Category Archives: Fish

Animation tells story of fish and fire

Fire and Fish: Habitat and History in the Northwest is a 5-minute animated video featuring two Forest Service research biologists that illustrates the complex relationship between fire and fish in Pacific Northwest rivers and streams. This screen capture from the video depicts juvenile fish finding shelter within a fallen log that has become submerged in a stream channel, providing refuge from both predators and strong currents.

An animated video recently released by the Pacific Fire Science Consortium explores and illustrates the complex relationship between fish and fire in the Pacific northwest United States.

The video, “Fish and Fire: History and Habitat in the Pacific Northwest,” was produced by the University of Oregon School of Journalism.

It features interviews two Forest Service research fish biologists, Rebecca Flitcroft and Gordon Reeves, both assigned to the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station.

The scientists explain how some fish species in the Pacific Northwest have adapted to benefit from the impact of intermittent forest fires:

  • Fire adds silt and small rocks or gravel, which replenish materials needed to for some fish to create spawning beds.
  • Dead trees may fall into streams, creating complexity in the stream’s flow, which can reduce stress on fish by providing refuge from strong currents.
  • Log jams especially benefit juvenile species by creating broad flood plains, further diffusing rapid currents and offering many nooks and crannies in which to evade predators while nourishing the insect larvae, worms, beetles, and other organisms they may feed on.

The University of Oregon, the university’s Ecosystem Workforce Program, the Oregon State University and its Extension Service, The Nature Conservancy, Sustainable Northwest, the Center for Natural Lands Management, and the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station are members of the Northwest Fire Science Consortium, one of fifteen regional science information exchanges funded by the Joint Fire Science Program.

From FireScience.gov:

In the Pacific Northwest, native salmon and trout (family Salmonidae) are some of the toughest survivors on the block. Over time, these fish have evolved behavioral adaptations to natural disturbances, and they rely on these disturbances to deliver coarse sediment and wood that become complex stream habitat. Powerful disturbances such as wildfire, post fire landslides, and debris flows may be detrimental to fish populations in the short term, but over time they enrich in-stream habitats, enhancing long-term fish survival and productivity.

LAND MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS

Forest management activities, such as enhancing river network connectivity through fish passage barrier removal and reducing predicted fire intensity and sizes, may increase the resilience of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) in the face of disturbances such as climate change and wildfire.

Natural disturbances, along with sound riparian management and road management practices that allow natural flood plain functioning, are important in maintaining healthy change in aquatic habitats. Connected, complex aquatic habitats benefit from ecosystem management practices that are analogous to the spatial extent of wildfires and bridge human-imposed divides such as land ownership boundaries.

Fire planning that includes aquatic issues such as habitat quality, stream network connectivity, and fish population resilience offers resource managers the opportunity to broaden fire management goals and activities to include potential positive effects on aquatic habitats.

WATCH the video here (or find it on YouTube):

More information:

Science Findings #198 (July, 2017): https://www.fs.usda.gov/pnw/publications/adaptation-wildfire-fish-story

“Wildfire may increase habitat quality for spring Chinook salmon in the Wenatchee River subbasin, WA, USA” (submitted 2015, published 2016): https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/journals/pnw_2015_flitcroft001.pdf


Source information: The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station is a leader in the scientific study of natural resources. We generate and communicate impartial knowledge to help people understand and make informed choices about natural resource management and sustainability. The station has 11 laboratories and research centers in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, and manages 12 active experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds.

In the news: Study suggests seasonal drainage reduces invasives, boosts salmon migration in Ore. reservoir

Fall Creek wetland, with forests and a rocky mountain peak in the background. Deschutes National Forest; September 9, 1992. USDA Forest Service file photo.

A recent study analyzing more than a decade’s worth of fish migration data suggests the recently-adopted practice of seasonally draining an Oregon reservoir has boosted downstream migration of an endangered salmon species, while flushing two predatory invasive species.

A team of researchers from Oregon State University, USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Research Station, and the Army Corps of Engineers found that juvenile spring chinook salmon raised in Fall Creek Reservoir, located about 30 miles southeast of Eugene, Ore. in the Willamette River basin, registered stronger downstream migrations in the years after the Army Corps of Engineers began draining the reservoir for a brief time, every autumn.

