“If You Think you’re a Stakeholder, You Are!” The theme of stakeholder collaboration resonated throughout the evening as the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board (UCSRB) celebrated its 20th anniversary with a reception for regional partners and stakeholders at the Wenatchee Hilton Garden Inn October 9th. The late Esther Stefaniw, a former Chelan County Commissioner who dedicated a significant amount of time and energy to the creation of the UCSRB in the late 90’s, and author of the quote above, was a fond and vibrant memory throughout the evening’s celebration.

Lee Carlson, Yakama Nation Fisheries, and Okanogan County Commissioner Andy Hover, UCSRB Director, were among the dedicated leaders who spoke at the event, discussing the importance of maintaining strong local and tribal voices and collaboration in working to recover the Upper Columbia spring Chinook and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Dr. Tracy Hillman, Chair of the Upper Columbia Regional Technical Team, also spoke about some of the serious challenges facing the future of salmon recovery such as ocean conditions, climate change and limited funding. As part of the informal, friendly celebration, an open mic was available for participants to share their personal stories of salmon habitat restoration successes over the years, as well as challenges and inspirations. Over the last twenty years, project sponsors have put approximately 496 habitat restoration or protection projects on the ground using a completely voluntary approach. This work has created a restoration economy with close to 2,000 local jobs created and over $250 million of economic activity generated. In addition, the social benefits created by salmon restoration efforts over the last twenty years can be seen in fisheries for anglers, sportsmen and their families, as well as improved watershed health.

The UCSRB is a nonprofit organization led by a five-member Board of Directors including a Commissioner from each Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan Counties, and representatives from both the Yakima Nation and the Colville Confederated Tribes. The UCSRB’s mission is to restore viable and sustainable populations of salmon, steelhead and other at-risk species through collaborative, economically sensitive efforts, combined resources, and wise-resource management of the Upper Columbia region. The UCSRB, with its partners, coordinates implementation of the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan using a voluntary approach that balances the social and economic needs of landowners and managers with the ecological needs of salmonids.

Salmon bind us together in our region and are a symbol of resiliency and strength. The UCSRB is proud to celebrate twenty years of success in the region and we look forward to another twenty years. We proudly thank our regional partners and stakeholders and we look forward to continuing this collaborative work!

An in-depth article on the 20th anniversary of the UCSRB, its history and partners, written by Rufus Woods, Publisher Emeritus of the Wenatchee World, can be found here. We invite you to read the article and learn about the Upper Columbia salmon recovery journey from conflict to collaboration! You can also visit us on the web at www.ucsrb.org