Maximizing Local Efforts
Not long ago, Sweetwater Creek in Belfair, Washington, was anything but. Overrun with weeds, the once-healthy stream had become a dumping ground. Salmon that spawned in the currents were blocked by debris and other man-made barriers. With a grant from NFWF’s Community Salmon Fund, the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group mobilized local residents to undertake a major restoration.
Today, the trash is gone, the creek has been returned to its natural contours, and thickets of invasive knotweed have been cleared. Before the project, there were fewer than 50 salmon in the area; now, as many as 1,000 are counted each year.
The Community Salmon Fund (CSF), which marked its tenth anniversary in 2010, has created a mosaic of such community efforts across Washington State. Each of its 361 grant awards has supported the recovery of the Pacific Northwest’s most iconic species through smaller-scale projects involving civic organizations, tribes, farmers, foresters and other partners. With annual appropriations from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and funding from program partners including the Salmon Recovery Funding Board, King County, Pierce County, and the King Conservation District, CSF has expanded from work in a single county in 2001 to become a regional conservation force. It now supports programs in 27 designated salmon recovery areas located in 17 watersheds.
- 17 pacific northwest salmon populations listed as endangered or threatened since 1991
- 361 projects supported by nfwf’s community salmon fund
- 2.5 million wild salmon released by the hood canal salmon enhancement group
Each award is community-driven. CSF seeks proposals from regional organizations for projects that will effectively restore salmon habitat consistent with local recovery plans, and makes investments based on input from local technical experts. Participation in on-the-ground actions gives everyone a stake — even the youngest citizens.
One such contingent is a group of students from Belfair Elementary, who help raise fall chum in an aquarium and release them into the creek in spring. “They’re really excited. They get out there and see all these little tiny alevin (immature salmon) and realize how many can be in a small space,” says Mendy Harlow, a salmon habitat biologist with the Hood Canal Salmon Enhancement Group and parent of a Belfair student. “We have an environmental studies club, too, that takes pupils on expeditions to the creek to plant the streambanks.” She adds that the restoration also inspired the local Kiwanis Kids Club to undertake a Sweetwater Trail extension along the creek.
“It’s exciting to see this restoration project moving forward, and to have Sweetwater Creek returned to good health,” says Fred Barrett, president of the Pacific Northwest Salmon Center Board of Directors. “The natural beauty of this area is something we all must be good stewards of—for the wildlife, for ourselves and for future generations.”