The practice also flushed populations of two invasive species, the largemouth bass and crappie, out of the reservoir – potentially improving survival of future salmon in the system.

Full story, via the Statesman Journal:
https://www.statesmanjournal.com/story/news/2019/05/21/fish-salmon-benefit-from-oregon-lake-draining-eliminates-invasive-species/3756561002/

Free youth fishing clinics May 18, June 1 on Mt. Hood NF

A group of people stands at the edge of a pond, fishing.

SANDY, Ore. (May 7, 2019) The Mt. Hood National Forest will host its annual Youth Fishing clinics May 18, 2019 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Hood River Ranger District and June 1, 2019 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Clackamas River Ranger District.

The May 18 clinic will be offered at the Middle Fork Irrigation Pond on Laurance Lake Rd., in Parkdale, Ore. This clinic designed for children 11 and under, although older teens, young adults, and parents are also invited to participate.

The June 1 clinic will be offered at the Small Fry Pond at North Fork Reservoir, located 7 miles south of Estacada, Ore. on Oregon Route 224. This clinic is intended for children 17 and under. Young adults and parents are also welcome.

Children attending the clinics will have the opportunity to fish with an expert angler and learn how to cast. Both clinics will include a wide array of activities, such as fish-related arts and crafts, fly-tying, a fishing derby, and other games with prizes donated by local businesses.

Educational displays will teach youth about the salmon life cycle and anatomy, aquatic insects, watersheds and aquatic ecosystems.

Refreshments will also be available at both events, courtesy of local businesses and partners!

“While this fun family event is an opportunity for kids to try their hand at fishing it also gets them outdoors where they can learn firsthand about fish and the importance of taking care of water resources,” Jane Dalgliesh, Fish Biologist for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said.

Children should bring lunch, warm clothing, a rod and reel if possible, and a cooler to bring home their catch of the day.

Limited quantities of rods and reels will be available for participants to use. Bait will be provided.

Please note: Children ages 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult. Also, an Oregon State fishing license is required for partipants ages 12 years and older in order to fish, and must be purchased from the state or an authorized vendor prior to the event; fishing licenses will not be available for purchase at the clinic.

These clinics are being conducted by the Mt. Hood National Forest, in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Trout Unlimited, USFWS, and the Middle Fork Irrigation District.

For more information, interested participants may contact:

  • Jane Dalgliesh (June 1 event); at (503) 630-8801
  • Caitlin Scott (May 1 event); at (541) 352-1221

For even more national forest and forestry-related activities and events, check out our Your Northwest Forests calendar!


Source information: USDA Forest Service – Mt. Hood National Forest (press release)

Forest Feature: Sturgeon

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile

Imagine you’re swimming in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, and you open your eyes and see a 8 ft shadow lurking in the depths.

No, it’s not a shark, it’s a sturgeon – the Acipenser transmontanus!

This ancient family Acipenseridae dates its lineage back to the Triassic period (245-805 million year ago). Despite human interference and over-fishing, it still clings on to existence across the world’s many rivers.

Some examples of the species look absolutely wild… just look at this Chinese paddlefish!

Illustration of a long, slender fish with gray scaled and a long, sword-like face.
Psephurus gladius, also known as the Chinese paddlefish, Chinese swordfish, or elephant fish, is critically endangered in its native China. It is sometimes called the “Giant Panda of the Rivers,” not because of any physical resemblance to a giant panda, but because of its rarity and protected status.
Image from the Muséum d’histoire Naturelle – Nouvelles Archives du Muséum d’histoire Naturelle (public domain).

In the Pacific Northwest, we have two species of sturgeon – the White Sturgeon and Green Sturgeon.

If you visit the Bonneville Dam fish hatchery, located in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, you can meet Herman the Sturgeon, an 11 ft 500 lbs fish who, at 79 years old, is only middle-aged for a sturgeon but also represents, possibly, the closest living genetic relative to ancient dinosaurs.

