5 things | Salmon recovery caught in middle of many demands

Jason Lundgren, executive director of the Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group

Hello, my name is Jason Lundgren and I’m the executive director of the Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group (CCFEG), a local North Central Washington non-profit dedicated to improving conditions for native fish through habitat restoration and community education programs.

Pacific salmon, steelhead, and other native fishes have seen dramatic declines over the past 150 years. As a result of severe population declines spring Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout are all protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in North Central Washington.

If you ask a fish biologist why salmon are in trouble they typically refer to the 4-H’s; harvest, hatcheries, habitat and hydro. The challenge that salmon managers face is that modern society expects to have salmon to harvest, cheap electricity, water for our farms, and relaxed land use regulations. Salmon are caught in the middle of complex jurisdictional and bureaucratic processes which makes the challenge of “recovery” daunting. Other environmental phenomena such as climate change make our job of recovering these iconic fish even more challenging. 

On a more optimistic note, tribes, and a network of state, local and federal partners are working together to heal the thousand cuts. Salmon also have a miraculous ability to survive adversity which is why we still see wild salmon swimming up and spawning in our local rivers. 

Five things to know about the Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group:

1. Our geographic area includes rivers and streams in Chelan, Okanogan, Douglas and Ferry counties. 

2. Our nine-member volunteer board oversees the finances and strategic direction for the organization. You can contact CCFEG to learn more about volunteer opportunities.

3. Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group targets projects that improve habitat for native fish species. Most of the grant resources target spring Chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout as these species are “at risk” and protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Across all species of salmon (within Columbia Basin) it is estimated that the populations are less than 10 percent of their historic numbers.

4. Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group relies on partnerships with state, local, federal and tribal organizations for our success. Like our partnerships, our funding is both critical and diverse. The statewide Regional Fisheries Enhancement Group (RFEG) program relies on a combination of funds administered by the WA Department of Fish and Wildlife through the sale of surplus hatchery salmon and fishing licenses. We also rely on grants from our local PUDs, Washington State Salmon Recovery Funding Board, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and other local and federal sources. 

5. Cascade Columbia Fisheries Enhancement Group is a non-profit that works with willing landowners. We are non-regulatory and can provide technical and financial assistance to landowners who want to improve habitat for fish. Our contact information and examples of our projects can be found on our website at ccfeg.org.