Washington Sea Grant-supported researchers measured stakeholder involvement in salmon-recovery discussions as reflected in newspaper coverage in two regions over a 2.5-year period. Researchers identified and examined 1,287 newspaper articles involving about 3,800 participants in the Puget Sound region and 360 articles with 1,060 participants for the Lower Columbia River. They then analyzed a random subset of those mentioned in the Puget Sound-area coverage, as well as participants who provided comments during the development of Washington’s Puget Sound Action Agenda or at meetings of the Puget Sound Partnership Leadership Council.
Public discussion, collaborative management, and participation of the private sector are all key to successful salmon recovery. But current discussions are widely seen as dominated by governments and environmental groups, with much less participation by private sector interests such as agriculture, power companies, and real estate. Such a trend would make collaborative salmon management less effective; public discourse frames the development of salmon recovery policies and identifies who is responsible. If the private sector is not engaged and its effects on salmon receive less public attention, it will be less motivated to join in recovery efforts.
The analyses confirmed that the private sector’s involvement in salmon recovery discussions is indeed low. Only about 20 percent of those figuring in the newspaper coverage were from the private sector. Involvement in collaborative recovery efforts was even lower, composing only 3 percent of 2,300 public comments tendered on the Puget Sound Action Agenda and 9 percent of comments at Leadership Council meetings.