The Wild Steelheader Dec. 2016

 December 28, 2016

It’s been more than two years since Trout Unlimited’s Wild Steelhead Initiative left the boat ramp. This initiative was born of committed steelhead anglers whose hope for a brighter future for wild steelhead is matched by their stubbornness in fighting for the improvements in habitat and policy required to realize this vision.

For too long, steelhead management has been based on old studies and policies inconsistent with today’s science, ecological conditions, fishing pressures, and the desire of most steelhead anglers to conserve wild steelhead while having an opportunity to fish for them responsibly.

In just two years, the Wild Steelhead Initiative has made significant, sometimes exceptional progress in our mission to conserve and restore wild steelhead and improve and sustain opportunities to fish for them. Coupled with TU’s robust habitat restoration program, we have improved habitat conditions in wild steelhead rivers through partnerships and projects that improve water management and use, and keep more water in streams when steelhead need it most.

We have educated and organized thousands of steelhead anglers to speak on behalf of wild steelhead and push for policies that better protect them in the future. Our leading steelhead scientists and passionate ground-level activists have helped drive improvements in hatchery management, upgrade wild steelhead angling regulations, and establish wild steelhead management zones in priority steelhead rivers across five states.

In this season of hope, we are proud of our accomplishments to date but sobered by the challenges that remain. Yet thanks to the thousands of anglers who now support the Wild Steelhead Initiative, we are bullish on the future of wild steelhead. We deeply appreciate your commitment to our cause, and wish you good fortune in 2017, both on and off the water.

2016 Milestones

Science and Advocacy:

On Washington’s Olympic Peninsula we and our partners worked for new regulations adopted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for the benefit wild steelhead. These included limits on bait fishing, an end to harvest of wild fish, and protection of six miles of the Hoh from excessive fishing pressure by boat.

In southwest Oregon we advanced the Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary bill, which would protect the North Umpqua River’s most important steelhead-spawning tributary.

In Oregon and California, we generated strong angler support for protecting the headwaters of the fabled Smith River from proposed hard rock mining, and were a major factor in the California Fish and Game Commission’s designation of the South Fork Smith as a Wild and Heritage Trout Water.

Last, we played a major role in designating wild steelhead management zones for the Nisqually, Elwha, Grays and Chinook rivers in Washington. Our volunteers participated in “angler science” projects on the Olympic Peninsula, Skagit River, Siletz River and Smith River (OR) to generate more accurate steelhead data.

Community Building

More than 5,500 anglers have now signed the Wild Steelheaders United credo, and the Wild Steelhead Initiative currently has over 18,000 total followers on social media platforms, with 10,000 weekly views of our Science Friday posts.  More than 40 leading companies in the angling industry — including Sage/ Rio/ Redington and Echo — now support us. And our local angler-advocates have generated some 2,500 letters and comments in support of management decisions that will better protect and restore wild steelhead.

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Habitat Improvement and Protection

We reached a major milestone in the long campaign to restore the Klamath River(historically, the third most productive watershed for salmon and steelhead on the West Coast) with signing of the revised Klamath Hydropower Settlement Agreement in April — this agreement provides for removal of four old dams below Klamath Lake starting in 2020.

In Washington we helped open 30 miles of steelhead habitat in Manastash Creek in the Yakima Basin, and introduced legislation to protect 340,000 acres of public lands from open pit mining in the Methow River headwaters. In Oregon we helped to protect more than 14,000 miles of rivers by expanding logging buffers on private land. We played a key role in a transaction on California’s Carmel River that will convert a 36-hole golf course to regional park land and return 98 million gallons of water to the lower river annually.

Our partnership-projects in Washington and California improved irrigation efficiency and water supply security for farmers and residential landowners — and kept millions of gallons of water in important steelhead streams such as Pescadero Creek at times when fish need it most. And, our capacity to drive and support better results for wild steelhead populations and habitat expanded in 2016, with the hiring of Luke Kelly as restoration ecologist. Luke’s focus will be habitat conservation and restoration projects on the Olympic Peninsula.

Three things you can do right now for wild steelhead

  1. Provide scoping comments on the Columbia River Systems Operations Environmental Impact Statement. This EIS includes a review of the Lower Snake River Dams – Learn More – Take Action

  1. Donate Today: With a generous matching offer from the Sol Duc Foundation, all donations through the end of 2016 will be doubled.  If you donate $10 we will be pleased to send you a sticker. For $40 donations we will send you a Wild Steelheaders United hat. All donations go 100% to support the Wild Steelhead Initiative.

  2. Share this newsletter with your steelhead angling friends, and encourage them to sign up with Wild Steelheaders United and  donate to the cause.

Our ambitious goals for 2017

Science and Advocacy

Work toward re-opening the Skagit River for catch-and-release steelhead angling. With the state and tribes having submitted a plan for federal review, there is now an opportunity to complete the environmental review process to evaluate the re-opening of the Skagit for a spring angling season. As we push for a commitment to manage the Skagit for wild steelhead over the long term, and as our science team works to develop a new life-cycle model that will help establish and achieve wild steelhead escapement goals, we will need your voice in support.

Other priority goals include passing state legislation establishing pilot projects to improve management of guided fishing on the Olympic Peninsula and Klickitat River (WA), working with managers to install SONAR units on the Hoh and John Day rivers to gather accurate data on wild steelhead run size, and expansion of our “angler science” projects to California and Idaho.

Community Building

Our goal in the coming year is to grow the supporters of Wild Steelheaders United to more than 8,000 anglers. Please help us reach this goal by sharing this newsletter and our blog and social media posts with your friends and business partners. We welcome your feedback in how we can improve our communications with our supporters and the angling community — send your thoughts to dmeadows@tu.org. There might be a small prize in store for the best suggestions.

Habitat Improvement and Protection

In 2017 WSU will kick off a three-year effort to secure perpetual conservation easements on 100 miles of riparian corridors, restore degraded riparian zones, and secure up to 30,000 acre-feet of clean water inputs in the Upper Klamath Basin. These actions will help prepare for the return of steelhead and salmon to this part of the watershed after the four lower river dams come out.

In addition, in the coming year we aim to double summer base flows in Pescadero Creek, perhaps the best wild steelhead stream on California’s central coast. We will fight hard in the State Water Board’s current Bay-Delta Plan process for improved water management in the lower San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers, to save dwindling runs of wild steelhead and salmon in California’s Central Valley. We will work to pass the bipartisan Frank Moore Wild Steelhead Sanctuary bill for the North Umpqua. We will improve streamflow and habitat quality in the Methow and Wenatchee rivers (WA) and Upper Salmon river basin (ID). We will implement our first wild steelhead habitat restoration projects on Olympic Peninsula rivers.

Have a wonderful New Year – See you on the water

Please consider a donation to our work.  All donations up to $5,000 will be matched by the Sol Duc Foundation until the end of the year.


    

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