Jim Kerr

NFS Welcomes New Washington State Coordinator

Looking Forward: A Message From J. Michelle Swope

I am excited to join the Native Fish Society as the Regional Coordinator for Washington State. I live in Olympia, which is a nice jumping off point for many of Washington’s great rivers. Three hours from my doorstep, I could be chasing steelhead on the Olympic Peninsula or fishing for rainbow and cutthroat on the Yakima River.

I grew up on the north end of the Hood Canal, with the Olympic Mountains as my playground. I walked the beaches and the rivers that flow into Hood Canal, hiked with my family across the Olympics, camped and fished my favorite river — the Elwha — and explored rainforest rivers like the Hoh, Bogachiel and Queets.

I also watched the decline of our salmon and steelhead runs. I’ve listened to elders argue and point fingers at the culprits. Some blame the Boldt Decision, others blame the tribes, still others the commercial fisheries, state agencies, or poachers. The list goes on. The truth is, it is not one issue or group that is causing the decline of our native runs. It has been a mix of fishing pressure — commercial and sport— hatchery runs that compete with wild runs,and bad logging practices, to name a few. I was thrilled when I discovered Native Fish Society.

The organization worked to educate the public and used science as a foundation for addressing the 4 H’s (Hydropower, Habitat, Hatcheries and Harvest). When an NFS staff position came open in Washington, I jumped at the chance to join the team. I am not a biologist. My background is in Behavioral Science and Organizational Development. I worked, for many years, to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity within groups and agencies. I believe those skills will be invaluable when working on behalf of Washington’s native fish. I am also a passionate fisherwoman. Though I am still learning how to protect wild fish and create environments in which they will thrive, I know absolutely that each of us has a part to play. Who doesn’t want strong runs of native fish?

I am excited to meet the NFS River Stewards already working in Washington. I am also excited to grow the program. We need passionate, local people working to improve the health of wild fish in all 18 watersheds in the state. There is also potential to collaborate with like-minded groups on these important issues.

I look forward to meeting all of you in the coming months. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We can have coffee, take a walk and visit your favorite stream or beach. Whatever we do,let’s talk about how we can work together to help wild, native fish thrive.

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