Washington Tribes Win Treaty-Based Injunction to Protect Fish Habitat

On March 29, 2013, a coalition of Washington tribes, with the firm serving as lead counsel, obtained a precedent-setting injunction against the State of Washington, requiring it to correct culverts under state highways that block fish passage. The culverts cut off more than 1,000 miles of salmon habitat and undermine tribal treaty fisheries.  The court ruled that the treaties, which reserved to the tribes “the right of taking fish, at usual and accustomed grounds and stations,” necessarily implied protection of the habitat on which treaty fisheries depend.  The court gave the State seventeen years to correct 1,600 barriers, and required coordination with affected tribes.  The decision puts teeth into a 2007 summary judgment order, which declared that the culverts violate treaties made with the tribes in the 1850’s.  The culverts decision is the culmination of a decades-long legal effort by Washington tribes, who first presented their claims for treaty-based habitat protection as part of the 1974 “Boldt decision,” which recognized tribal treaty rights to half the salmon catch and freedom from most state regulation.

For a copy of the Injunction, click here.  For a copy of the Memorandum and Decision, click here.  And for a copy of the 2007 Summary Judgment decision, click here.