A Legacy of Logging Remains and Impacts of Climate Change Emerge
With lush rainforests, expansive estuaries, and few cities, the Washington Coast region represents the last, best chance for the state to protect salmon and restore them to healthier levels. Healthy habitats are needed to sustain forestry, agriculture, and fishing industries as well as non-consumptive, recreational use of these lands and waterways.
Habitat protection prevents further degradation of salmon habitat. Thousands of acres of habitat are protected through public lands, conservation acquisitions and easements, and stewardship and land management plans developed with private landowners.
However, the health of salmon habitat has been and continues to be impacted by human activities. Although splash dams, clearing of trees and plants along streams, and logging to the riverbanks have stopped, their impacts were substantial and their legacy remains. Salmon habitat is blocked by undersized culverts, and streams are degraded by excessive fine sediment and invasive plants. Culverts are large pipes and other structures that carry streams under roads. A flood control dam, proposed in the Chehalis River headwaters, would further degrade salmon habitat. Climate change is an emerging threat that warms summer streamflows and increases the frequency of destructive floods.
Coast organizations focused on salmon habitat have made progress, though, including the following:
- Opening hundreds of miles of quality habitat by replacing fish-blocking culverts.
- Restoring river form and function by placing large wood structures in and along rivers to slow erosion and channel migration, stabilizing salmon habitat.
- Restoring native streamside forests through tree planting and invasive plant removal.