VANCOUVER, Wash. - The Lower Columbia Fish Recovery Board (LCFRB) is coordinating the development of a comprehensive plan to return the region's salmon and steelhead to healthy, harvestable levels. The board, created by the state Legislature in 1998, consists of representatives of local governments, the legislature, the Cowlitz Tribe, hydro operators, the environmental community and the public.

Chinook, coho, steelhead, and bull trout in the lower Columbia have been listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The plan will cover the Washington portion of the Lower Columbia region from the mouth of the Columbia River to and including the Little White Salmon River and as far north as the Cowlitz River basin. The region supports 85 distinct populations of salmon and steelhead.

Since 1998, the board has secured $11 million for 72 fish habitat restoration projects. The recovery plan will bring the board's habitat efforts together with recovery actions by federal, state, tribal, and local governments to create a coordinated regional recovery program. It is expected that the plan will be submitted to NOM Fisheries and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for approval in June 2004.

In addition to salmon and steelhead, the plan will also address measures to enhance other key fish and wildlife species affected by the federal Columbia River hydroelectric system. In doing so, the plan will fulfill the requirements for the Northwest Power and Conservation Council's (NPCC) subbasin fish and wildlife planning program.

Forging this plan will be a collaborative effort involving federal, state and local governments, tribes and the public. "Restoring our salmon and steelhead is beyond the ability of any single agency or organization. Success depends on all the parties working together in concert," said Bill Dygert, LCFRB chairman.

As a first step, the board has prepared a comprehensive collection and analysis of information on ESA listed fish and other selected fish and wildlife species. It looks at the status of the species and the natural forces and human activities that affect their health and viability. It also lays out recovery targets and criteria. This technical foundation is intended to inform decision-makers and the public as they work in the coming months to construct and evaluate various recovery options.

The LCFRB is seeking comments on the accuracy and completeness of draft technical foundation through Sept. 12. A summary of the 1,800-page technical document is available from the LCFRB. The entire document will be available at local libraries, on CD by contacting the LCFRB office, and on the LCFRB web site.

Six public workshops will be held across the region in August. Workshops will provide the public the opportunity to learn about recovery planning and to discuss the findings of the technical foundation. The LCFRB will also be seeking ideas as to how to best involve the public in the planning process.

For more information on the public workshops or the technical foundation, contact the LCFRB office at 425-1555 or visit the website at www.lcfrb.gen.wa.us. Comments can be addressed to: comments@lcfrb.gen.wa.us.

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