The PSP Interviews: Dave Herrera

When I wrote my recent progress report on the Puget Sound Partnership, my story included little more than brief quotes and snippits of information from a variety of informed people. It is somewhat rewarding to have a blog where I can bring you more complete impressions of the people I interviewed. Here is the second in a series of expanded reports from those interviews.

Dave Herrera, one of two vice chairmen of the Ecosystem Coordination Board, is one of three tribal representatives on the 27-member board. The other tribal reps are David Trout of the Nisqually Tribe and Randy Kinley of the Lummi Nation.

Herrera currently serves as “fisheries policy representative” for the Skokomish Tribe. His career started with the tribe as a hatcheries technician in 1975 following the landmark Boldt Decision. He was 18. He worked as fisheries manager from 1979 to 1982 before leaving tribal employment. Dave later worked for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Point No Point Treaty Council before returning to the tribe in 1996, where he has remained one of the tribe’s top fisheries managers.

Dave is a member of the Skokomish Tribe. His mother grew up on the Skokomish Reservation. His father was in the military, so Dave moved around with his family at a young age. He spent many of his early years in Tacoma.

Herrera has been an excellent spokesman for the Skokomish Tribe and tribes in general. For the Puget Sound Partnership story, I interviewed him by phone while he was in Washington, D.C., working to advance salmon restoration. Unfortunately, I could not fit his comments into my final story, but I’m now pleased to report his views on the partnership.

“It is fair to say,” Dave told me, “that the tribal representatives would like to see things moving faster than they are.”

Tribes have been disappointed with previous efforts to protect and restore Puget Sound, he said, but tribal officials see the partnership as a means to work on habitat improvements.

Working together, he said, state and tribal salmon managers have dramatically reduced harvests, he said. The science has come a long way over the past 30 years, and management now focuses on saving wild fish. Annual reports (PDF 1.8 mb) spell out progress toward improving harvest methods and removing chinook from the Endangered Species List.

Similarly, hatchery operations have been revamped to avoid harmful interactions between hatchery and wild fish, he said. Guidance comes through a multi-agency Hatchery Scientific Review Group.

“Through the partnership, the tribes are trying to work with local governments and everybody else to align land-use-planning practices and regulations with other efforts to recover salmon,” Dave said.

Tribes are involved in habitat issues where they can play a direct role, such as restoration projects and flood-management programs, he said.

Because shorelines are critical to salmon, tribes are keenly interested in shoreline planning taking place at the county level — including the requirement of “no net loss” of ecosystem function.

“I’m not sure, and a lot of us aren’t sure, what that means, because we don’t have a measure of ‘no net loss.’ We would like to use science to find a valid measure of ‘not net loss.’”

Herrera said a committee of the Ecosystem Coordination Board is looking at the issue, including the use of drift cells as the primary geographic unit to measure function.

“Most of us support the partnership,” Herrera said. “I think it is working in general. The tribal side of me would like to see the habitat end move more quickly, but it is a complex process.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Billy Frank, chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and a member of the PSP Leadership Council. Billy, who is held in high regard for his ability to speak from the heart, has been a strong proponent of efforts to get everyone working together. His viewpoints are expressed in a regular column called “Being Frank.”

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