On June 7, 1999, the Forests and Fish Agreement between private timberland owners, tribes, and state and federal government agencies results in the state Salmon Recovery Plan, which is signed into law. The rules govern some 11 million acres of privately owned timberland that might impact streams that support the threatened and endangered runs of salmon.
Beginning in 1997, the State Forest Practices Board, federal and state agencies, tribes, environmentalists, and timberland owners met to develop rules and processes to protect salmon. The federal government was studying whether or not to list salmon under the Endangered Species Act and it was necessary to have plans in place once that action took effect. On March 16, 1999, the Department of the Interior declared one Northwest run of salmon as endangered and 15 more as threatened. Under the Endangered Species Act, habitats that supported salmon could not be disturbed.
In the 50-year Salmon Recovery Plan, loggers can continue to operate if they build roads and culverts to protect streams, avoid unstable hillsides, and leave a buffer zone around streams. A major piece of the legislation, which required the agreement of the National Marine Fisheries Service, was that operators were shielded from enforcement under the Endangered Species Act if they complied with the state rules. All of this required funding from the state and federal governments to compensate owners who suffer economic losses.
Environmentalists and some tribes withdrew from the agreement in 1998 contending that it did not do enough to protect salmon, but Governor Gary Locke (b. 1950) and the legislature backed it.