It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been in this job for over a year now—how quickly things move and how glacially change occurs. And by that I mean ‘old glacially’ as the new reality is that glaciers are receding at unprecedented rates, similar to the returns of wild steelhead. But it’s the end of the year which is always a time for reflection and an accounting of what got done and what lies ahead.
The year began with the WSC becoming members of the Skagit Watershed Council and sharpening our focus on the recovery of Skagit River wild steelhead. As the year proceeded we participated in the Technical Work Group and procured grants from Patagonia, World Trout, Orvis, and the Swinomish Tribe that allowed us to support research and habitat recovery on both the Skagit and Sauk. We continue to participate in the effort to restore the area around Barnaby Slough and will also be involved in a future project on Lyle Creek to reestablish the natural stream flow, restore vegetation, and remove an existing culvert to increase spawning habitat.
This year has included a significant amount of policy related work. A key piece of effort (that included helping to organize more than 30 other organizations’ participation) revolved around our recent comments to the review of the Columbia River Fish and Wildlife Program. This program not only impacts steelhead recovery in the rivers and tributaries within the Columbia Basin but also protects 20% of all rivers in the NW from future hydro development. This includes the S.F. Skykomish and Snoqualmie—both currently under pressure from groups seeking to create new hydro projects.
An ongoing area of focus for the WSC is the development of Wild Steelhead Management Zones (WSMZ) aka Wild Steelhead Gene Banks. To many of us it seems like the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) has achieved little since the publication of the 2008 WA Statewide Steelhead Management Plan (SSMP) in the way of steelhead recovery outside of habitat restoration. Although since the plan’s creation WDFW did agree to make the Sol Duc a WSMZ thanks to the WSC’s efforts. As a result of this lack of transparency and seeming inactivity the WSC has begun work on implementing an annual evaluation of WDFW’s progress. The second effort in creating WSMZs occurred recently and the WSC worked to organize steelhead conservation groups, guides, angling clubs, and fishery enhancement groups to participate with WDFW in selecting a Lower Columbia WSMZ. A decision on the selection(s) is forthcoming and my thanks to those of you that submitted comments on the candidate streams. In 2014 the WSC will again convene scientists, agencies, tribes and fish conservation groups to a two day Steelhead Summit—this time focusing on WSMZs. We continue as participants in the lawsuit to keep the Elwha free of hatchery steelhead and anticipate that we will soon be reviewing the proposed steelhead Hatchery Genetic Management Plans and NOAA’s upcoming Puget Sound Steelhead Recovery Plan.
As we move toward the season of auld lang syne I cannot let the year end without expressing my deep sense of loss with the passing of Doug Rose. Every year Doug published a Christmas newsletter—and I was honored to have one of my essays included. His Christmas newsletter reminded us of the bonds of fellowship among those of us who pursue wild steelhead and sea-run cutts on a fly. While I only ever fished with Doug twice we corresponded often over the years thanks to many shared interests. He enjoyed hearing my stories of the Greenwich Village folk music scene in the 60s and would have delighted in the Coen brothers making a movie based on Dave Van Ronk’s life—as much as he would to see Shane Anderson’s upcoming Wild Reverence. But of all the things we had in common, our strongest bond was a love for wild steelhead and a desire to restore them to levels of abundance. We shared a frustration with the past couple of decade’s slow pace of steelhead recovery efforts—as well as a deep appreciation for the history of fly fishing for steelhead. Doug was a stalwart supporter of wild steelhead recovery and the Wild Steelhead Coalition—and the fish have lost a good friend.
I’d like to end by thanking our many supporters and welcoming David Cole and Steve Lewis to the circle of WSC Lifetime Members. As you can see from the items above things are picking up steam and 2014 will be a very busy year for us. We cannot do our important work without the support of those who love wild steelhead—and I hope that if you have not contributed to the WSC yet this year you will consider doing so now. My best wishes to you and those close to you for a wonderful holiday season and New Year.