Changing Minds, Changing the Land

Donald "Bud" Hover of Winthrop, Washington, is an Okanogan County commissioner and hay farmer who also chairs the Washington state Salmon Recovery Funding Board. Here's a preview of our interview with him for the summer Council Quarterly where he describes his journey from salmon recovery skeptic to collaboration convert.

Q. Today, the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Plan, which the board created and implements, is viewed by many as a showpiece of how to do things right for the fish and the economy. What happened to bring about the transition from confrontation to collaboration?

It was clear that the top-down approach employed by the Fisheries Service in 1997 and 1998 was not going to work. You didn’t drive around in the Entiat or the Methow [river basins] in cars with state or federal markings because you were not very welcome there.

So several state legislators and county commissioners got together and said, “we’re going to take this on.” The Fisheries Service knew that they could create any document they wanted, and it would never be implemented here. If they really wanted to see it implemented, it had to be created from a grass-roots approach because you had to get buy-in from the local people, the people who own land along the rivers, the habitat.

I’m a long-time member of the Farm Bureau and the Cattlemen’s Association. When I ran for office, these folks formed my main constituent base. As a new member of the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board, the first people to approach me voicing their opposition to the recovery plan were my own constituents. They all piled on because of the way we had been treated.

At that time, the board was within a year of having its recovery plan completed, and I basically put the brakes on it because I had people chewing on me saying it wasn’t a good thing for Okanogan County. I got a lot of support from Paul Ward, who represented the Yakamas on the board; Bill Towey who represents the Colvilles, was supportive, too, but also very impatient--he really wanted to get the thing done. The other members were very patient with me. We hired our executive director, Julie Morgan, and she started communicating and got that grass roots approach going with the people in Chelan, Douglas, and Okanogan counties, kept the state and federal agencies at bay, and pulled all this stuff together.

Fortunately, we had the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office help coordinate the effort, but basically it started here and worked up. The success that we have had is because we took a grass-roots, bottom-up approach. Today, I believe in the collaboration process. It really, really has worked.

In order to do it, though, you’ve got to have a tough skin, a lot of patience, and an open mind. Here’s a personal example: When I first came into this, I didn’t give a damn about what the tribes cared about. In my opinion, they were saying the fish were endangered, but they had nets in the river. I didn’t know anything about their issues. Since then I’ve learned that it’s not just an economic issue with the tribes. It’s a real deep, cultural, religious issue with the tribes. I have gotten a much better understanding of their desires and needs. And I’m really happy to report, we’re seeing improved fish returns.