Close up image of Herman the Sturgeon's face, in profile.
Herman the Sturgeon does a “swim-by” for visitors to the Sturgeon Viewing and Interprestive Center viewing pond, July 21, 2012.
Photo by Sheila Sund (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

Herman and some of his less-famous sturgeon buddies can be viewed, up close and personal, in a viewing pond at the Sturgeon Viewing and Interpretive Center, which includes a viewing window for looking beneath the surface of the two-acre pond that is home to Herman, a number of smaller sturgeon, and some trout.

Herman the Sturgeon, viewed through an underwater viewing window April 15, 2018. He's a bottom-dwelling fish.
Sturgeons are a family of prehistoric bottom-feeder cartilaginous fish dating back to the Mesozoic and known for their eggs, which are valued in many world cuisines as caviar. White Sturgeons are native to the Pacific Northwest of North America, with significant populations in the Columbia River, Lake Shasta, and in Montana. 
Photo by Wayne Hsieh (used with permission via Creative Commons 2.0 general attribution license – CC BY 2.0. All other rights reserved).

What other wild creatures inhabit Pacific Northwest forests?

If you’d like to visit and find out, follow our Forest Features every month, or visit a National Forest in Washington or Oregon.

Go. Play. It’s all yours!


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

In the News: Adriana Morales, Siuslaw NF district fisheries biologist

Adriana Morales, Hebo District fisheries biologist, Siuslaw National Forest, wears waders and poses with a depth measurement tool while collecting stream data

How does a girl from Bogota, Columbia, who grew up in a city set high in the Andes, fall in love with the ocean and end up working for the Forest Service in Hebo, Ore.?

The Skanner News recently profiled Adriana Morales, a district fisheries biologist for the Siuslaw National Forest, as part of a running series highlighting diversity in the Forest Service, and opportunities in the natural resources career fields.

Morales is passionate about working with partners to restore the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead habitat, which relies on the clean, cold streams supplied by forest shade and melting mountain snow.

She’s also dedicated to sharing her love of the natural world with others; she frequently conducts bilingual outreach events and opportunities that open outdoor experiences to youth from under-served communities.

From the story:

“We are sharing this planet … and we need to recognize and ensure that conservation, preservation and rational use of natural resources needs have a balance with the interest of the society, and with other animal and plant species, because this is our legacy for future generations,” Morales said.

Read more, at:
https://www.theskanner.com/news/northwest/27715-adriana-morales-makes-a-difference-as-a-usda-forest-service-fisheries-biologist

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Forest Service releases new outfitter-guide finder

A hunter looks out over a lake from a cliff

Adventure-seekers in search of an expert guide for their next National Forest adventure in Washington and Oregon need look no further than the Pacific Northwest region’s new outfitter-guide locator.

The new, web-based tool allows visitors to quickly and easily search a directory of outfitters and guides with current operating permits by activity, or forest.

Outfitters and guides are great resources for National Forest visitors who want to try a new activity, improve their proficiency, or explore the back-country with the benefit of a guide who has first-hand knowledge of the area.

(Wondering what the difference is? Guides typically provide expert experience and knowledge, while outfitter-guides also provide some or all of the gear and equipment needed to enhance the outdoor experience. Both require a permit from the National Forest the activity will take place on, to help forest managers track commercial usage and to ensure favorite locations or resources aren’t being over-used).

Outfitter-guide permit holders on Pacific Northwest forests in Washington and Oregon include almost every outdoor activity you can think of, including hunting, fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, cycling, dog-sledding, horseback riding, kayaking, rafting, mountain biking, and even heli-skiing!

Looking for a guide to your next adventure on Your Northwest Forests?

Check out the Pacific Northwest region’s National Forest outfitter-guide finder at:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/passes-permits/recreation/?cid=fseprd588624



Source information: USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region staff report

Wild & Scenic Rivers Act 50th Anniversary: Rafting rapids and tying flies on the North Umpqua River

Fly fishermen practice with a guide on the North Umpqua River

People seem to agree there is something special about the North Umpqua River.

The water is sometimes blue and sometimes green, and so clear you can see through to the smooth stones of the riverbed, below. The current, alternately placid and rapids, tumbles under bridges and over boulders as it winds through a modest canyon and across portions of the Umpqua National Forest.

Why it’s special it’s harder to pin down; or rather, the reasons are as varied as those who are drawn to its sun-dappled, tree-lined banks.

two kayakers paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. 

