Recovery is a Long-term Commitment

One hundred and fifty years of over-harvest, habitat alteration, increased predation, and over-reliance on hatcheries have reduced salmon populations to the point of listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. Restoring salmon and steelhead trout to healthy and harvestable levels despite these impacts requires long-term and sustained efforts. Fish population increases occur across multiple generations, which is why the lower Columbia recovery plan identifies 50-year recovery timelines.

Recovery to healthy, harvestable populations requires fully funded and science-based management strategies at local, state, and federal levels. This includes fully funding habitat restoration efforts and habitat protection incentives and holding local, state, and federal land-use programs accountable for protecting habitat. It also requires use of best available science to align hatchery, harvest, and hydropower system management with recovery needs.

Success Story: Restoring the Ridgefield Pits Floodplain

An aerial photo of a river and water contained in pits

Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership received a $7 million grant in 2022 to restore the Ridgefield Pits floodplain. The Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership will use this grant to restore 150 acres of the East Fork Lewis River floodplain by realigning and grading the Ridgefield Pits area. In a large flood in 1996, the river shifted course into nine abandoned gravel pits in the floodplain, causing widespread habitat degradation and the creation of areas of slow, warm water that benefit fish that prey on salmon. This project will increase habitat capacity and diversity, reduce river temperatures, and remove a thermal barrier that blocks access for fish to the upper 30 miles of the watershed. The floodplain is used by Chinook and chum and coho salmon and steelhead trout, all of which are listed as threatened with extinction under the federal Endangered Species Act. Visit RCO’s online Project Snapshot for more information and photographs of this project.

Funding Gaps

The lower Columbia region is experiencing shortfalls in several programmatic funding areas. Current funding is inadequate to monitor land-use program impacts. Most land-use programs do not collect sufficient data to track habitat outcomes, such as available floodplain and riverine habitat.

The regional recovery plan has remained unchanged with the exception of updates in 2010 to address the listing of coho salmon. New science is available and updating the plan will lead to more effective and efficient recovery actions.

View data on Funding statewide. Visit the Salmon Data Hub for more of the data behind the indicator charts and graphs used throughout this site.