Shared Strategy for Puget Sound
Read individual feedback letters using the links below:

October 12, 2004


Dear Watershed Planning Team,

Your dedication and hard work on behalf of salmon recovery is much appreciated and we want to thank you again at this juncture.

We are collectively entering the regional consensus building phase of the work for the final recovery plan and its implementation. Building regional consensus at this magnitude has not been done before and is simultaneously daunting and inspiring. Your help at this stage, building on your past work, is critical for success. At the regional scale, each watershed chapter and its implementation is like a link in a chain, and this next year is all about forging as strong a chain as possible.

The Shared Strategy Development Committee, the TRT and Work Group believe we can meet the deadline for a recovery plan by June 30, 2005 if we all work together. We see two components that have to be worked on concurrently between now and June 30th. The first is building consensus on what we are trying to achieve in the long-term and in the next ten years. The second is improving the technical support for the actions and commitments for the recovery plan.

Thanks to your June 30th submittal and subsequent meetings in August with the Technical Recovery Team (TRT) and policy reviewers, we have a good picture of what we have to build a Puget Sound recovery plan and what we still need. This letter provides information on what we mean by regional consensus, the intent of our October Feedback (attached), recovery criteria and population roles, and other regional tasks.

Building Regional Consensus: Over the remaining months of this year, we hope to work together to develop a clear picture of what recovery for salmon in Puget Sound means over the long-term, what we can accomplish in the next ten-years, as well as the funding and other regional decisions that are needed to be successful. Consensus on these issues is critical for completing the recovery plan, to achieve NOAA and USFWS endorsement, and for continued funding. We have been told by key leaders that without a comprehensive recovery plan and regional consensus for implementation, funding from federal and state sources will be difficult to maintain, and increasing funds to the levels necessary for recovery will be impossible.

We hope to confirm regional consensus on recovery at the Shared Strategy Summit on January 26-27, 2005. The Summit is the place for elected officials, watershed leaders and others to affirm their commitment to salmon recovery in the long-term, as well as confirm regional and watershed goals, the objectives for the next ten years, the conditions necessary to gain commitments and the funding needed for implementation. We need your help to inform key decision-makers about the importance of the Summit and encourage their participation.

The second part of the effort to complete the Puget Sound recovery plan on June 30th is focused on gaining commitments and technical documentation. We would like to have your final watershed chapters with commitments by April 30th. We believe that defining the actions and decisions for Chinook is consistent with bull trout and Hood Canal summer chum recovery needs.

October Feedback: Based on achieving this two-part approach in the coming months, we prepared the attached feedback document. This feedback has been developed by Shared Strategy staff and has been reviewed by the TRT for consistency with their technical review and conclusions. The details were discussed with the Shared Strategy Development Committee and they support the overall direction. You will receive more specific technical feedback from the TRT by early November 2004 which is intended to help you strengthen the technical foundation of your final chapter.

The attached document is designed to meet several needs.

  • Section 1: identifies the most important questions to answer and decisions to make by the end of December 2004 in preparation for the January Summit.
  • Section 2 and 3: describe what we need from you by April 30, 2005 to complete the regional recovery plan and to ensure we are on the path to recover salmon across Puget Sound.
  • Section 4: summarizes our understanding of what has been proposed to date based on your answers to the six questions and August meetings.

We developed the feedback in a consistent manner for all watersheds so you and other interested parties could quickly see what has been done so far and what is asked of other watersheds.

Regional Recovery Criteria and Long-term Population Roles: It might be helpful to briefly review the regional criteria for recovery to place the attached requests in context. For the short-term (next 10 years), the Puget Sound recovery plan needs to provide certainty that proposed strategies and actions for habitat, hatcheries and harvest are likely to achieve results for fish that reverse declines and put populations on a recovery trajectory. Additionally, the plan needs to demonstrate a strong likelihood that strategies and actions will be implemented. For the long-term, the plan needs to identify what it will take to achieve a low-risk of extinction for the Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU).

The Shared Strategy Development Committee supports the use of the draft TRT delisting criteria to guide how we define and implement recovery. The TRT believes that most if not all of the remaining 22 independent spawning populations of Chinook are at high risk at this time. Historically, it is believed there were over 30 independent populations in Puget Sound. Therefore, all the remaining populations have important contributions to make to salmon recovery.

The TRT criteria suggest that in order for the ESU to have a low risk of extinction, all populations need to move out of high risk to a condition in which they are supportive of the status of the whole ESU. A supportive population must have natural production sufficient to provide benefits to the function and integrity of the ecosystem, and support harvest and hatchery objectives. To achieve these results all watersheds will need to take significant actions in the next ten years to reverse declining trends and get on the path towards recovery.

