Wilcox introduces bipartisan package of bills to save salmon and steelhead populations, benefit fishers

Second District Rep. J.T. Wilcox has introduced a comprehensive five-bill package designed to bolster the state’s efforts to restore its iconic salmon and steelhead populations and ensure the livelihoods of fishers. Collectively, the five bills would address critical challenges from multiple angles, with targeted investments, innovative funding, collaborative research, and long-term sustainability taking center stage.

“With more than 70% of Washington’s salmon and steelhead populations either failing to meet recovery goals or in crisis, the time for bold action is now,” stated Wilcox, R-Yelm. “This multifaceted package represents a commitment to ensuring their future, benefiting not only the fish themselves, but also the countless individuals and communities whose livelihoods and traditions depend on them. From tribal fishers, who have stewarded these resources for generations, to sport anglers, who cherish the thrill of the catch, and commercial fishers, whose livelihoods depend on healthy salmon runs, these bills acknowledge the vital role salmon play in shaping our state’s identity and the roles of many of its people.”

The five bills being sponsored by Wilcox are:

  • HB 2286: Targeted Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Grants: This bill would establish a new grant program focusing on high-risk salmon and steelhead stocks facing extinction, Endangered Species Act listing, or closest to delisting. Grants would prioritize collaboration, data-driven decision making, and significant funding, with a minimum $50 million appropriation request per biennium.
  • HB 2289: Sales Tax Exemption for Salmon Recovery Projects: This legislation would remove financial barriers by exempting qualified salmon recovery projects from sales and use taxes on labor, services, materials, and equipment in order to enhance restoration efforts and contribute to long-term salmon resilience.
  • HB 2291: Independent Review of Riparian Programs: Recognizing the vital role of riparian areas in ecosystem health and flood control, this bill would order a thorough review of Washington’s diverse riparian programs to assess their effectiveness, accessibility, and efficiency. The aim would be to optimize resource allocation and maximize program impact.
  • HB 2293: Avian Salmon Predation Work Group: Addressing the growing concern of avian predation on struggling salmon populations, this bill would establish a dedicated work group comprised of diverse stakeholders to study the issue, develop solutions, and report back annually to the Legislature.
  • HB 2294: Dedicated Salmon Recovery Account: To guarantee consistent and reliable funding, this bill would create a dedicated Salmon Recovery Account with an annual transfer of $50 million from the state general fund. This flexible funding source would be available for a range of activities, ensuring resources are directed where they’re most needed.

Wilcox says his bills have the potential to make a significant and lasting impact, along with those sponsored by Reps. Tom Dent, Mary Dye, Debra Lekanoff, and others.

“For generations, salmon have been woven into the fabric of our communities. They are an irreplaceable part of our state’s heritage and economy,” added Wilcox. “I believe the key to their recovery lies in all of us working together—lawmakers, tribal governments, state agencies, local stakeholders, conservationists, and concerned citizens. This package reflects that commitment, fostering collaboration and leveraging diverse expertise in an effort to restore these iconic fish populations and safeguard the healthy ecosystems and vibrant communities that depend on them.”

House Bills 2286, 2291, and 2293 are now in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. House Bill 2289 is in the House Finance Committee, while House Bill 2294 is in the House Appropriations Committee. All bills await further legislative action.

RELATED: Salmon are Washington’s shared legacy. Protecting them requires changing our hearts (Op-ed by Rep. Wilcox in The News Tribune on Nov. 30, 2023)


Washington State House Republican Communications