Let me begin by saying what an honor it is to be the first Executive Director of the Wild Steelhead Coalition. Like many of you, I have kept an eye on the WSC since its founding. After years of watching them make slow-but-sure progress, I decided to make up for the years I hadn’t contributed and became a lifetime member. That was when I met Rich Simms, one of the WSC’s founders and President. Rich invited me to become a trustee to help advise the board in making the WSC a more efficient, effective, and sustainable organization. As a successful serial entrepreneur with over 50 years of cumulative board experience, I brought a perspective and experience that enabled us to make rapid progress.
The WSC has a notable list of accomplishments. But the on-going closures of major Puget Sound drainages and the lack of progress by a multitude of agencies toward the recovery of wild steelhead, highlight the need for more immediate action. Although daunting, I am excited to take on the challenge of recovering our wild steelhead fisheries. It’s a big job and for now, I am a staff of one. To succeed will require leveraging our assets, building greater collaboration, funding steelhead research, educating ourselves and the public, and applying the right amount of force, when and where needed. To succeed will require your support. I hope to hear from you—when we do well and when you think we haven’t. Somehow we must get beyond what type of rod we fish with and unite around what we have in common: the experience of fishing for wild steelhead. This is exactly what we’ve begun doing with those that share an interest in healthy watersheds and steelhead.
We were recently accepted as a member of the Skagit Watershed Council—a diverse group of stakeholders on a river that serves as a bellweather for our efforts to restore steelhead. Over the years the WSC has funded multiple research projects on the Skagit. We have now packaged our efforts into the WSC Skagit Watershed Initiative and have applied for multiple grants that relate to the Skagit. In addition, we have received a commitment of $10,000 from Orvis to participate in a project, along with the Wildcat Steelhead Club, the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), The Nature Conservancy, and others, to restore Barnaby Slough’s habitat and create a high water refuge for steelhead. In addition, we are participating in the Skagit Watershed Technical Work Group.
In February I met with the Governor’s new policy analyst for natural resources to educate her on key issues pertaining to wild steelhead restoration. It was a productive meeting and there will be more to follow. Earlier this year I represented the WSC at hearings regarding the Columbia River Net & Sport Regulations as well as advocating WSC’s proposed changes to Sportfishing Regulations to protect wild steelhead. Shortly after assuming my new role, the WSC Board approved a new Strategic Plan. One of the central items in the plan is a review of the 2008 Washington Statewide Steelhead Management Plan (SSMP). The SSMP has been in place for over five years and it would appear that little to nothing has been achieved. The WSC will now taking on the task of providing public oversight in the form of a report card, to the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commissioners on WDFW’s progress towards the SSMP.
This is going to be an exciting year and I look forward to sharing our work with you regularly through The Adipose, social media, emails, events—and hope to run into some of you on the river. After all, like you, I’m a steelhead junkie.