Tackling nearshore habitat and forest practices

After lunch, speakers from the Skagit River System Cooperative, the Upper Skagit Indian Tribe and Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission discussed the nearshore environment and forest practices.

Eric Beamer, research director for SRSC (the natural resources arm of the Swinomish and Sauk-Suiattle tribes) described the importance of pocket estuaries in studying the life history of chinook. Read more about Beamer’s research here.

Chinook salmon is the diversity king.

We’re managing for salmon, but there’s a lot more out there than salmon. Smelt, shiner perch — they’re all important to nearshore habitat.


SRSC restoration director Steve Hinton
described some of the cooperative’s restoration projects in the nearshore enviroment. Among these are Crescent Harbor, which is a partnership with the U.S. Navy, and Turner’s Bay.

In the forestry session, Curt Veldhuisen, TFW program director for SRSC, talked about the importance of headwater streams:

Our society has very much bought into the idea that fish habitat has to be protected. Why should fish managers care about headwater streams, which are by definition, not fish bearing?

For every mile of fish habitat there are many miles of headwater streams that lead into fish-bearing streams. Headwater streams influence stream temperature, sediment, food resources, nutrients and woody debris in fish-bearing streams.

The current method of classifying headwater streams, based on whether a stream is perennial or seasonal, is not effective, he said. He recommended a return to the channel width method of classification.

Channel width is not a bad place to go back to, you can recognize it 12 months of the year. Two people can agree on channel width. It reflects channel discharge and drives wood size.

Whatever the method, it has to protect watershed functions… and be implementable … and be acceptable to other caucuses

It’s not going to happen any time soon but I think it’s worth the effort.

Nancy Sturhan, forest practices coordinator for the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, discussed the importance of having a Forests and Fish Report agenda and monitoring strategy.

Setting a work agenda allows tribes to be pro-active, rather than react to what other people are doing.

What if no one spent money on conservation without first checking with the tribes about where that would make the greatest difference to fish?

Sturhan suggests looking back at some of the forgotten monitoring programs that had a big initial investment and still have value to be realized. These include ambient monitoring and watershed analysis, where old sites could be revisited and old data compared to new.

Or, tribes could develop their own watershed analysis to produce opportunities not prescriptions.

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