By Jim Schmitz
Honorary Board Member
This past August representatives from both the Wild Steelhead Coalition and Native Fish Society (NFS) were selected as part of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) steelhead management workgroup. The purpose of the group was to initiate the planning process for the development of steelhead watershed management plans for the Cascade Stratum populations.
- North Lewis River
- East Fork Lewis River
- Washougal River
- Salmon Creek
The workgroup initially consisted of 20 individuals that were selected to represent a wide range of interest groups throughout the region. Representatives from both the WSC and NFS had the opportunity to not only engage in the well informed decision making process but had the opportunity to do so alongside a wide range of views and opinions regarding the future of these delicate river systems. Throughout the process Jim Schmitz (WSC) and Steve Lent (NFS) were there to try and support the best science to establish a wild gene bank from the systems listed above. As one can only imagine, making a final decision with 13 final voters can be a difficult task. Fortunately, representatives from WDFW guided the group. In the end, the group selected the East Fork Lewis as the wild gene bank. This decision would not have come about without the incredible ability of the group to come together and do what is best for the fish.
Most of the individuals in the workgroup traveled long distances and were extremely well educated on each and every watershed. The WDFW did an excellent job selecting a very diverse workgroup and without their guidance a final decision would have been difficult. In the end, the group’s recommendation will certainly be a boost for wild steelhead in the East Fork Lewis.
The decisions were made to benefit the future of wild fish. Moving forward, the recommendation is that the East Fork Lewis River will no longer be planted with winter or summer hatchery steelhead. The goal is to establish and protect a gene bank that is pure and strong. The WDFW will be moving the smolts that were otherwise bound for the EFL to other less sensitive drainages in order to support anglers looking to harvest. The WSC and NFS would like to thank WDFW and all members of the workgroup for making an informed decision that will indeed benefit the EFL .