The decline of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin is a central concern to natural resource management in the Pacific Northwest. The region’s efforts to reverse the decline are structured around two statutory recovery programs. The first of these is the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Program of the Northwest Power Planning Council (the Council). The second statutory program is the proposed plan for recovery of populations of salmon in the Snake River that are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. This program is directed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.
In addition, the four Indian tribes with treaty fishing rights in the Columbia River Basin have developed their own recovery plan, coordinated through the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission. The tribal plan has a significant influence on the substance and implementation of the other two programs.
Each of the recovery plans provides a piece of the puzzle that is restoration of the Columbia River ecosystem. Delisting of Snake River chinook is a subset of a larger problem of restoring Columbia River salmon, in general, which in turn is closely related to the restoration of wildlife, resident fish, other animal and plant species and the ecosystem as a whole. While each plan may address different aspects of a larger problem, it is clear that considering the goals and strategies of each plan sequentially or in isolation will not be as effective as a comprehensive integration of their common goals and strategies. A recovery program that addresses regional goals will require a coordinated approach that focuses on the underlying changes in the ecosystem that have occurred during this century.
This paper describes the elements and structure of a common, scientifically based framework for regional fish and wildlife recovery in the Columbia River Basin. The framework is intended to embrace and unite the goals and mandates of the three plans and other regionally identified goals as well. While important, a framework is simply a structure or scaffolding around which to build a regional plan; it is not itself a regional plan. Development of the substance of a regional recovery effort will require a concerted effort to resolve long-standing policy and scientific issues.