Habitat improvements should and will continue, but we should not expect Chinook recovery without addressing the primary problems.

– Jason Vander Kooy
Letter to Seattle Times – March 1, 2024

Re: “Swinomish tribe files notice of intent to sue EPA over warming WA streams” :

The article by Isabella Breda ignores critical facts about salmon recovery. The Swinomish tribe’s lawsuit regarding stream temperature suggests, as previous Seattle Times reporting has, that habitat is the crucial issue on Chinook recovery. Habitat is extremely important and stream temperature is part of that. Hundreds of millions have been spent on habitat in the last decades and much more is spent every year, but Chinook recovery still struggles.

Science reports make it clear why. We could restore every inch of natural habitat and it would only have a marginal impact on Chinook numbers. That’s because the primary issues today are ocean conditions and predation. Washington farmers have long supported stream restoration, contributing to the 925 miles of streams restored and 6 million trees planted. We support the size and design of buffers represented by best science, which reduce temperature while enabling farmland to keep producing food. The Swinomish tribe has chosen not to support these voluntary efforts.

Harbor seals in our area alone consume more than 24 million Chinook per year. Habitat improvements should and will continue, but we should not expect Chinook recovery without addressing the primary problems.

Jason Vander Kooy, Mount Vernon