Federal protection of salmon takes effect
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Reporter
A new federal regulation, which went into effect Jan. 8, adds further protection to Puget Sound chinook salmon, one of seven stocks of salmon threatened with extinction in the Northwest under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Known as the 4 (d) rule, a reference to a provision of ESA, the rule tells jurisdictions what they can or can't do and is enforced by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).Regulations were already in place requiring projects with a federal connection to get approval before taking action that could harm threatened fish. However, the 4 (d) rule expands protection.
NMFS announced the new federal rule last June prohibiting the "take" (or harm) of threatened salmon and steelhead. It is now illegal for businesses or private property owners to kill or harm salmon or to destroy salmon habitat.
"Enforcement of this rule is just the middle step of the process intended to protect chinook under ESA," said Deborah Knight, Woodinville's Assistant to the City Manager and the City's representative of the watershed forum working to develop the salmon recovery plan.
The five steps, designed by NMFS, are guidelines for everyone in the region. The first step listed the species for federal protection. The second identified critical habitat. The third is the middle step that Knight referred to. This step establishes the rule that makes it a federal crime to harm or kill threatened salmon, including Puget Sound chinook ‹ under certain circumstances. The fourth step is a plan for salmon recovery and the fifth is the final step toward the goal of removing Puget Sound chinook from the ESA list.
The City offers opportunities for citizens wanting to join in the effort toward the final step. There are community volunteer activities and events that assist in habitat restoration, such as plant squads who maintain the trees that shade the river and keep the water cool for salmon to thrive.
Knight has at-home suggestions to protect chinook salmon. People, she said, can help by washing their car on their lawn instead of on the driveway. The soapy run-off is diverted from rushing into the storm drain system and eventually into the creeks. She also encourages citizens not to use pesticides on their lawns as the chemicals will filter into the streams.
According to Knight, the local creeks support other fish besides the threatened chinook. There are sockeye, coho and steelhead trout. In addition, the wildlife around the creek contributes to the salmon habitat.
Beavers, for example, cut down the trees that add large woody debris in the creeks. The woody debris offers secluded areas of deep cool water for fish to rest and is necessary for the weary salmon.
To protect salmon habitat, the 4 (d) rule was adopted. Even so, there will undoubtedly be violators who will disrupt the environment where salmon live. And though the 4 (d) rule allows third parties to sue violators as well as liable government agencies, the most effective solution remains the cooperation of citizens in a joint salmon recovery effort.
For further information, visit www.salmoninfo.org.To get involved, call the City's Volunteer Coordinator, John Markuson at (425) 489-2700. To join a plant squad, call Laura Baerwolf at (425) 806-9171.