Priority Watershed: The Olympic Peninsula

Olympic Peninsula, WA - 3/8/03 - At a time of record returns, both in hatchery and wild coho salmon, the move to buy up more land to "save the salmon" relentlously continues. Despite the scientific evidence pointing to a variety of reasons for salmon population reduction, including the 25-year ocean cycle, predators like seal and whales, and netting at river mouths, the fish have returned in huge numbers, according to tribal reports.

Organizations like Wild Salmon Center, however, continue to partner with federal agencies toward buying up more land on the North Olympic Peninsula. Says former Clallam County Commissioner Phil Kitchel of Forks, "At a time when the forest service itself admits that it doesn't have the manpower or capability of patrolling and taking care of lands already owned by government, is a proposal to "acquire 10,000 acres of private riparian forestland to protect priority salmonid refugia, funded by US Land and Water Conservation Fund". They have already had discussions with the district Forest Service Ranger on the Forest Service managing these lands once acquired and the also conversations with Dale Hom who is the head of the Olympic National Forest."

They have also entered into an agreement with the Hoh Tribe, and the Ecotrust and Western Rivers Conservancy to pursue these goals.

"This could have a significant impact on this area, and why the Forest Service would want to acquire more lands when they can't manage the lands they currently have is beyond me but anyway read this and let me know what you think," Kitchel said.

from the Wild Salmon Center Website:

The Hoh River Basin
From a Pacific Rim perspective, the Olympic Peninsula is an important stronghold for salmon and trout native to the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest. From a regional standpoint, the Hoh River represents one of the best remaining chances to protect wild salmon and their ecosystems in the lower 48 states. This is because the Hoh and its tributaries still have wild salmon, trout and steelhead stocks, most of the stocks are relatively healthy, and over half of the watershed remains in pristine condition.

We rank the Hoh Basin, including the Calawah and Elk Creek, as a high priority based on an evaluation of the following indicators of conservation value:
Health and Productivity (healthy native stocks and productive salmon and steelhead runs)
Species Richness (high salmonid diversity)
Representativeness (species diversity typical of biogeographic region)
Uniqueness (containing unusual or endemic species or races)
High ratio of protected to unprotected lands (small incremental investment needed to protect salmon ecosystem)

Hoh River Basin, Olympic Peninsula
Watershed Status: Sixty-five percent of the 299-square mile watershed is within Olympic National Park and protected from most human-caused ecosystem disturbance. Roughly 250 people live in the lower Hoh River basin, which has been impacted by timber harvests, road building, bank stabilization and gravel excavation. Still, the lower Hoh is one of the least developed river systems in the Pacific Northwest.

Hatchery Influences: Although the Hoh Tribe releases 50,000 winter steelhead smolts annually, and there is evidence of some out-of-basin straying from other hatchery salmon and steelhead, the influence of hatchery practices is small.

Harvest Influences: There is an active year-round recreational fishery for Hoh River salmon and steelhead. The Hoh Tribe fishes commercially and for ceremonial and subsistence purposes, although the harvest levels are relatively low (less than 4,000 fish a year).

Recent Accomplishments: In summer and autumn 2002, Wild Salmon Center salmon biologists John McMillan and James Starr completed their third consecutive summer survey in the Hoh River basin. In the course of their study, they conduct exhaustive habitat and salmon population mapping, bushwacking through remote roadless areas to snorkel the tributaries and side-channels.

John and James have found that not all salmon habitat is equal, even within the most “pristine” watersheds. During the first-ever intensive survey of the Calawah River basin in September 2002, John and James surveyed every pool, run, glide, riffle and cascade that could be snorkeled. Every unit was mapped for habitat, whether or not it was snorkeled. The team covered 50 stream miles over five weeks, exploring areas of the watershed that have been closed to human access for the last decade, and its findings are adding valuable scientific evidence of the immense conservation value of salmon habitat areas outside Olympic National Park.

