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Investing in Salmon Recovery Is Good for Birds

Alongside our partners at the Seattle Aquarium and Sound Action, we’ve proposed legislation that helps protect Puget Sound shoreline habitat for birds, salmon, and people

Governor Inslee and a number of Tribal governments have identified salmon recovery as a top priority for the 2022 legislative session and beyond.  Salmon, orcas, and marine birds – once unimaginably abundant in our region – have been in steep decline for decades. Without bold action, many species simply will not survive. What’s more, the very things that salmon need – healthy estuaries, shorelines and plentiful forage fish, are the things that will ensure birds like Dunlin and Surf Scoters can thrive.  

To protect and restore habitat for these iconic Pacific Northwest species, we need a comprehensive approach. From riverine spawning habitat and migratory corridors to shoreline and estuarine foraging areas, we need better planning and coordination, improved data on habitat impacts, and updated permitting processes that incorporate meaningful habitat recovery. Audubon Washington is excited to work with our statewide network of advocates to ensure Washington’s state and local governments work alongside Tribal co-managers to meet this challenge head-on. 

Horned Grebe. Photo: Christopher Ciccone

A century of habitat degradation won’t be reversed overnight, but the next few years are a crucial time to put strong policies in place to support salmon, orcas, and marine birds. Audubon Washington is supporting Governor Inslee’s 2022 salmon recovery proposals which emphasize four areas of action: 

  1. Protect and restore vital salmon habitat 

  2. Invest in clean water infrastructure for salmon and people 

  3. Correct fish passage barriers and restore salmon access to historical habitat 

  4. Build climate resiliency 

Horned Grebe. Photo: Joshua Parrott

While each of these areas are important, Audubon’s primary focus this session is on proposed actions that have particular significance for birds; updating regulations governing shoreline development. 

Alongside our partners at the Seattle Aquarium and Sound Action, we’ve proposed legislation that helps protect Puget Sound shoreline habitat. Specifically, this bill: 

  1. Requires a comprehensive assessment of Puget Sound shoreline conditions, identifying structures that are either unpermitted or have fallen into disrepair, providing state regulators with information necessary to support shoreline habitat protection 

  2. Requires any new and replacement shoreline structures (piers, docks, armoring, etc.) to have mitigation for habitat loss included in permit conditions. Also requires replacement structures to meet the more protective design and technical standards required of new projects. 

Dunlin. Photo: Mason Maron

In addition to improved data collection and habitat mitigation, we’re also working with legislators and agency leads to explore opportunities to hasten the repair or removal of shoreline structures that have fallen into disrepair and are degrading habitat conditions. 

Another bill we’re supporting has been years in the making. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes and named after the late tribal environmental activist Lorraine Loomis, addresses habitat quality and water temperature in Washington’s watersheds. The bill would create a standard for tree height next to rivers and streams, establish a new Riparian Habitat Conservation Grant Program to help landowners meet this standard, and provide the accountability and oversight necessary for programmatic success. 

In the short, 2022 legislative session we have the opportunity to pass good policy and lay the groundwork for further efforts. Audubon Washington is committed to working with our chapter network and partner organizations to advance meaningful solutions that help salmon, orcas, and marine birds thrive for generations to come. 

How you can help, right now