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State Of Our Salmon The Focus Of 2-Day Puget Sound Partnership Meeting

Puget Sound Partnership, one of the state’s newest agencies, is holding a two-day meeting on salmon recovery this week. 

On the agenda is a presentation called “report card forum,” but there won’t be an announcement of a letter grade. That’s because there isn’t yet a grading system in place, says Jeaneatte Dorner, the agency’s Director of Local Ecosystem and Salmon Recovery.

“And until we actually have that system in place, it’s sort of like we don’t have the test scores to actually give a grade,” she said.

Dorner added, it's more like the agency needs to discuss reasons why it deserves  a no-credit grade of incomplete. Because -- despite millions of dollars spent on restoring habitat --the Puget Sound Partnership doesn't fully understand or know how to measure its progress in protecting endangered fish.

“If you talk to folks and get expert opinion, I think most would say that we are not making the progress that we need to; there’s still more habitat that we’re losing than we are gaining from the restoration work that we’re doing,” she said.

One big problem, says Dorner, is that many philanthropists and environmental organizations or contractors enjoy seeing habitat restoration, so they donate to set aside specific areas. But terminology used in the patchwork of efforts is different, and can’t be easily entered into databases that would help clarify which kinds of conservation measures work best.

The agency's website features a fancy dashboard, with a colorful pinwheel displaying indicators of the Puget Sound's health. But it's not able to show what's really happening when it comes to the state's iconic salmon and steelhead.

The Puget Sound Partnership was created in 2007 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire. It is entirely focused on cleaning up Puget Sound. The cleanup efforts needed - including better monitoring terminology -- are estimated to need funding at levels that would put it on par with other high-profile marine restoration efforts around the country, such as those at the northeast coast's Chesapeake Bay.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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