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A Shared Strategy for Saving Salmon
Alex Steffen, 12 Jul 05

Salmon are more than a Pacific Northwest icon -- they are one of the foundation species of local ecosystems, without which many other natural processes cannot work. Salmon, as they migrate from the ocean to rivers and mountain streams, serve as a sort of nutrient conveyer belt, fertilizing and feeding surrounding plants and animals with their bodies.

But salmon are also in deep trouble, endangered and disappearing throughout much of their Western North American range. The causes are multiple -- logging, overfishing, toxic pollution, suburban sprawl -- which makes crafting solutions to save them a task of staggering complexity.

While not perfect, Shared Strategy is the best attempt to meet that challenge I've seen. Though focused on Washington's Puget Sound, I think it offers some interesting thoughts for those stuggling anywhere with large, complex ecosystems with lots of people living in the middle of them:

In the face of increased human population growth (projected at 1.4 million people by 2020) and the impact of ongoing land use activities, the ability to recover Chinook salmon can only occur through a combination of habitat restoration and protection. Today’s remaining Chinook populations depend on existing quality and quantity of salmon habitat in the Sound’s fresh and marine waters. Any further reductions in habitat quality and quantity will require more restoration to achieve recovery goals. In other words, if the ‘Puget Sound bucket’ keeps on getting new holes, even while we plug old holes, we won’t get very far toward achieving recovery goals. And eventually, given how ecosystems work, there can come a point when there are so many holes that the system can no longer be restored. Protection is needed at the individual habitat site as well as at the ecosystem scale to ensure the processes that [support salmon] continue to function.

If we are in fact going to build a sustainable civilization, we must heal the natural systems which flow in, though and around the places where we live. Some of that will happen in the process of building bright green cities (if we do it right), but much of the work will still rest on saving and restoring natural places. Shared Strategy's plan makes me think that work is something we can accomplish.

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I couldn't agree more. I think an important step in the fight to protect river eco-systems in the United States is through wilderness designation and protection. Wilderness protection secures a safe, clean and beautiful home for river eco-systems including salmon. Moreover, wilderness and national forest areas provide much of our clean drinking water in urban areas. In fact, 60 million Americans rely on clean drinking water from our national forests. Roadless areas provide the purest of drinking water due to their clean, naturally filtered and road-free conditions. To get more information on wilderness benefits on river systems and society visit:

Posted by: Wayne McFeeley on 14 Jul 05



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