Bill Will Help Protect the Abundance, Productivity, Wildness, and Diversity of Pacific Salmon
Thursday, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Gordon Smith (R-OR) introduced the Pacific Stronghold Conservation Act of 2008 which will establish a federal program through an interagency, state, tribal and non-governmental-organization Partnership Board to support the protection and restoration of a network of the healthiest remaining wild Pacific salmon ecosystems in North America"Salmon Strongholds." These Salmon Strongholds will sustain core centers of wild salmon abundance, productivity and diversity, reflecting a basic principle of conservation biology: protect the best, first.
"While current federal salmon recovery efforts focus on recovering salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act aiming to restore what we've lost, the Salmon Stronghold Act aims to protect what we already have," said Senator Cantwell. "This legislation complements ongoing recovery efforts to ensure the future viability of healthy wild Pacific salmon runs for generations to come."
"This bill recognizes the importance of Wild Pacific Salmon to the Western States and Alaska. Salmon are such an important part of the economy, culture, and natural environment of the region. This bill will help focus more attention on the best salmon habitat, which we are so fortunate to have in abundance in Alaska, and direct funding to a public/private partnership that will work to preserve, protect, and improve these salmon strongholds," said Senator Murkowski.
"I am pleased to join with my colleagues on the West Coast in this bipartisan effort to protect the remaining healthy salmon runs. It is much better to keep these runs as strong as possible rather than wait for them to need Endangered Species Act protection. This is a win-win for salmon, as well as those who make their living off the land and the water," said Senator Gordon.
This bill would provide resources to protect healthy Pacific Salmon Strongholds and facilitate the coordination of federal, state and local governments to implement conservation strategies, while helping to save billions of dollars in future restoration and rebuilding efforts. The bill would also protect key production zones for commercial and recreation salmon fisheries. Based on data from Pacific Salmon Conservation Assessment, there are Pacific Salmon Strongholds covering approximately 20 percent of the existing range of Pacific salmon in the lower 48 states. By focusing on this 20 percent, nearly half of the total abundance of salmon in the lower 48 states will be preserved.
"This Salmon Stronghold bill being put forward with the leadership of Senators Cantwell and Murkowski will complement the Endangered Species Act and international salmon treaties by promoting the protection and restoration of our healthiest wild-salmon rivers," said William D. Ruckelshaus, chairman of the Puget Sound Partnership. "This legislation will leverage private dollars to support the highest priority conservation actions; streamline incentive-based programs; and more effectively coordinate federal agency actions on stronghold rivers for the benefit of salmon and their ecosystems. Climate change presents new challenges, but by protecting the best remaining salmon ecosystems throughout their range, wild salmon cannot only survive, but thrive, for generations to come."
In June, Cantwell secured $90 million in funding for the restoration of endangered salmon and expansion of salmon restoration projects throughout the Pacific Northwest. It was included in the Senate Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2009. Cantwell continues to work with her colleagues in the Senate to make sure funding is included to support the conservation and recovery of wild Pacific salmon across the Pacific Northwest's rivers, watersheds, and coastal areas.