Now, salmon in the backyard

  Where roads cross the flowing waters of Kelsey Creek, a six-mile-long stream contained entirely within the city of Bellevue, Wash., signs inform motorists: "This is a salmon stream."

Some residents are surprised. Kit Paulsen, who leads the city's salmon education program, says, "A number of people have called to say they didn't know there was a stream there, and certainly not a salmon stream."

Last month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed nine species of salmon and steelhead trout under the Endangered Species Act. For the first time, this 26-year-old law requires urban areas like Bellevue to help save endangered species. One is the Puget Sound chinook, a salmon species whose range extends from the Canada border to just beyond the southern extent of Puget Sound. It's now listed as threatened. One run of these fish in the White River dwindled to less than 50 before rising recently to a few hundred fish. There once were thousands.

"The number-one problem that we have with chinook is the loss of freshwater habitat," says Bruce Sanford of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. "It's decreasing at an alarming rate."

Meanwhile, the Puget Sound population is expected to grow from 3 million to 4 million by 2020.

"If we can't protect the freshwater habitat we have right now," Sanford says, "we're going to lose the fish."

*Dustin Solberg

High Country News Classifieds