interest groups has often confounded project development.
Additionally, local Yakama Basin tribes have an extremely substantial economic and cultural stake in preserving the viability of agriculture. YBFWRB staff feels that outside groups are extremely reluctant to challenge the tribes when taking positions favorable to agriculture.
On the governmental front, Washington state law empowers local governments with far more ability on fish and wildlife issues. At the federal level, the Northwest Region of NOAA Fisheries allows far more substantive input and effect from counties at the earliest project stages than does the Southwest Region.
Everyone agreed that this was a particularly startling difference in the development of recovery plans for listed species.
Of significant importance to Siskiyou County’s interest in developing a pilot project for fish culture, the travelers felt that governmental entities in Washington seem far more conducive to improving fish culture techniques whereas California seems determined, as I phrased it, “to throw the whole notion out the window.”
Another critical difference, emphasizes Cook: “They have money!”
Asked to sum up the trip, Kobseff stated, “We saw a fine working example of tribes and counties working together on a fish culture tool for the recovery toolbox. Their success gave us ideas and hope. Altogether, that will help us accomplish the same thing in Siskiyou County.”
– Ric Costales is the Siskiyou County natural resource policy specialist.
Page Updated: Thursday March 03, 2011 02:44 AM Pacific
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