In addition to moving all populations out of high risk status, the draft TRT ESU viability criteria suggest that a number of populations need to fulfill a core role. A core population is naturally self-sustaining at harvestable levels, meeting or exceeding Co-manager targets and VSP criteria. The TRT ESU viability criteria state that if there are at least 2-4 core populations in each of the five regions of Puget Sound, the ESU will have a high likelihood of persistence. This recommended distribution of core populations will ensure that catastrophic events in one region do not cause the decline of all of the Chinook in Puget Sound. Core populations of Chinook in each of the 5 regions also increase the resilience of Chinook within the ESU to withstand future changes in environmental conditions.

In three regions of Puget Sound (the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the Strait of Georgia/Nooksack region and Hood Canal) there are currently only two populations per region. Therefore in order to meet the ESU viability criteria, all populations in these three regions will need to play a core role. In the Central-South Sound and Whidbey regions, there are more remaining Chinook populations, and the long-term roles of these populations for ESU recovery still need to be determined.

In cases where watersheds have not determined their long-term goals, the Shared Strategy Development Committee recommends the watershed examine its potential role based on the TRT ESU viability criteria, the status of the populations that use the watershed, the ecological condition of the watershed, the ability to achieve low risk status in the long-term, and the cost of recovery actions. In some cases we don’t have enough information to determine what it will take to move a population to a status such that it plays a core role. In most cases, the work of the next ten years to move populations out of high risk will not differ whether the population is ultimately providing a supportive or core role.

In addition to a focus on the primary habitats used by independent spawning populations, it is also important to plan for nearshore, marine and tributaries to Puget Sound. To achieve the TRT delisting criteria, these areas need to function in a manner that is sufficient to support ESU-wide recovery.

Over a long-time horizon, it may be difficult for watersheds to know how to achieve recovery or if proposed actions will indeed have the hoped for results. In that respect, a recovery plan can be said to be visionary. It is important to describe the long-term view, even as you focus on developing 10-year actions to reverse declining trends and put your populations on a recovery trajectory. Your answers to the questions in Section 1 of the October Feedback, in addition to being important for the upcoming Summit, will help all involved evaluate the role the populations in your watershed can realistically play in a healthy ESU.

Other Regional Tasks: In addition to the work we are requesting from your and other watersheds in Puget Sound, there are a number of regional issues that need to advance over the next months. We would like your input and guidance on the following topics.

1. Financing and Investment Strategy – Adequate funding for implementation will be one of the most important factors determining the pace of actions and the ultimate results. We have performed an extensive analysis of existing and potential new sources of money. We have discussed future funding with a number of federal, state, local and tribal government leaders as well as business and nonprofit interests. It is the conclusion of most leaders that we should develop a ten year investment plan that matches prioritized recovery actions with funding. With your help we plan to develop criteria to guide investments over the next ten years and come up with three alternative levels of funding for consideration at the January Summit. In the meantime, if you are not already on the email distribution list to receive updates and requests for feedback on the developing ideas and analyses, please let us know and we’ll be glad to add you.

2. Adaptive Management and Monitoring – It is clear from the information provided by you and other watersheds as well as the scientific work at the Puget Sound scale that it will be important to improve our knowledge and the certainty of results. It will be critical to establish a rigorous monitoring and adaptive management system as we move into implementation. We need clear milestones and measures at the watershed and regional level to determine our success and where we need to adjust our strategies. We hope to host a break-out session at the Summit as well as create a regional workshop afterwards where we can all put our heads together and create a solid framework for monitoring and adaptive management. Fortunately, there has been significant work by some watersheds and others already these important topics.

3. Assurances – Many watersheds have asked for more specifics on the federal assurances that could come from commitment to implement a recovery plan. We are working with the NOAA Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop more specific definitions for assurances, both what they can provide and what they will need from the region. We hope to have a letter from the Services to you by mid-November 2004.

4. Implementation Structure – The implementation structure at the local and regional level will be critical to the success of the long-term effort. The Shared Strategy non-profit organization and staff will complete its work by the end of next year. The Development Committee would like to work with you and others to develop organizational recommendations for the implementation of the recovery plan. We will be developing some initial thoughts on this topic soon and request your feedback.

In closing, the Development Committee wanted you to know how much they appreciate all that you have done so far and they understand the implications of the requests for continued work over the coming months. They wanted you to have this information as soon as possible following their September retreat and asked us to send you this letter and attached October feedback. Look for a letter from them soon that supports these conclusions and requests. As mentioned above, the TRT will also provide more detailed technical feedback by early November 2004.

We are very excited about working with you in the coming months to work together to create an inspiring salmon recovery plan. Meanwhile, don’t hesitate to call us with questions or concerns.

Jim Kramer