Let’s make sure salmon recovery decisions happen at home, not in D.C.


Late yesterday, the Washington State Attorney General filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court ruling intended to address salmon population declines and protect Tribal treaty rights. The 2016 ruling, often referred to as the “culverts case,” sought to require removal of culverts that block salmon passage and thus impede efforts to recover imperiled salmon populations.

The Puget Sound Partnership, founded by the Washington State legislature and reflecting the commitment of the public to Puget Sound recovery, firmly supports salmon recovery efforts and Tribal treaty rights. The continuing declines in salmon populations are inseparably tied to the declines in overall Puget Sound health. Likewise, the factors and actions that will recover salmon will also recover Puget Sound. What does Puget Sound recovery mean to people? Our wellbeing and quality of life rely on it. Imagine a Puget Sound without salmon; without the orcas and other marine life that will starve if salmon are gone; and without the cultural richness of the Tribal nations, for whom salmon are central to their way of life. Such a scenario is not a future any of us want.

Several of our Puget Sound recovery partners are involved in the culverts case — partners who we have worked shoulder to shoulder with over the years, partners who have demonstrated that they have the know-how, the passion, and the courage to solve the problems at the heart of this litigation. Resolution of the culverts case will have implications for us all, and for generations to come. So it ought to be those of us here, in Puget Sound, not in Washington D.C., who lend a hand — and a voice — in finding a path to agreement. The voices that need to be heard are not those of the nine justices of the Supreme Court, three-thousand miles away, but those of the people who are invested in the heart and soul of Puget Sound — those who fish here, who enjoy being on the Sound and interacting with it, who exercise their rights to the natural resources the Sound provides, who pay for restoration projects, and who invest their lives in protecting and recovering Puget Sound.

We understand the reasons for the Attorney General’s actions, but we urge the litigants to redouble their efforts to formulate a resolution here at home, before the option is taken out of local hands and removed to D.C. Action by the Supreme Court, at this time, is unlikely to serve either side to the litigation well, nor will it serve the thousands of people who are depending on — and standing behind — our partners in wanting the best for Puget Sound.