Friday, March 29, 2013

Congress Considering Removal of Wild and Scenic Designation for Merced River

In an effort to push forward a project that would increase irrigation storage in the Merced River watershed by raising the spillway on a downstream dam, representative Tom McClintock has put forth a bill in Congress that would repeal the national Wild and Scenic designation for the river. The Merced, which flows through the Yosemite valley epitomizes what a Wild and Scenic River should be. HR 934 would set a terrible precedent with governments being able to repeal the protections afforded by the federal wild and scenic, wildnerness or other designations every time it is economically convenient. Please write your representative and tell them not to support this short sighted and harmful bill. 

American Rivers have provided a quick and easy way to make your voice heard on this important issue:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two Lawsuits That Could Reshape the Landscape on Hatchery Impacts

Over the last twenty years there has been a growing scientific consensus that hatchery supplementation undermines the productivity and diversity of wild salmon and steelhead populations. Hatcheries, once viewed as a panacea for salmon and steelhead recovery and enhancement of fishing opportunities are now understood to be an impediment to the recovery of threatened wild stocks throughout our region. Despite our growing understanding that large scale hatchery supplementation is fundamentally incompatible with healthy wild populations of fish, inertia at state and federal agencies and a lack of political will to substantively change hatchery practices has slowed progress.

Now two separate lawsuits challenging the legality of hatchery programs on the Sandy and Elwha Rivers under the Endangered Species Act are forcing the issue. Both watersheds have benefited from multi-million dollar dam removal and restoration efforts, however industrial scale hatchery supplementation and the robbing of wild fish to create broodstock for harvest continue to jeopardize the persistence of ESA listed steelhead and chinook as well as other species of salmon. Legal battles like these invariably take their time proceeding through the courts, but the reality is, these types of fights are a necessary part of changing the conversation surrounding hatcheries.

More information on the Elwha Lawsuit from the Wild Fish Conservancy's website:

More on the Native Fish Society's efforts in Oregon:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Stanford Owned Dam Threatens ESA Listed Steelhead

Stanford University has long been a global leader in research and conservation, unfortunately when it comes to walking the walk, the university has been dropping the bell. The University owned Searsville Dam on San Francisquito Creek blocks 20 miles of historic habitat for Threatened San Francisco Bay steelhead, and the downstream reaches are often dewatered. In past years steelhead have been killed when waterlevels dropped, and this year low water is again stressing the fish. A local group called Beyond Searsville dam has taken up the cause, and Stanford University as well as the National Marine Fisheries Service are currently studying the issue.

More information from Bay Nature:

Beyond Searsville Dam:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Occupy Skagit

For those unfamiliar with Occupy Skagit, it is a grassroots movement of anglers concerned with the ongoing closure of the Skagit River and the lack of proactive movement from WDFW and NOAA to  develop a plan to restore wild steelhead and the beloved spring time fishery on the Skagit and Sauk. It is refreshing to see a group of anglers catalyzed behind an issue, and while we are supportive of the goals at Occupy Skagit we thought we would share some thoughts on the bigger picture.

If you want to join the movement and Occupy Skagit, anglers will be meeting up April 6th on the banks of the skagit in protest to the ongoing closure of the Skagit and Sauk.

More info:

The following is an open letter to all anglers who care about the Skagit and Sauk, but is particularly focused on some aspects of the comments posted by an organizer of the Occupy Skagit group on our post last week:

Dear Occupiers,

While we respect and appreciate your passion for Skagit River steelhead and we share the view that a catch and release sport fishery could be opened on the Skagit through April without inflicting serious impacts on wild steelhead in the Skagit and Sauk, we have to take issue with a few things you have said. 

Our principle concern is that by asserting "All is well" on the skagit on the basis of an MSY goal of 3800 we are setting the bar very low. We agree that the Skagit is much better off than many other Puget Sound Rivers (hence our support for the idea of a catch and release fishery), but the reality is that as recently as the 1950s 30,000 wild steelhead returned each year on the Skagit and historic abundance in the basin probably ranged between 40 and 100 thousand fish annually. 

We hope that in advocating for fisheries on the Skagit and other Puget Sound rivers the Occupy Skagit movement and others will not lose sight of this big picture. In advocating for fisheries we must first and foremost advocate for the recovery of wild fish that support those fisheries and in the skagit that means protecting and restoring the habitat and importantly, discontinuing releases of hatchery fish at the Marblemount hatchery and managing the Skagit as a Wild Steelhead Management Zone.  

We need to acknowledge the full suite of impacts on wild steelhead in the Skagit. We also need to ask WDFW to invest in improved monitoring, pre-season forecasting, and research on the Skagit and other important watersheds. 

Thank you for caring about wild fish and the Skagit River. We all agree that wild fish are a treasured part of our regions cultural and ecological heritage and we look forward to working with you to advance the cause of wild steelhead recovery!

Will Atlas
FFF Steelhead Committee

ODFW Suspends Broodstock Collection on Lower Columbia Tribs

Thanks to a legal challenge from the Native Fish Society, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife will be suspending their wild broodstock collection on the Sandy, Clackamas, McKenzie, Santiam and Middle Fork Willamette. Lower Columbia steelhead are listed as endangered under the ESA. There is broad scientific consensus that hatchery supplementation undermines the productivity, abundance and diversity of wild salmon and steelhead populations, and the NFS lawsuit challenges the legality of these hatchery programs on the basis that they jeopardize the persistence of Lower Columbia/Willamette steelhead. As a result of the ongoing legal action, ODFW has opted to discontinue broodstock collection for this year meaning that hundreds more wild steelhead will be spawning in the wild this spring. Great work NFS!

More information on the Native Fish Societies Save Sandy Salmon campaign:

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ancient Landslides Shape Oregon's Coho Habitat

A new study published in the journal Geology documents the impact of large, ancient, deep-seated landslides in forming productive coho habitats in the Oregon Coast range. The paper, published by a group of researchers at the University of Oregon found that wide, low gradient areas of river valleys associated with large, ancient landslides produced hotspots for coho habitat in the Elk Creek drainage, a tributary of the Umpqua River. While we have long understood that coho thrive in low gradient areas with large intact floodplains, the importance of ancient geologic events in the formation of these habitats reminds us that many of the processes that create and sustain healthy salmon habitat are driven by the local geological history. Indeed, one might consider geology the canvas upon which ecological communities and fish populations are drawn.

Further north, in areas with a recent glacial history, the processes that have formed valleys and the factors which contribute to the formation of high quality coho habitat are likely to differ. However the fundamental message remains the same, rivers are defined by their geology.

More information in a press release from the University of Oregon: