The one yard line

Salmo_g

Well-Known Member
#1
Occupy Skagit (OS) has just about worked itself out of a job. A job it created for itself, but just about over, nonetheless. It began with a goal. The goal was to get WDFW, preferably with the tribal co-managers, to develop a Skagit River, basin specific steelhead management plan, separate from the Puget Sound (PS) steelhead management plan for the plain and simple reason that the Skagit steelhead population does not biologically share the same threatened status as most PS steelhead populations. As I've written previously, the Skagit is a victim of geography. Because it is located in PS, it has been aggregated with all the other PS watersheds for purposes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) analysis.

From the outset no competent reviewer (which obviously excludes WFF's own idiot Freestoneangler) has disagreed with OS' analysis or conclusions. Even so, it took several years for WDFW to act, and then to work with the tribal co-managers, but they did complete a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) and sent it to NMFS for review in November 2016.

The ESA review is nothing, if not a masterpiece of bureaucracy. After assembling a work group for the project, NMFS then has to do an evaluation of the RMP under ESA Section 4(d) Rule Limit 6. Then comes an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), depending on whether the proposed action has a significant impact on the human environment. (Of course the applicable laws contain definitions of what all that stuff means.) Following the EA, NMFS must complete a biological opinion as to whether the proposed federal action - the federal action being NMFS approval of the co-manager's RMP - jeopardizes the continued existence of the listed Distinct Population Segment (DPS) or modifies or destroys designated critical habitat of the ESA-listed species. If the proposed plan passes muster of those required steps, NMFS Regional Administrator will then issue a Record of Decision (ROD) approving the plan.

As of yesterday, December 8, 2017, NMFS issued its Proposed Evaluation and Pending Determination under the 4(d) Rule and Limit 6. So far, so good. From the document: ". . . Based on this review and evaluation, NMFS' preliminary pending determination, subject to information provided during public comment and completion of NMFS' ESA consultation, is that activities imlemented as described would not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon or Puget Sound steelhead." Since a federal agency cannot "pre-decide" something prior to the ROD, we get a ". . . preliminary pending determination . . ." How's that for wishy-washy? But this is the way the system works, and kinda' why it works slowly.

Slowly or not, barring unforeseen factors I'm told that NMFS is on schedule to issue the ROD approval to the co-managers in time for WDFW to issue the regulation reinstating the traditional Skagit River basin recreational steelhead fishing season beginning February 1, 2018.

In furtherance of this effort, at this morning's meeting of the WDFW Commission, Director Unsworth said that this is a high priority for the Department, and that they will provide the monitoring necessary to conduct the proposed fishing season.

Sg
 
#6
Interesting post on the OS Facebook page. At the meeting, Director Unsworth said WDFW would find funding to support a fishery if NOAA Marine Fisheries Service approved one in their final assessment. Even that is huge and very exciting news considering concerns about monitoring and enforcement funding, but it's not the same as announcing that the fishery will be open this season. The Resource Management Plan is still out for public comments and regulations have not been finalized.

Thanks for all your hard work getting this far, but we're still at the one yard line. Hopefully not for much longer.
 
#7
Occupy Skagit (OS) has just about worked itself out of a job. A job it created for itself, but just about over, nonetheless. It began with a goal. The goal was to get WDFW, preferably with the tribal co-managers, to develop a Skagit River, basin specific steelhead management plan, separate from the Puget Sound (PS) steelhead management plan for the plain and simple reason that the Skagit steelhead population does not biologically share the same threatened status as most PS steelhead populations. As I've written previously, the Skagit is a victim of geography. Because it is located in PS, it has been aggregated with all the other PS watersheds for purposes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) analysis.

From the outset no competent reviewer (which obviously excludes WFF's own idiot Freestoneangler) has disagreed with OS' analysis or conclusions. Even so, it took several years for WDFW to act, and then to work with the tribal co-managers, but they did complete a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) and sent it to NMFS for review in November 2016.

The ESA review is nothing, if not a masterpiece of bureaucracy. After assembling a work group for the project, NMFS then has to do an evaluation of the RMP under ESA Section 4(d) Rule Limit 6. Then comes an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), depending on whether the proposed action has a significant impact on the human environment. (Of course the applicable laws contain definitions of what all that stuff means.) Following the EA, NMFS must complete a biological opinion as to whether the proposed federal action - the federal action being NMFS approval of the co-manager's RMP - jeopardizes the continued existence of the listed Distinct Population Segment (DPS) or modifies or destroys designated critical habitat of the ESA-listed species. If the proposed plan passes muster of those required steps, NMFS Regional Administrator will then issue a Record of Decision (ROD) approving the plan.

As of yesterday, December 8, 2017, NMFS issued its Proposed Evaluation and Pending Determination under the 4(d) Rule and Limit 6. So far, so good. From the document: ". . . Based on this review and evaluation, NMFS' preliminary pending determination, subject to information provided during public comment and completion of NMFS' ESA consultation, is that activities imlemented as described would not appreciably reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of ESA-listed Puget Sound Chinook salmon or Puget Sound steelhead." Since a federal agency cannot "pre-decide" something prior to the ROD, we get a ". . . preliminary pending determination . . ." How's that for wishy-washy? But this is the way the system works, and kinda' why it works slowly.

Slowly or not, barring unforeseen factors I'm told that NMFS is on schedule to issue the ROD approval to the co-managers in time for WDFW to issue the regulation reinstating the traditional Skagit River basin recreational steelhead fishing season beginning February 1, 2018.

In furtherance of this effort, at this morning's meeting of the WDFW Commission, Director Unsworth said that this is a high priority for the Department, and that they will provide the monitoring necessary to conduct the proposed fishing season.

Sg
It's well worth saying again however, thank you to you gentlemen who have been quarterbacking this effort. And congrats for pushing it this far. I hope to toast you on the bars below Rockport this spring.
 

KerryS

Ignored Member
#10
Not to beat a dead horse...but I'm curious if there has there been any discussion of controlling/limiting guide pressure in some way? Seems it would be easier to do it now, versus doing it later.
Guides was not the focus of OS. OS was concerned with getting a mechanism in place to allow the Skagit to be opened for spring steelhead fishing. Perhaps you can start a different group whose focus is guides.
 

Rob Allen

Active Member
#13
If this was my back yard and i had the capabilities I'd put up a website where people could log in and record both their effort and success. Might be anecdotal but it would give managers at least some sort of view on both the success of the fishery and the beginnings of impact monitoring
 
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_WW_

Geriatric Skagit Swinger
#15
Not to beat a dead horse...but I'm curious if there has there been any discussion of controlling/limiting guide pressure in some way? Seems it would be easier to do it now, versus doing it later.
Speaking without doing all the research here, but as a "Wild and Scenic River" guides must be permitted by USFS. There are a limited number and most of those are held by eagle watching outfits. Might be time to put them on speed dial.
 
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