Olympic Peninsula Update. The Olympic Peninsula Needs You.


It was an active winter for NFS on the Olympic Peninsula. We worked to gather data on wild Steelhead runs, toured vital conservation projects, advocated with other conservation partners for more WDFW enforcement positions, and weighed in on WDFW emergency angling closures. Thank you to all of the NFS volunteer River Stewards and Fellows, our conservation and tribal partners, and members and supporters for your contributions to reviving abundant wild fish, free-flowing rivers, and thriving local communities on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Here are a few of the highlights from the work all of these entities undertook this winter:

Increasing enforcement to decrease illegal and over harvest

NFS met with some key conservation partners and WDFW enforcement officers and discussed the lack of enforcement positions on the Olympic Peninsula. River Steward Jim Kerr, owner of Raincoast Guide Service, based out of Forks, Wa, contacted NFS asking that we get involved in advocating for more enforcement. Sightings of illegal harvest and over harvest were being witnessed, but the geographical area was too large for limited enforcement to cover in a timely manner. We signed onto a letter asking for an increase in the governor’s budget that would provide necessary funds to pay for key enforcement positions. We received word earlier this month that the legislature did create a line item proviso budget item of $1.4 million for WDFW to increase law enforcement in Fiscal year 2023, which equates to 5 additional WDFW Officers. This dedicated funding doubles to $2.8 million for the 2023-25 biennium, which equates to an additional 5 officers, or 10 additional WDFW officers over the next two Biennium, and is provided ongoing. Per the WDFW website: “The Department intends to utilize a portion of the funding to hire enforcement officers in the Olympic Peninsula detachments.” Many thanks to Jonathan Stumpf, Kit Rosenberger and Gregory Fitz for bringing both the public and our conservation groups together to advocate for this important increase.

Quileute Tribe’s restoration projects seek to improve the health of Olympic Peninsula watersheds

This spring, I had the pleasure of visiting with Nicole Rasmussen, water quality biologist for the Quileute Tribe. Nicole gave me a firsthand tour of just one of the many conservation projects they are conducting on the peninsula. From recovering a historical oxbow on the lower Quillayute River Watershed, to planting indigenous plants for riparian cover and medicinal purposes, to removing fish passage barriers, the Quileute Tribe is actively working to improve health of the Olympic Peninsula. Nicole identified ways in which NFS members can volunteer to assist the Tribe in the efforts, and our River Stewards, Fellows, and members are invited to participate in a macroinvertebrate sampling event this August!

This macroinvertebrate sampling is key to understanding how well a stream is supporting fish. This process usually involves a short hike, wearing waders, vigorous digging in a 1-foot area, and netting that water to then pour through a sieve to retain the insects. This activity can be done by any age, and it is a great all family activity! Please consider joining me on August 12 and 13, 2021 for the macroinvertebrate sampling event with the Quileute Tribe! If you want to read more about what conservation activities the Quileute Tribe has been conducting, click here.

And finally, we participated in presentations and conversations on the decreasing runs of wild Steelhead on our coastal rivers. We saw presentations by James Losee and his staff at WDFW, that outlined decreasing runs over the past 15 years of our iconic state fish, ultimately causing Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife to declare emergency closures on the Olympic Peninsula watersheds. We support these emergency closures and will continue to advocate for measures that will assist wild Steelhead recovery on the peninsula, in hopes that these runs will be able to sustain a longer catch and release recreational fishery once again. But these fish still need your help. Please consider attending the monthly WDFW Commission meetings (conducted via Zoom) and testifying for the protections of the wild runs of native fish. There are many opportunities for advocacy, and our Steelhead need the voices of our communities to speak up for them. Please contact J Michelle Swope, Washington Coordinator for NFS, for more information on how you can elevate our conservation voices around this crucial topic.

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