|from State of Salmon 2016
Before answering that question, take a look at the summary report on the progress of salmon recovery efforts and read Kimberly Cauvel’s account in the Skagit Valley Herald, “State: More work needed to save the salmon.”
According to the state report, $516.55 million has been spent on Puget Sound salmon recovery (out of $883.95 million total statewide, 1997-2015).
According to the report, the condition of Endangered Species Act-listed Puget Sound Chinook and steelhead is getting worse. Major barriers to salmon recovery in Puget Sound come from rapid population growth and development: Shoreline armoring, water quality, stormwater, in-stream flows, impervious surfaces, loss of forest cover, fish passage barriers, and development in floodplains and estuaries. Put bluntly, “There is a clear need for increased habitat protection for salmon in Puget Sound.”
But we’ve known for years that it is habitats for salmon and salmon-prey spawning and rearing that are major limiting factors in salmon recovery.
According to a provocatively argued paper now in publication by Robert T. Lackey at the Oregon State University Fisheries and Wildlife Department, salmon recovery is not a matter of science but one of policy and politics.
“Efforts to restore declining wild salmon runs in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have evolved into a “salmon recovery industry” with multiple local, state, and federal government bureaucracies and the associated contractors. Overall, the recovery industry employs thousands of scientists and other technical experts. Over many years and after hundreds of millions of dollars spent for scientific research, salmon are arguably the most studied group of fishes in the world. The vast bureaucracy and massive quantity of science have, however, failed to reverse the long-term decline of wild salmon.
“Successful wild salmon recovery, if it ever occurs, rests squarely in the realm of the political process. Despite well over a century of failure to recover wild salmon, however, many in the salmon recovery industry insist that science continue to play a privileged, even dominant role in helping to decipher and decide key elements of this highly contested, complex, policy problem. The preference for science appears to be supported by both traditionally Democratic and traditionally Republican constituencies; in short, policy advocates from all parts of the political spectrum usually champion science as a critical or determining factor in policy decisions.” [Science and salmon recovery. In: Science and Problem Solving Under Post-Normal Conditions: From Complex Problems to New Problem Solving Strategies, Edward P. Weber, Denise H. Lach, and Brent S. Steel, editors, Oregon State Press, Corvallis, Oregon.[In Press] ]
For salmon recovery to be successful, Lackey argues that the inadequacies of using a normal science approach to salmon decline need to be overcome:
Salmon Policy Lesson 1 — Efforts of recovery wild salmon will continue to struggle because of conflicting policy priorities and the constraints of the ESA’s approach to species protection.
Salmon Policy Lesson 2 — Current institutional and political dynamics limit our ability to deal effectively with salmon recovery.
Salmon Policy Lesson 3 — Market incentives and the rules of commerce tend to work against increasing wild salmon numbers.
Salmon Policy Lesson 4 — Competition for critical natural resources, especially for water, will continue to increase and will work against recovering wild salmon.
Salmon Policy Lesson 5 — Dramatic increases in the human population of the Pacific Northwest will work against wild salmon recovery.
Salmon Policy Lesson 6 — Individual and collective life-style preferences are important and substantial changes must take place in these preferences if long-term downward trends in wild salmon abundance are to be reversed.
He concludes: “To succeed, a wild salmon recovery strategy must change the trajectory of the major policy drivers or that strategy will fail. If society only continues to spend billions of dollars in quick-fix efforts to restore wild salmon runs, then in most cases these efforts will be only marginally successful... In the opinion of this author, the billions spent on salmon recovery might be considered “guilt money” — modern-day indulgences — a tax society and individuals willingly bear to alleviate their collective and individual remorse. It is money spent on activities not likely to achieve recovery of wild salmon, but it helps people feel better as they continue the behaviors and choices that preclude the recovery of wild salmon. It also sustains a job program for scientists and other technocrats by funding the salmon recovery industry.”
What do you think? Keep working? Work smarter, work tougher? Let me know.