Conrad Gowell

Western Washington Update

Greetings from your Washington Regional Coordinator!

Here is a progress report on our Western Washington program, the ongoing issues we are working on, and our programmatic successes!

New People:

Well, in the spirit of "if you build it, they will come"...this is exactly what is happening with our Western Washington River Steward Program. Thanks in large part to you, dear supporters, we have already surpassed the goal of 4 new River Stewards on 3 new watersheds. In fact, as of June 30th, we are on-boarding 9 new River Stewards in 7 different watersheds, spanning from the Olympic Peninsula to the Hood Canal and South Puget Sound.

We just conducted a River Steward Gathering in Forks, WA, and largely our attendees were brand new volunteers to Native Fish Society. Thanks in part to a grant we received from Northwest Fund for the Environment we were able to conduct several workshops, including building skills around campaign planning, how to assess one's goals and progress, and we were pleased to roll out a new online forum. This new community forum, accessible to all our River Stewards, is part of our advocacy toolkit for our volunteers. Our Stewards can ask questions on this online forum, and staff, other Stewards and Fellows can respond.

New Places:

Currently, our Western Washington presence is expanding. We have River Stewards working on ways to bolster runs of wild native fish in watersheds like the Duamish/Green, Skykomish, Kennedy Creek, Dosewallips, the south end of the Hood Canal and the South end of the Puget Sound. We are building relationships with other non-profits as well, who are doing good work around conservation, and seeking ways to join with them in efforts that will enhance wild runs of native fish.

As we work to support a groundswell of grassroots place-based advocates, we have entered the conversation on a national level, about hatcheries. Artifishal is a new film by Patagonia "... about people, rivers, and the fight for the future of wild fish and the environment that supports them. It explores wild salmon’s slide toward extinction, threats posed by fish hatcheries and fish farms, and our continued loss of faith in nature." If you have not seen this film yet, you can view the trailer here, and there are several showings scheduled in Washington in the near future, with the next one being July 24th, at 6pm, at the SIFF Egyptian Cinema in Seattle. Both Jake Crawford (our River Steward Program Director) and I will be there, it would be wonderful to see you there as well!

New Tools:

As the hatchery conversations continue, it is important that we do our best to talk with different people and highlight the various impacts that hatchery programs can have on wild fish. We have developed some useful handouts that serve as a good tool for engaging with folks who may not otherwise be familiar with the issue. Ultimately, we continue to advocate that the best hatchery is a healthy river. If you would like to see our hatchery handouts, please call or email me, and I will send them to you. Also, if you wish to host a viewing of this film, you can sign up to do so on the Patagonia website here. I am also happy to come for a Q and A session/conversation after the film viewing, and bring the handouts for people who want to learn more.


Women for Wild Fish:

This is our newer initiative to encourage women in conservation to join in with us as we work for free flowing rivers and abundant wild fish. As one of our newest River Stewards, Alex Bradberry, states, "It is impossible for conservation to begin at a national or international level. The people who live near these resources are the most important stronghold for protecting them, and since I live about 15 minutes from the Elwha, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to advocate in any way I can." Alex, and other like minded women are making a positive impact for wild fish, and we want to honor and celebrate that. We have created a new Instagram account ( #W4WF ...please like and follow) and are featuring some of our women on our website. To read more about Alex and her work to protect and restore the Elwha River, please check our her "River Steward Story".


Suction Dredge Mining Reform Update:

Native Fish Society partnered with Trout Unlimited, and 53 other concerned agencies, tribes and organizations to try and reform suction dredge mining in Washington. Myself and several others spent days testifying at the Washington State Legislature, but sadly the bill did not make it to the floor for a final vote. However, WDFW did step in and enact a rule change, which is a step in the right direction. The new rule no longer allows suction dredge gold mining under the Gold and Fish pamphlet HPA (Hydraulic Project Approval); although, the Gold and Fish pamphlet HPA will still authorize all other small-scale placer mining methods.

Mineral prospectors will now need to get a Hydraulic Project Approval (HPA) to suction dredge gold mine in Washington. The new HPA requirement, effective Nov. 1, will help protect fish and reduce the risk of spreading invasive species. Suction dredge mining uses a motorized or non-motorized vacuum to suck up the bottom of rivers and streams to look for gold and other metals. This activity can kill young fish and eggs, and disturb spawning gravel for salmon. The new requirement is a good first step, but we need to continue the push for further reform, both at the state level and also our local impacted places, such as popular areas along the Cascade Range near Yakima, Ellensburg, and Wenatchee. With the number of mineral prospectors in Washington expected to increase, it is crucial that we talk with our elected officials and WDFW rule makers to implore then to assess the potential risks to fish and spread of aquatic invasive species.

Do you have a favorite watershed? Are you interested in becoming a River Steward?

Give me a call or drop me a line, and let's chat about what watershed you are near, and what interests you about working to preserve and enhance our wild runs of native fish.

Keep an eye on your inbox for more updates from J. Michelle as we grow our program here in Washington State.

Posted in:

River Steward Gathering Forks Olympic Peninsula Conservation Events River Stewards W4WF Washington Native Fish Society

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