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Recommendation: 45

Status: Underway

Mitigate the impact of a changing climate by accelerating and increasing action to increase the resiliency and vitality of salmon populations and the ecosystems on which they depend.


Action 1

Fully implement and fund salmon recovery plans to improve climate resiliency.

Action 2

Incorporate climate resiliency strategies in regional- and watershed-scale recovery plans.

Action 3

Open fish access to cold-water habitats by removing or correcting dams, culverts, dikes, rail lines, hatcheries, and other fish passage barriers to ensure long-term climate resiliency.

Action 4

Significantly increase the scale and scope of investment in habitat protection and restoration projects focusing on increasing habitat diversity.

Action 5

Increase the diversity and resiliency of wild and hatchery salmon stocks.

Implementation Details

In addition to the implementation details below, Year One Recommendations 1-9 address the following:

  • Preserving, restoring, and protecting habitat
  • Expanding hatchery production
  • Re-establishing salmon runs above existing dams
  • Increasing spill over dams
  • Establishing a stakeholder process to examine the future of the lower Snake River dams

The recommendations below further the resiliency and productivity of the ecosystem and salmon populations, while providing a buffer against future harm from higher air and water temperatures, changing stream flows, and sea level rise:

Fully Fund Salmon Recovery Plans

  • Fully fund salmon recovery plans as written to ensure implementation.
  • Increase funding as needed and look for opportunities to frontload investments to address the urgency of climate change, which exacerbates threats to salmon.
  • Identify new funding sources in addition to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife funding.

Prioritize Restoration Investments

  • Prioritize restoration investments in nearshore marine areas and estuaries, floodplains and riparian areas, culverts and infrastructure, and areas that increase access to cold-water refugia.
  • Assess which watersheds and estuaries will be most resistant to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change over time, such that they will support Chinook populations going forward. Prioritize investment in restoration and acquisition in these watersheds.

Enhance Existing Efforts to Increase Cold-water Habitat

  • Enhance existing efforts to increase access to cold-water habitat and refugia.
  • Identify opportunities to reintroduce species to habitats with cooler waters.
  • Ensure that any losses in hydropower are replaced with other carbon-free sources and consider other potential conservation

Increase Diversity and Complexity of Habitats

  • To buffer against climate change and increase stock resiliency, increase diversity and complexity of habitats throughout geographic range and restore associated life histories.
  • While increasing stock diversity, identify resilient salmon species with sufficient populations throughout the state that have sufficient abundance and habitat diversity and complexity to adapt to climate change (also referred to as anchor populations or strongholds) for example, unlisted species along the Coast.

Consider Climate Change when Assessing Hatchery Modifications

  • Account for the impacts of sea-level rise, increasing water temperatures, and changes in stream flows when assessing upgrades and modifications to hatchery facilities. Consider facility water temperature and availability, river access, and disease management.
  • Hatchery managers should assess stock selection, growth rates, diversity, and release timing as tools for reducing climate impacts to salmon. Ensure that these changes do not further exacerbate climate impacts on wild fish.

Recent Progress

This recommendation doubles down on the salmon habitat restoration activities from Recommendation 1 and reinforces hatchery and harvest practices that the Department of Fish and Wildlife takes to minimize impacts on genetic diversity.

  • The Department of Ecology, Washington’s lead agency on climate change, is working to update the state’s climate change response strategy.
  • Climate Commitment Act funding continues to support projects that improve fish and other wildlife habitat, fish passage, and forest health.
  • The Legislature passed House Bill 1181 in 2023, which adds a climate goal to the Growth Management Act and is part of the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Climate Program.
  • The Department of Fish and Wildlife is developing guidance (e.g., Priority Habitat and Species Riparian Guidance, Integrating Climate Change into Culvert Design) supporting resilient habitats and infrastructure.
  • The Department of Fish and Wildlife implemented a flexible spill agreement at Snake River dams to increase smolt to adult returns about 50 percent for spring Chinook salmon, which are one of the most important food sources for Southern Residents.
  • The Salmon Recovery Funding Board formed a climate change subcommittee to develop recommendations to address climate change risks to salmon recovery.

More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.