Habitat Protection and Restoration
A Legacy of Logging Remains and Impacts of Climate Change Emerge
The region, with many forests and few major cities, represents the last, best chance for the state to protect salmon and restore them to healthier levels. The region is still home to 50 percent of the state’s unlisted fish. The natural environment supports businesses that rely on the lands and waters for logging, agriculture, fishing, and recreation. Salmon habitat has been impacted by culverts (large structures that carry streams under roads and can block fish passage), old logging roads that deposited excessive sediment into streams, and invasive plants choking riverbanks. Climate change is an emerging threat that affects stream flows and temperatures and habitat stability in larger rivers.
Restoration projects focus on increasing the resiliency of salmon. Recent accomplishments include the following;
- Replacing fish-blocking culverts, opening dozens of miles of quality habitat.
- Protecting hundreds of acres of habitat in coastal watersheds
- Reducing flood risk by reconnecting rivers to their floodplains
- Reintroducing large woody materials into the system, which create habitat.
An acceleration of restoration accomplishments in this region has occurred through the Washington Coast Restoration and Resiliency Initiative that puts residents to work restoring the lands and waters they depend upon.
Salmon habitat also has been improved through regulatory change. Fish-blocking culverts on state and private timberlands have been removed or repaired under the Washington State Forest and Fish Law, and extensive unused road systems have been decommissioned under the U.S. Forest Service Northwest Forest Plan.
Too Much Fine Sediment and Too Little In-stream Wood
The Department of Ecology finds that this region has the fewest streams with high levels of human disturbance in the riparian zone (streambanks) and the most large wood in streams. Nevertheless, about two-thirds of the region’s salmon, trout, and steelhead streams contain too much fine sediment and many of the regions’ streams contain too little wood.
Too much fine sediment harms salmon by smothering the incubating eggs and changing the shape and route of the stream. Sediment also can carry copper or other chemicals that, in high concentrations, can be harmful to salmon. Without large wood in streams, high-quality spawning gravels wash downstream and fish don’t have enough places to rest and hide from predators.