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Inside Olympia – Outdoor Recreation, Salmon and Orcas

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October 7, 2021

The Washington Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) is a small, little-known state agency, with a huge role in outdoor recreation, habitat protection, and salmon and orca recovery. Since 1964 the RCO, through a number of boards, has granted over $3 billion to more than 11,000 outdoor projects throughout Washington — from salmon habitat projects to soccer fields, hiking trails to habitat restoration.

This week, host Austin Jenkins delves into the work of the agency via interviews with RCO Director Megan Duffy, and Tara Galuska, who works within the RCO as the state’s first orca recovery coordinator.

The RCO is focused on keeping pace with the outdoor recreation desires of a rapidly growing state population, funding projects that help the state battle climate change, and reassessing its programs to see that money is equitably distributed, especially to underserved communities.

According to Galuska, the three main threats to orcas are lack of food, water pollution, and vessel traffic noise. Salmon recovery and orca recovery are joined at the hip, since salmon are the main source of food for Puget Sound’s southern resident orca whales. Many salmon runs in Washington are threatened, and the RCO is funding projects across the state aimed at restoring salmon runs and habitat. Orca Recovery Day, coming Oct. 16, gives Washingtonians a chance to actively take part in all manner of events and projects aimed at helping the orcas.

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