The Washington Way

Leading Salmon Recovery from the Ground Up:

Washington has chosen to tackle salmon recovery in a unique way. Unlike the tradition process that has the federal government writing the recovery plan, people in communities organized themselves across the state to address the listing of fish under the Endangered Species Act and the required plans for recovery. This bottom-up approach and scale of their efforts was unprecedented in the United States and has been dubbed “The Washington Way” by those involved in salmon recovery.

The network of individuals dedicated to restoring salmon starts with people in communities and includes watershed groups, regional organizations, state and federal agencies, city and county governments, tribes, conservation districts, nonprofit groups, as well as the Legislature, Governor, and Congress.


To coordinate the work of recovery planning and implementation, seven regional organizations formed and recovery plans in each of those regions have been accepted by the federal government and are being implemented. The eighth region, located in Northeast Washington, was formed to develop and implement a habitat strategy for bull trout and other salmon species.

Lead Entities

Lead entities are watershed-based organizations authorized by the Legislature in 1998 (Revised Code of Washington 77.85.050 – 77.85.070) to develop habitat restoration and protection strategies and look for projects to meet those strategies.

Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office

The Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office was established by the Legislature, through the Salmon Recovery Planning Act, and charged with coordinating a statewide salmon recovery strategy.

Project Applicants

Project applicants develop habitat restoration and protection projects based on regional recovery plans or strategies developed by lead entities. Applicants typically are regional fisheries enhancement groups, local governments, tribes, state agencies, community groups, land trusts, and others.