For fishing guide Dillon Renton, the special nature of the North Umpqua River is deeply rooted in the river’s century-old ties to fly-fishing.

A 33-mile stretch of the river was federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River in 1988. The act, which passes the half-century mark later this year, identifies rivers to be managed and protected to preserve outstanding wild, scenic, or recreational values.

For the North Umpqua River, the list includes water quality, fisheries, recreational opportunities, cultural significance, and overall scenic value.

“It’s quite different from other rivers, in terms of ease of access. You can pull right off the highway and start fishing, in some places,” Janie Pardo, a Forest Service realty specialist on the North Umpqua Ranger District and manager of the river’s outfitter-guide program, said.

A fishing guide helps a woman practice casting from a sandbar along the North Umpqua River

Fishing guide Dillon Renton helps visitors Rob Lynn and Shelley Phillips practice their cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018.

Fly fishing is what the north Umpqua is most famous for – specifically, the wild Columbian steelhead.

The river attracted fly-fishing sportsmen beginning in the 1920s. Anglers pursued wild Columbian steelhead from its banks; including some famous names like Zane Gray and Jack Hemingway.

Catching the fish is notoriously difficult. Some anglers even call it “the graduate school of fly-fishing,” Jim Woodward, who co-owns the Steamboat Inn with wife Melinda, said.

Fishing is what drew the Woodwards to invest in the half-century old fishing lodge on the banks of the river, about two years ago. The couple met while working together at another resort, but dreamed of running a lodge of their own.

The owner of Steamboat Inn discusses fishing flies

Jim Woodward, owner of Steamboat Inn, discusses the history of fly fishing for wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River July 20, 2018. The inn, built in 1957 has operated on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) for more than 60 years, and is the successor to the North Umpqua Lodge, which operated from 1934-1952. Prior to that, the site was home to a fishing camp established by Maj. Jordan Mott in 1929, and also used by angler Zeke Allen.

“We walked in, and we were like, ‘this is it,’” Melinda Woodward said.

But like the fish that ply its waters, the river valley’s weather can also be fickle. Just months into the Woodward’s first season, a lightning storm set wildfires across surrounding portions of the north Umpqua National Forest.

a fishing fly with black and white skunk fur

A Green Butt Skunk fly lies on a table at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018. The fly pattern was specifically created for fishing wild steelhead on the North Umpqua River by Dan Callahan, a founder of the Steamboaters – a private flyfishing and conservation organization founded for the protection of the river and its fishing heritage.

Some fires burned right up to the river’s banks. Officials closed the highway, then the river, north of the lodge. And what visitors the lack of traffic and river didn’t kill, the smoke drove away.

“We called it our ‘trial by fire,’” Melinda Woodward said. “If we could get through that, we can make it through anything.”

A chef plates entres while a member of the waistaff assists in the kitchen

Justin Smith plates entrees in the kitchen at the Steamboat Inn July 20, 2018.

Justin Smith grew up in Glide, Ore. and is the first in four generations of his family not to work in logging.

In the 1980s, before the Endangered Species Act was passed, fishing was how his family filled their freezer during lumber mill strikes.

His first job was working in the kitchen of the Steamboat Inn, and cooking became his career. For several years, he worked Portland, specializing in farm-to-table cooking, before returning to the inn last year as its chef.

In late July, summer squashes and wild morels were featured alongside cocktails and desserts that were made with local berries.

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn

The fishing library at Steamboat Inn, pictured here on July 20, 2018. The inn’s ties to a century of fly fishing and wild steelhead runs on the North Umpqua river are apparent in the historical photos and fishing equipment on display, the decor, and the inn’s extensive library of books on fly fishing, many by authors known to have fished on the river.

Smith was mid-transition, from the last of the winter vegetables to summer fare – a phone call from one of his farmers to let him know she had fresh tomatoes and peaches meant he’d be pivoting to new menu items as soon as his order arrives.

“I’m going to have a ton of beets left over, but that’s OK,” he said. “I’ll pickle them, and then we can serve them this winter.”

Smith spoke of “his vendors” much the same way Renton spoke of favorite fishing holes – with a note of local pride, tempered with the slightly guarded tone of a secret not readily shared.

