Wednesday, May 4, 2005
Social dimensions of salmon habitat restoration in the Skagit valley
In Skagit County, as elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest, regulatory and voluntary efforts to restore salmon habitat have spawned intense controversy among local residents. Here, restoration implicates ideas about treaty rights, property rights, and the intrinsic rights of fish and other organisms; the viability of farming and fishing as livelihoods; and laws designed to control development and protect endangered species. Yet while Skagit residents debate each other in the courts and in the public sphere, they continue to focus largely on the ecological and engineering dimensions of restoration. This scientific discourse both obscures and absorbs cultural, historical and political dimensions of salmon habitat restoration. This research attempts to illuminate some of these social dimensions of salmon recovery in the Skagit Valley through ethnographic interviews, participatory research, and cultural consensus analysis. I will introduce my research questions, methods and preliminary results and leave plenty of time to discuss the potential of the Skagit Valley as a CIG case study.
As background reading, you may be interested in my report based on pilot work on upriver dairy farmers’ perceptions of the Conservation Research Enhancement Program (CREP) as it was being implemented in the Skagit Valley in 2001: “Farmers’ Perceptions of Salmon Habitat Restoration Measures: Loss and Contestation.”
Sara Breslow is a graduate student in the Environmental Anthropology program at the University of Washington. After completing a bachelor’s degree in biology, she shifted to the social sciences in order to explore the role of the biological and environmental sciences in society, and the relationships between place-based enchantment and environmental political action.