New rules could further protect salmon, steelhead in Washington State

April 14, 2018


Contact: Dean Finnerty, northwest director, Trout Unlimited Sportsmen Conservation Project, (541) 214-0642

New rules could further protect salmon, steelhead in Washington State

Washington Fish and Game Commission to begin rulemaking to provide oversight, monitoring for suction dredge mining.

OLYMPIA, WA Today the Washington Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to direct the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to adopt new rules to better protect salmon and steelhead populations by limiting suction dredge mining and other forms of motorized mineral prospecting used by gold miners.

We applaud the members of the commission for acting in a responsible, prudent way that will hopefully bring suction dredge mining into compliance with state and federal law, said Dean Finnerty, northwest director of Trout Unlimiteds Sportsmen Conservation Project. These rules will help the agency better protect our irreplaceable natural resources, clean water, and listed salmon and steelhead populations.
Washington is the last state home to Endangered Species Act (ESA)-listed salmon and steelhead to adopt rules that require better oversight and improve monitoring and accountability for suction dredge mining. The rules will bring the State of Washington into compliance with state and federal law under the ESA and the Clean Water Act. In recent years, states like California, Oregon, and Idaho have enacted laws that either flatly prohibit suction dredge mining, or prohibit the activity in waters with critical habitat for fish like salmon, trout, and steelhead. These stricter rules have caused a lot of miners to simply head for Washington where its rules are far more relaxed and less restrictive.

We recognize there are a lot of Washington families that really enjoy this activity. Thats why we are not asking the state to prohibit suction dredge mining, said Finnerty. We simply want the state to safeguard Washington taxpayers tremendous investments in salmon recovery and water quality.

Observers have voiced legal liability concerns for the State of Washington in regard to current rules related to this activity. Through the upcoming rulemaking process, stakeholders are hopeful that substantive changes to statute will shield the state from future lawsuits and litigation.

Today the commission embarked on a proactive approach that will engage all of the stakeholders including conservation and sportsmen groups, commercial fishermen, tribes, environmental groups, mining interests, public utilities, and the public, said Finnerty. The new process is not only transparent, but will lead the agency to substantively better rules, regulations, monitoring, accountability, and protection for people wanting to mineral prospect in Washington rivers and streams.


Trout Unlimited is the largest sportsmen’s organization dedicated to cold water conservation in North America. Since 1959, TU has worked to make fishing better by conserving, protecting, restoring and sustaining native trout and salmon populations and their watersheds. TU has 300,000 members and supporters and more than 400 chapters across the U.S.