“I want the flavors to remind people of where we are, and what this place is,” he said. “That’s where the morels come from, the berries. As much as we can, it’s all local.”

A fly fisherman on the banks of the river

Rob Lynn practices his cast at a Bureau of Land Management day use area on the banks of the north Umpqua River July 19, 2018. Attempting to catch steelhead on the North Umpqua River is sometimes referred to as the “graduate school of fly fishing.”

One thing that isn’t on the menu is wild steelhead from the North Umpqua River. The fish is protected, and today all fishing for it is catch-and-release.

That doesn’t stop fly fishermen from coming from all over to test their skills against the famous fish. They don’t have the river to themselves, though. The anglers share the river with a growing community of boaters, primarily drawn to opportunities for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The fishing guides, suited in waders and wielding flies and rods, are out from sunup to around 10 a.m., when the rafting parties begin to gather at places like the Boulder Flat boat launch. Many anglers return in late afternoon, and continue to fish until dusk.

rafters paddle downriver through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.

But in the middle of the day, it’s boaters who rule the river, paddling kayaks or swooping over rapids in rafts along much of the Wild and Scenic recreation corridor.

Portions of the river are managed by the Forest Service, and others by the Bureau of Land Management.

rafters listen to safety instructions

A group of rafters listen to a Sun River Tours outfitter-guide give safety instructions at the Boulder Flat boat launch on the North Umpqua River, Umpqua National Forest in Oregon July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Land managers describe the river corridor by dividing it in five sections, each roughly five or six miles in length.

Each segment is dominated by unique scenery, from basalt columns in the first segment, Boulder Flat to Horseshoe Bend), to old growth forest and water falls on the fourth, Boulder Creek to Susan Creek, and smooth running river interspersed with rapids that ranging from a relatively gentler Class IIs and IIIs to challenging Class IVs and Vs.

From overhead, rafters paddle downriver

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

Visitors can raft or kayak on the river without a permit, or access the river through one of several companies with outfitter-guide permits (check out the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s new outfitter-guide finder).

“As outfitter-guides, we’re really ambassadors for the river,” Erik Weiseth, owner of Orange Torpedo Trips, said.

A kayaker paddles through rapids

Outfitter-guides lead groups of white water rafting and kayaking enthusiasts down the north Umpqua River towards Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. A 34-mile stretch of the river is designated for recreation under the federal Wild and Scenic River Act, which celebrates it’s 50th anniversary this year. USDA Forest Service photo by Catherine Caruso (Pacific Northwest Region, Office of Communications and Community Engagement staff)

Not everyone has the confidence or tools to take up a new outdoors activity on their own. Outfitter-guides provide the gear, and the expertise, to try something new — and do it safely, he said.

The company also operates tours on the Rogue River, one of eight rivers designated 50 years ago, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act first passed.

A wildflower

A wildflower grows on the banks of the north Umpqua River, through the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) at Horshoe Bend campground July 20, 2018.

The inherent tension between maintaining the natural wonder visitors value when visiting outdoor spaces, while introducing more people to those special places, is one that he, like others who work along the river, is sensitive to.

“But these places won’t survive, if people don’t know them and appreciate them,” Weiseth said. “As outfitters and guides, we provide an accessible way for people to do that.”

Recreation on the

From left, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoy lunch at the Falls Creek Falls trailhead on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018. 

At the Falls Creek Falls trailhead, April Clayes, her son Gil Sidro, and sister Sierra Vandonk enjoyed a family picnic after a short hike to the falls.

“(Gil) first came here when he was a baby, and we come back every so often,” Clayes said. “It’s a nice hike, not too steep… it’s special to us. He has memories of his grandpa on this trail, with him.”

A mossy tree

Moss drapes from a tree on a river bank behind Steamboat Inn along the North Umpqua River on the Umpqua National Forest July 20, 2018.

Behind the Steamboat Inn, guests took in the sights and sounds of the river while dining on the restaurant’s patio as Melinda Woodward reflected on what drew her, and her husband, to the North Umpqua River.

What makes the river unique might not be something that can be shared, only experienced, Woodward said.

“There is something special about this river. I don’t know how to put it into words. One guest said ‘if there’s any magic left, it’s here,'” she said.

