SEATTLE (AP) -- A new foundation is hoping the area's well-heeled will be willing to open their checkbooks to help protect salmon.
The nonprofit Puget Sound Salmon Foundation hopes to raise $10- to $15 million annually for the threatened chinook salmon..
The money would go to nonprofit groups and government agencies for the repair, protection and purchase of vital tracts of habitat along salmon rivers and estuaries in the Puget Sound area.
The Puget Sound chinook was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in March 1999.
Federal and local governments already are committing millions of dollars to salmon protection and habitat restoration, but foundation board members say it won't be enough.
The foundation will provide a way ''for the private sector to engage in this issue,'' said board member Gerry Johnson, a managing partner in the Seattle law firm Preston Gates & Ellis.
Raising money for the salmon won't necessarily be easy, said members of the Loomis Forest Fund, a group that raised $16.5 million to save the threatened lynx in north-central Washington last year.
There are a lot of people in the region with a lot of money, ''but that doesn't mean it's easy to get,'' said Fred Munson, the Loomis fund's campaign coordinator in Seattle. ''It's not like people with a lot of money have a shortage of places to give it.''
Board members of the Salmon Foundation say they hope the salmon's power as a symbol for people in Washington will help draw funds.
''Salmon are an icon species, really a talisman of the quality of our environment,'' Johnson said.
Fund raising is scheduled to begin in the next two months. The Salmon Foundation will have a $100,000 first-year operating budget, provided by a donation from the Bullitt Foundation, a regional philanthropic fund that focuses on environmental issues.
King County, the largest county governments in the Puget Sound area, plans to spend $3.5 million on salmon-habitat restoration this year, not including the $7 million it plans to use to buy roughly 3,500 acres of land or development rights to land to protect habitat.
The county welcomes any additional money dedicated to the cause, said Tim Ceis, chief of staff for King County Executive Ron Sims and director of the county's Endangered Species Act office.
The Salmon Foundation likely will seek advice from the Salmon Recovery Funding Board. The board, created by the Legislature in 1999, is charged with doling out state and federal funds to various public and private projects around the state that purchase and repair habitats.
''The problem is immense,'' said Jacques White, a marine ecologist with People for Puget Sound, a Seattle conservation group. But ''there's a lot of new wealth that has no history of giving or getting involved in civic opportunities.
Hopefully, this body can provide a mechanism to get some of that money involved in habitat'' protection and restoration, White said.
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