Update on natural resources in Western Washington

The Tulalip, Stillaguamish and Sauk Suiattle Indian tribes were promised in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott that they would be able to continue practicing their traditional ways, including fishing for salmon and hunting for elk. That promise by federal officials eroded in the century after the treaty was signed, but a 1974 federal court decision preserving tribal rights to fish was the beginning of a new era for American Indians.

Western Washington’s tribes, including those in Snohomish County, formed the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission to manage the natural resources tribes need to continue their traditions. More than 30 years later, the commission is a regional leader in environmental research and activism.

The commission released its 2008 annual report this week, with updates on projects and research. Here are a few highlights:

Habitat mapping: Less than 20 percent of the region’s seabed has been mapped with regard to marine species and habitats. A project between the commission and other agencies will result in a comprehensive Geographical Information System database that could be used to produce maps of geological features, habitat hazards and other information.

Water resource surveys: Through a partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey, tribes are surveying the region’s waterways to determine how development and climate change are affecting fresh and salt water and resources including salmon and other fish.

Salmon and steelhead inventory: This project will collect data to track the condition of fish habitat over time to provide a blueprint for future restoration efforts.

Hunting agreements: Local tribes are negotiating for regional agreements to hunt deer, elk, bear and other wildlife. The agreements will establish hunting seasons and enforcement.

To view the entire report, go to www.nwifc.wa.gov.

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