Species List:

Spring/summer chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)
Fall chinook (O. tshawytscha)
Fall coho (O. kisutch)
Summer steelhead (O. mykiss)
Winter steelhead (O. mykiss)
Resident rainbow trout (O. mykiss)
Pink salmon (O. gorbuscha)
Sockeye salmon (O. nerka)
Chum salmon (O. keta)
Sea run/fluvial/resident coastal cutthroat (O. clarki)
Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) (listed by USFWS as threatened)
Dolly varden (S. malma) (listed by NMFS as threatened under similarity of appearance provision when they occur together with bull trout on Olympic Peninsula)

From Cascadia Salmon Biodiversity Program - Strategies for this year, the website states:

During 2002 and 2003, the Wild Salmon Center's principal objectives will be to:

  • Finalize the identification of salmon hot spots and strongholds within Cascadia.
  • Initiate habitat assessments and snorkel surveys within hot spot watersheds.
  • Map existing and potential refugia within hot spot watersheds; create GIS maps showing refugia, potential refugia, land ownership, and protection and restoration priorities within the hot spot basins.
  • Form partnerships with Native American Tribes to help develop and initiate a salmonid sanctuary program on salmon hot spot rivers.
  • Form partnerships with other organizations and individuals, and build support for land acquisition campaigns protecting the river floodplain and refugia areas on salmon hot spot rivers.
  • Develop stewardship plans that will allow essential ecosystem processes to be maintained and foster community sustainability in each basin.
  • Establish biological monitoring stations as part of the long term conservation strategy for each priority river basin. These places will serve as a focus for continuing study and stewardship to ensure permanent protection for salmon sanctuaries.

The site points to the North Olympic Peninsula as one of the areas designated for the above objectives.

The Wild Salmon Center (WSC) is a 501(c)(3) organization in partnership with such organizations as the Conservation International Institute of Biological Problems of the North IUCN / World Conservation Union Kamchatka Environmental Protection, the Kamchatka Institute for Ecology and Natural Resources, the Kamchatka League of Independent Experts (Russian) Institute of Water Ecological Problems, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Trout Pacific Environment, Russian Academy of Sciences (Russian) and others. See entire list here.

If there is any doubt about the influence of United Nations organizations directing the United States toward "sustainability" and the Wildlands Project implementation, click here and look around.

Last year, the Hoh River near Forks was a topic of interest, as follows:

Past Event: American Fisheries Society Western Division Annual Meeting
SESSION 10C : Monitoring Recovery Efforts for Pacific Salmon
May 1, 2002. 8:00 to 9:50
Evaluating refugia within a large-scale, salmonid monitoring project in the Hoh River Basin.
John McMillan, Wild Salmon Center Salmonid Ecologist

ABSTRACT: Identifying salmonid refugia is a relatively new challenge for conservationists. Our goal is to identify and prioritize refugia for adult and juvenile salmonids in the Hoh River basin. This basin is large, with an extensive, active floodplain located on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington. We selected a total of 14 survey sites, from spring-brooks to the mainstem. We conducted snorkel surveys during the summer and winter of 2000/2001 and 2001/2002 to determine the abundance and diversity of juvenile salmonids. Redd counts conducted by the Hoh Indian Tribe and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from 1990-2000 provided spawner abundance and distribution estimates for adult salmonids. We also collected habitat measurements following the Oregon DFW Aquatic Inventory (1998) protocol. These results demonstrated that mainstem floodplain habitat supports the greatest abundance and diversity of juvenile salmonids followed closely by main valley tributaries. Analysis of the redd counts suggest that the mainstem river and four main valley tributaries are disproportionately important for spawning salmonids. Results indicate that core mainstem habitat had the highest densities of rearing juvenile fish, during both summer and winter months. Overall, we successfully identified key sub-watersheds that had the highest densities of spawners and rearing juvenile fish and which could be targeted for protection within conservation strategies.


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