NOAA Fisheries, with input from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has finalized the Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead report. It identifies a comprehensive suite of actions with the greatest likelihood of making progress toward rebuilding Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead to healthy and harvestable levels. The final report follows the draft, which was released in July, and incorporates feedback from state and tribal fishery co-managers.
The recommended suite of actions to rebuild Columbia Basin stocks include: increasing habitat restoration, reintroducing salmon into blocked areas, breaching dams, managing predators, reforming fish hatcheries and harvest and reconnecting floodplain habitat.
“This is a crucial time for the Columbia Basin’s salmon and steelhead. They face increasing pressure from climate changeoffsite link and other longstanding stressors including water quality and fish blockages caused by dams,” said Janet Coit, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries and acting assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at NOAA. “The report identifies goals for the recovery of salmon and steelhead that will require a sustained commitment over many decades.”
The actions reflected in the report convey the urgency behind the Columbia Basin Partnership’s 2020 recommendations that merely avoiding extinction of native salmon and steelhead is not enough. Instead, the Partnership called for healthy and harvestable numbers that contribute fully to the culture, environment and economy of the region. The report is not a regulatory document, but rather is intended to inform and contribute to regional conversations and funding decisions.
The Columbia Basin Partnership expressed the hope that in 20 years, the people of the Columbia Basin would view the Partnership’s work and the resulting efforts as “a turning point for the return of healthy and abundant salmon and steelhead to the Columbia River.” The report represents one step toward that important goal.
The final report will inform ongoing dialogues about salmon restoration and decisions regarding allocation of resources for recovery actions. The rebuilding actions can also help restore fish populations to meet long standing commitments to Columbia Basin tribes.