United States v. Washington

United States v. Washington is the on-going federal court proceeding that enforces and implements reserved tribal treaty fishing rights with regard to salmon and steelhead returning to western Washington. Five treaties between the United States and various Washington tribes (1854 through 1856) describe the reserved tribal fishing rights in common with citizens of the territory. These are the treaties of Medicine Creek, Quinault, Neah Bay, Point Elliott, and Point-No-Point.

Findings of United States v. Washington (384 F. Supp. 312), commonly referred to as the Boldt Decision, clarified these treaties with regard to allocation of salmon harvests between tribal and non-tribal fishers, holding that tribes are entitled to a 50 percent share of the harvestable run of fish. Hoh v. Baldridge (522 F. Supp. 683), a subsequent case, established the principle that fishery management plans must take into account returns to individual streams if the fisheries might affect an individual tribe, thus establishing another key management principle of river-by-river or run-by-run management. Under earlier proceedings, referred to as United States v. Oregon, the court held that the state is limited in its power to regulate treaty Indian fisheries. Among other things, the court held that the state may only regulate when reasonable and necessary for conservation, provided: reasonable regulation of non-Indian activities is insufficient to meet the conservation purpose, the regulations are the least restrictive possible, the regulations do not discriminate against Indians, and voluntary tribal measures are not adequate.

Salmon fisheries within Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are jointly managed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Puget Sound treaty tribes (the co-managers) under the continuing jurisdiction of United States v. Washington. The Puget Sound Salmon Management Plan (1985) is the implementation framework for the allocation, conservation, and equitable sharing principles of United States v. Washington that governs management of salmon resources in Puget Sound between the Puget Sound treaty tribes and State of Washington. It defines the basis for deriving management objectives and allocation accounting, prescribes procedures for information exchange and dispute resolution, and includes provisions for annual review and modification. The state and tribes have managed the fisheries subject to the Puget Sound Plan through annual or multi-year agreements. The Comprehensive Management Plan for Puget Sound Chinook: Harvest Management Component provides the current framework for managing fisheries in Puget Sound. A new management plan is under development to replace the plan that expired in 2014.


2018 NEPA Process -- Puget Sound harvest management