More information:

A river cuts through a steep canyon

The North Umpqua River’s rapids drop to class II as the river approaches Horseshoe Bend campground and boat launch on the Umpqua National Forest (North Umpqua Ranger District) July 20, 2018.


Source information: Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at ccaruso@fs.fed.us.

In the News: Is thinning enough to save forests, communities?

firefighters set grass and brush on fire among a stand of evergreen trees along a dirt road to create a barrier of spent fuel to stop an oncoming wildfire

“Done right, forest thinning and fire treatments can work. Many say Sisters, Oregon is proof… Crews have been thinning, mowing, and burning the Deschutes National Forest for at least a decade. They think that work saved Sisters last summer, helping 675 firefighters stave off the Milli Fire as it raced towards town. It has been praised as an example of how proactive forest work can prevent deadly wildfire disasters. But even in the Deschutes, treatments fall short of historic burning rates by 30,000 acres every year….”

Oregon Public Broadcasting has a new installment in EarthFix reporter Tony Schick’s in-depth reporting on wildland fire in the Pacific Northwest.

The new story follows the Wolf Creek Hotshots on the Deschutes National Forest as they conduct a prescribed burn, and compares the impact of various fuels reduction treatments on the landscape, and on future fires.

Read more, or hear the radio version of the story, at OPB.orghttps://www.opb.org/news/article/west-wildfire-risks-fuels-treatment-thinning-burning/

 

Going swimmingly: Mt. Hood fish stream restoration update

A forest stream flows through a rocky streambed, past fallen logs,.

Between 2012 and 2017, the Mt. Hood National Forest and its partners performed extensive restoration work within the Still Creek watershed that flows nearby the Zigzag Ranger District. Restoring the health of Still Creek watershed is vital to recover healthy populations of threatened and endangered fish such as Coho salmon and steelhead among other wildlife species that are listed as “species of concern” tied to the Endangered Species Act.

“Still Creek has been identified as being one of the best areas for us to focus our efforts around Mt. Hood National Forest due to its historical populations of these important fish species,” Greg Wanner, Fish Biologist for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said. “The watershed health with potential to provide a lot of stream diversity also made it a prime candidate for our work.”

Total investments in the watershed amounted to nearly $2.2 million dollars and have resulted in significant improvements in habitat quality, water quality, and ecosystem function.

The project was driven by a few key goals: 1) restoring natural watershed processes and removal of invasive plants, 2) improving water quality in terms of temperature, and sediment reduction, 3) providing educational opportunities for nearby communities, 4) providing jobs to contractors and the local fishing industry, and 5) strengthening relationships between partnering organizations and private landowners.

A man wearing waders spreads his arms apart while standing on a pile of large diameter wood logs above a stream bed.

Greg Wanner demonstrates how a stream will spread out into the flood plain during the winter’s high water events with the addition of large wood – downed tree trunks and branches – in this still image from a 2013 video about the Still Creek fish stream restoration project. USDA Forest Service image..

Over the last several decades our understanding of what it means to have a healthy watershed has changed drastically. As recently as the early 90’s scientists and engineers believed that the best way of producing healthy fish populations was to channelize streams by removing boulders and large wood structures like logjams and generally straightening rivers wherever possible. The urgency for this work was also spurred by flooding events where cabins along streams near Mt. Hood specifically were damaged by high water levels.

The thinking back then was that if the water flowed faster, more water cold pass through the same space thus decreasing the possibility of water levels rising and at the same time, helping anadromous fish — fish that migrate to the ocean and then return to spawn — reach the ocean. Sadly, best intentions don’t always pan out the way we wish they did.

The streams in Mt. Hood’s watersheds saw a near total collapse of fish bearing stream habitats following the channelization. What fish biologists and other scientists soon realized was that the slower moving waters off the main channels of streams were vital places for fish to rest and feed. They further discovered that large woody structures helped create these slower water by spreading out the floodplains and provided important food sources for juvenile fish.

“The large woody debris structures are so important since they provide for juvenile fish places to rest and great food sources in insects in the slower moving waters,” Wanner said.

So, Mt. Hood biologists have been bringing back the logs and boulders and adding diversity back in the streams’ construction. Over the last five years, biologists have successfully restored 8 miles of stream along Still Creek and 185 acres of essential floodplain habitat.

