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Dan DuBray, Department of the Interior 202-208-6415
Jean Takekawa, Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge 360-753-9467
Justin Hall, Nisqually River Council, 360-407-1686
David Troutt, Nisqually River Council, 360-438-8687
Emmett O'Connell, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, 360- 528-4304

Interior Secretary Norton Honors Cooperative Conservation Partnership at Nisqually River Watershed

Nisqually River Council will be Featured at White House Conference

OLYMPIA, WA -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton today visited a Nisqually Tribe wetlands restoration site and the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to celebrate nearly 20 years of cooperative conservation in the Nisqually River Watershed. During her visit, Norton formally recognized the Nisqually River Council and other partners for their work, which will be highlighted at the upcoming White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation August 29-31 in St. Louis, Missouri.

"This partnership, spanning two decades, is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when the federal government cooperates with state and local governments, tribes and individuals," Norton said. "Ultimately, the people who are best able to take care of the land are those who live on the land, work on the land, and love the land. Through cooperative conservation, the federal government works to empower them. The Nisqually River Watershed partnership serves as a blueprint for cooperative conservation projects that we hope will continue well into the 21st century."

Norton was joined today by Council members and Bill Ruckelshaus, the Environmental Protection Agency's first administrator. Ruckelshaus is today chairman of the Salmon Recovery Funding Board for the State of Washington. He is scheduled to be a featured speaker at the White House Conference.

"Fortunately in Puget Sound, the Nisqually River is an example of people working together to preserve the place where they live and the values that make it important for them," said Ruckelshaus. "It is a beacon that all can follow."

The Washington State legislature created the Nisqually River Task Force in 1985 to develop a locally based management plan for an area prized for its rivers, teeming with Chinook salmon, steelhead, and other wildlife, small towns, rural lands and forested landscapes. The Nisqually River Management Plan established the Nisqually River Council to develop and oversee proactive strategies for dealing with the watershed issues it faced.

Nearly 20 years later, the Council and its many partners have worked to protect wildlife such as salmon and steelhead alongside timber, agricultural, tribal, military, recreation and economic growth activities. The partnership accomplished this through a number of collaborative programs to address timber harvest and land use issues, species recovery and allocations of water for people and fish throughout the watershed. This unique partnership is now undertaking the creation and implementation of a sustainable approach to development and economic vitality that also supports the needs of salmon, steelhead, and other wildlife as well as open spaces for recreation and tourism.

Using collaboration to successfully resolve watershed issues, the Nisqually River Watershed's accomplishments over the past 20 years include:

  • Serving as the model and the impetus for the Timber, Fish, and Wildlife agreement that moved the region toward resolving long-standing timber harvest disputes;
  • Adopting a Nisqually River Resource Management Plan with major timber owners with the goal of maintaining a viable timber industry in the basin;
  • Establishing the Nisqually River Education Program in 1990, developing and promoting a watershed based curriculum for grades K-12, reaching 600 students annually;
  • Working on a Fall Chinook salmon recovery plan 3 years prior to the fish being listed under the Endangered Species Act listing allowing the adoption of a comprehensive recovery plan just three months after the listing. Developed by the Nisqually Indian Tribe with Council support and endorsement, the plan was the region's first of its kind and a model for other watersheds;
  • Founding the Nisqually Stream Stewards in 2000; more than 300 volunteers are participating in restoration and monitoring activities; and
  • Adopting a Watershed Plan in 2004, the first under the State Watershed Planning Act, to guide local governments on water use and quality, and balancing resource and community needs.

To support local cooperative conservation efforts, President Bush signed an executive order last year directing the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, and the Environmental Protection Agency to promote cooperative conservation by actively working in partnership with states, local communities, businesses, non-profit organizations and private citizens.

The cooperative conservation effort has been buttressed by budget increase proposals by President Bush -- many of which have been approved and funded by Congress -- for conservation grants and other assistance to landowners, and to state, tribal, and other government entities.

The order also called on the White House Council on Environmental Quality to convene a Conference on Cooperative Conservation this year. The three-day conference, to be held in St. Louis August 29-31, will provide a forum for diverse groups of community and business leaders and federal, state, tribal and community government officials to exchange information and identify innovative and effective approaches to promoting cooperative conservation. The conference will help energize an army of citizen-conservationists and give local communities, organizations and landowners the tools to cooperate on conservation projects.

In addition to Ruckelshaus, representatives of other Nisqually partners will participate at the conference. They include Billy Frank, Jr., Chairman of Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission; David Troutt, chair of the Nisqually River Council; Justin Hall, Executive Director of the Nisqually River Foundation; Diane Oberquell, Thurston County Commissioner; and Jim Wilcox, Owner and Vice President of Wilcox Farms.

This Nisqually River Watershed presentation and other case studies will highlight some of the very best examples of cooperative conservation, focusing on what can be achieved by using collaborative strategies to address conservation, natural resource and environmental issues. Presentations include cooperative conservation in metropolitan and rural areas and initiatives that restore and conserve wildlife and habitats in coastal and marine areas.

"Our efforts aren't the best intentions of a distant bureaucracy, but rather agreements between neighbors," said David Troutt, chair of the Nisqually River Council. "What we are doing here is working because we have a stake in this watershed. Everyone living here wants it to be healthy and productive."

For more information on the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation, visit For information on cooperative conservation efforts involving the Department of the Interior, visit To learn about additional cooperative conservation projects around the country, visit