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Restoring Wild Salmon to the Pacific Northwest: Framing the Risk Question

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In the Pacific Northwest of the United States, it is urgent to assess accurately the various options proposed to restore wild salmon. For the past 150 years, a variety of analytic approaches have been employed to assess the ecological consequences of salmon management options. Each approach provided useful information to decision makers, but each also suffered from limitations, some relatively minor, others sufficient to undermine any potential utility. Risk assessment has become the most widely used analytic approach to evaluate environmental policy options. To date its use in ecological policy has been largely constrained to evaluating relatively simple technical questions ( e.g ., regulatory actions associated with specific chemicals or hazardous waste sites). Recently, however, there has been interest in applying risk assessment to more complex ecological policy problems ( e.g ., the decline of wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest). Although its use has become commonplace and widely accepted, especially among regulatory and land management agencies, risk assessment remains contentious. The most heated debates revolve around delineating the specific meaning of risk; that is, framing the risk "question" to be answered.

Keywords: Pacific Northwest; ecological restoration; ecological risk assessment; risk question; salmon

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 200 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, Oregon 97333 USA;, Email:

Publication date: April 1, 2002


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