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Healthy Watersheds, Healthy Fish, Healthy People

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Photo credit: Jason Holm & Megan Nagel / USFWS

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today joined local conservation leaders to announce that Lake Sammamish, Wash., has been chosen as one of eight pilot partnerships nationwide under the Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative. The partnership will help connect people in the Seattle metro-area to the great outdoors and, in particular, efforts to restore kokanee salmon runs in the Lake Sammamish Watershed.

Prior to the announcement, elementary school students from Campbell Hills Elementary School in Seattle today released kokanee salmon fry into the Ebright Creek. The kokanee fry release is an annual event sponsored by the Kokanee Work Group. The recent restoration and fish passage projects at Ebright Creek, a tributary of Lake Sammamish, have made it possible for the kokanee to call this place home once more.

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Photo credit: Jason Holm & Megan Nagel / USFWS

“Children have become increasingly disconnected with nature,” Jewell said. “The Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership seeks to reverse this trend by providing meaningful opportunities for urban residents in the region, especially young people, to get outdoors and engage in hands-on learning and conservation of kokanee salmon and its habitat.  Building on the strong local partnerships that are at the center of these restoration efforts, the initiative will connect kids with nature, increase understanding of our ecosystem and prepare the next generation of environmental stewards.”

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Two male kokanees jockey for position. Ebright Creek is the site of a restoration project aimed at increasing stream and spawning habitat availible to the Lake Sammamish Kokanee. Photo Credit: Roger Tabor, USFWS

The partnership, which has its roots in the Lake Sammamish Kokanee Work Group, is planning to provide classroom education for young people about the efforts to restore declining kokanee salmon runs.  The partnership will also conduct field trips to tour fish hatcheries and important habitat for the fish, with a focus on how both the fish and people depend upon a healthy watershed to flourish. The partnership will work with other conservation groups to leverage existing conservation work and outreach into broader efforts to benefit the Seattle metro-area.

Photo credit: Jason Holm & Megan Nagel / USFWS

Lake Sammamish serves as a gateway to the many rivers, lakes, forests and trails in the Central Cascades for nearby urban residents.  

“Seattle is one of the most diverse metropolitan areas, and the Lake Sammamish Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership will provide a unique opportunity not only to restore the kokanee but also to demonstrate that a watershed healthy for kokanee is also healthy for people,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. “Through the power of partnerships, we hope that what is happening here can serve as a model for other urban cities across the country.”

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