Accord fosters cooperation | Being Frank

  • Wednesday, December 20, 2017 2:26pm
  • Opinion

By Lorraine Loomis/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

A 28-year-old investment in cooperation and government-to-government relations between Indian tribes and the state of Washington is still paying off today.

Through the 1989 Centennial Accord the tribes and state committed to work together for the common good of everyone who lives in Washington. It has advanced understanding between Indians and non-Indians through joint efforts to achieve our goals.

At the annual Centennial Accord meeting in October, representatives of the state’s federally recognized tribes met with Gov. Jay Inslee, his cabinet and the heads of state agencies to discuss shared concerns including the opioid epidemic, social services, broadband, education and natural resources.

Natural resources occupied a big part of the agenda for the annual meeting. Treaty tribes in Western Washington are mostly pleased with the direction that the tribal/state relationship is proceeding. However, much more needs to be done for our natural resources.

Salmon co-management has become increasingly difficult as Indian and non-Indian fishermen must share a steadily shrinking resource. But increased involvement by the governor’s office has helped resolve differences, especially in the annual North of Falcon salmon season setting process.

Tribes and the governor agree that hatcheries are absolutely necessary in response to the ongoing decline of salmon because of habitat loss. Hatchery funding hasn’t kept pace with the loss of naturally spawning salmon and we all agree more funding is needed. Tribes have stepped up to cover deficits in state hatchery programs, but that is a short-term answer to a long-term need.

Tribes appreciated the governor’s strong stance during the last legislative session to help avoid bad legislation that would upend water resource law. Builders and developers want to rewrite the law, because they say it slows down home sales. However, tribes, cities and farmers all have senior water rights that would be threatened if that happens. Tribes are committed to working with the state to find a solution that protects our limited water resources as well as legal rights. In the spirit of the accord the tribes will be looking for the governor to provide strong leadership to ensure that in-stream flows and senior water rights are protected now and into the future.

After decades of foot-dragging by state government, Washington today has some of the most protective water quality standards in the country. These standards protect human health from toxic contaminants in our waters and the seafood we eat. Industry wants to roll back the standards because they say the rules increase their cost of doing business. Tribes praised the Department of Ecology for refusing to support the industry effort and we continue to urge the governor to tell the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency not to weaken the federally adopted standards.

The Aug. 19 collapse of a Cooke Aquaculture floating fish farm for Atlantic salmon near Cypress Island was also addressed at the meeting. Cooke was able to recover about half of the 300,000 fish being reared at the site. Treaty tribal fishermen and sport anglers captured about 55,000. The remaining 100,000 dispersed throughout the region. Tribes have significant concerns that these non-native fish are not accounted for. The fish were still being found in late November during tribal chum salmon broodstock collection efforts on the Skagit River.

Non-native Atlantic salmon are not wanted in our waters and we think immediate steps should be taken to close remaining fish farms in the state. Washington is the only West Coast state that allows Atlantic salmon farming. Inslee urged tribes to remain in close contact on the issue that is expected to be front and center during the next legislative session.

The spirit of the accord – open communication through a government-to-government approach – doesn’t stop when the annual meeting ends. Already we have followed up with state agency heads on a number of topics.

We met in mid-November with Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz to determine how tribes and the state Department of Natural Resources can work better together to address forest practices, forest health, cultural resources protection and other issues.

We are proud of the Centennial Accord because it recognizes and honors the best in all of us. It is a constant reminder that cooperation is the key to successful natural resources co-management.

Lorraine Loomis is chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission (nwifc.org).

More in Opinion

Sweetest revenge? Sometimes it’s just being nice | Elfers

We need to be (re)taught how to be kind to others

Mental health competency delays are costing state millions

The state is paying millions of dollars a year in sanctions because… Continue reading

Jetsons cartoon robots now reality

The Jetsons television series about a space-age family featuring “Rosey the Robot”… Continue reading

Seattle’s misstep highlights need for new approach | Brunell

Last week, Seattle’s City Council did an “about face,” revoking the onerous… Continue reading

State Dems may abandon caucus chaos in time for 2020

Washington also is considering becoming more significant by moving its primary to early March.

Washington’s expensive culvert court case | Brunell

While much of the media buzz over declining salmon runs focuses on… Continue reading

Straw pulp looks like a good option | Brunell

Columbia Pulp project is a win-win for the environment and the economy

Signature of registered voter is a coveted commodity

The competitive nature of the initiative and referendum season now peaking in Washington.

Bad labels tough to shed | Brunell

Amazon, other businesses stand to lose big over Seattle’s head tax decision

Signs of progress in ending sexual violence | GUEST OP

The conversation surrounding sexual violence has grown louder in recent months as… Continue reading

President, governor or retirement – only Inslee knows his plan

Inslee has his share of options to determine his future

Photo by Matt Phelps
President, governor or retirement — only Inslee knows his plan

What we do know is that he’s off to Iowa in June to deliver the keynote address at a party fundraiser.