In addition, the forest has successfully:

  • Built 240 logjams throughout the main channel of Still Creek.
  • Reconnected 6.5 miles of side channels to the main channel.
  • Rehabilitated 19 dispersed camp sites to help reduce contamination and sedimentation.
  • And removed barriers, like failing culverts, on over 3 miles of habitat for migratory fish.

But this story of success includes more players than just Forest Service biologists. Since 1999, the Sandy River Basin Partnership (SRBP), originally consisting of the City of Portland, Portland General Electric (PGE), the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), has played a huge role in making this restoration work a reality. Since its conception, SRBP now has 14 active partners.

With such a daunting task as restoring potentially tens of thousands of acres of watershed, SRBP decided to focus first on sections of stream that have historically supported salmon and steelhead populations from a variety of life stages and that have fairly well-connected river networks. Still Creek was identified as being a great location to restore stream habitat for Chinook salmon, Coho salmon, and winter steelhead.

“This work would not be possible without the vital partnership of so many nonprofit, state, and federal organizations,” Wanner said. “More than just providing funding, these partners have been pivotal in providing insights and legwork that has led to a much better project than we could have ever hoped for if we had worked alone just within our agency.”

The restoration efforts in adding large woody debris, boulder placement and stream diversification will continue to bring rich dividends for decades to come but restored spawning grounds for these threatened fish have already started to see increased use from these fish species.

Salmon and steelhead are important to the entire river ecosystem. They recycle nutrients back into the streams after they spawn, which shows the intricate interdependence of ecosystems. As this stream restoration effort continues, expanding to other areas beyond Still Creek, the Mt. Hood National Forest looks forward to continuing their partnership with the Sandy River Basin Partners in the hopes of assisting these vital fish species to continue to thrive.

Greg Wanner explains more about restoring salmon and steelhead habitat on Mt. Hood National Forest in the 2013 video, “Jumpstarting Fish Habitat: The Story of Still Creek,” at https://youtu.be/JmN86_Nrkp8.


SOURCE INFORMATION: Chris Bentley is the Website and Social Media manager for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communication and Community Engagement.

Mt. Hood kids fishing derby (photos)

MT. HOOD, Ore. – May 19, 2018 – Mt. Hood National Forest staff, volunteers, and a host of partner organizations angled to get children hooked on outdoors recreation during Hood River Ranger District’s annual fishing derby May 19, 2018.

Nearly 70 children took part in fishing clinics, crafts, outdoors education activities. Participants also vied for prizes in the longest cast competition and for landing the biggest fish.

The Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, Oregon State Police (Fish & Wildlife Division), Middle Fork Irrigation District, Hood River Valley High School, Columbia Gorge Fruit Growers, Dairy Queen, Rosauers Supermarkets, McIsaac’s Grocery Store and Starbucks Coffee also partnered with the USDA Forest Service to conduct the annual event.

Children get “hooked” on fishing at the Hood River Ranger District kids fishing derby at the Middle Fork settling pond on Mt. Hood National Forest May 19, 2018. USDA Forest Service photos by Jeffrey Lee, Hood River Ranger District, Mt. Hood National Forest.

Clockwise from top left: 1) First runner-up of the biggest catch competition.  2) Participants cast lines and wait for a bite at the pond’s edge. 3) Winner of the biggest catch competition. 4) Caught fish being measured for judging in the biggest catch competition.  5) Ron Kikel, a forest information assistant, and Jack the Owl provide an outdoors education clinic for fishing derby participants. 6) Event staff grill hot dogs for the hungry junior anglers. 7) Winner of the longest cast competition with family. 8) A panoramic view of the derby location. 9) “Frank the fish” greets participants signing up at the registration area. 10) A panoramic view of the Middle Fork settling pond, where the fishing derby was conducted. 11) A colorful sponsor recognition banner recognizes organizations that contributed to the event’s success. 12) Oregon State Patrol troopers shared some “fish stories” at story time during the derby. 13) Children paint colorful wooden fish cutouts during the derby’s art clinic.


Source information: Mt. Hood National Forest staff. This story was featured in “Valuing You: An R6 Update,” the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s employee newsletter, in the July, 2018 edition.

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