Washington Law Review


John M. Volkman


As the Puget Sound region embarks on a new chapter in the story of the Endangered Species Act, experiences with fish and wildlife restoration efforts in other locations can be instructive. This Article reviews conservation efforts in the Columbia River Basin, and it explains the major role that scientific uncertainty plays in salmon conservation efforts. This discussion describes the debate between traditional fish and wildlife management, which focuses more on individual populations and mitigation technologies, and recent scientific reports, which urge more reliance on naturally functioning rivers and watersheds. The Article also describes a variety of learning tools that have helped in managing the scientific uncertainty that this debate reflects. These tools stem from an idea called adaptive management, a way of learning from experience. The tools now include initiatives in applied research, collaborative modeling, independent scientific advice, and ecological syntheses that shape policy development. Some of the insights this work has generated, particularly the importance of building conservation programs around natural processes and population structures, offer substantive guidance for other salmon recovery efforts. This Article concludes that furthering collaboration between science and policy will play a major role in the success of species conservation programs, but ecosystem-scale experimentation is a puzzle that still needs a solution

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