Protecting Public Lands
The Oregon Coast represents the largest regional sanctuary in the lower 48 for wild fish. Wild Salmon Center is strengthening this great collection of stronghold rivers from headwaters to sea in order to recover Oregon Coast coho populations and eventually remove them from the federal endangered species list. We work with public, private, and nonprofit partners to protect headwaters forests, conserve lowland streams and wetlands, and reduce competition between hatchery fish and wild fish.
Safeguarding Tillamook headwaters
The Tillamook Rainforest covers 518,000 acres of state lands and free-flowing rivers between greater Portland and the Pacific Ocean. Six rivers here—the Trask, Wilson, Kilchis, Miami, Nehalem, and Salmonberry—host extraordinary runs of wild fall Chinook and winter steelhead, as well as spring Chinook, coho, chum, and rainbow and sea-run cutthroat trout.
Thanks to leadership from Governor Brown, a steady shift in politics in Salem, visionary members of the Oregon Board of Forestry, and relentless public pressure, the state is moving ahead a plan to protect roughly half of the Tillamook — 250,000 acres — in stream and forest reserves for 70 years.
Designating the Scenic Nehalem
Nestled in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests is the Nehalem River, an Oregon North Coast gem that meanders from cold mountain streams to coastal estuary. The watershed includes important tributaries for salmon like the Salmonberry River. The watershed and its forests provide key habitat for wildlife — including endangered marbled murrelets, and provide a cherished destination for Oregonians who hike, fish, camp, and float its clear waters.
In July 2019, Governor Kate Brown designated the 17.5 mile stretch of the Nehalem River as a State Scenic Waterway, reserving the stretch for its scenic, habitat and recreational values that Oregonians hold dear.
A plan for recovering coho
Wild Salmon Center has partnered with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA Restoration Center, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to build a business plan for the conservation of Oregon Coast coho. The plan for voluntary habitat protection and restoration projects, developed with local communities, will help recover threatened and endangered populations of coho.
Starting in the Siuslaw, Nehalem, and Elk watersheds, we’ve begun to pinpoint priority restoration actions using the best science and mapping tools—to make sure projects generate the greatest possible benefit for every project dollar spent. Partners also now have a long-term, science-based plan for coho recovery.
The summer of 2018 marked the launch of coho recovery in action with 27 foothold structures for beavers (or Beaver Dam Analogs) built on four priority reaches of the headwaters of the Upper Nehalem river.
Keeping the Elliott State Forest public
The Elliott State Forest near Coos Bay is a coastal treasure consisting of 82,500 acres of public land that includes rare remnant old growth and critical habitat for Oregon coastal coho salmon. Unfortunately, the forest was at risk of being sold to a private logging company. Privatization would cut off access for local anglers and hunters—the Elliott is some of the last accessible land in the area—and could harm fish habitat.
Governor Brown has a vision for these lands that would keep the forest publicly owned and publicly accessible. Her framework includes protection for rare habitat and water quality, a sustainable timber program, and a tribal ownership element. Oregonians should support this vision.
We rallied a coalition of hunters and fishers to speak up in favor of keeping the Elliott public, so that it’s diverse coastal forests could continue to support elk hunting and key spawning grounds habitat for Oregon coast coho salmon. The State Land Board responded by unanimously cancelling the sale of the Elliott.
As the state re-envisions the Elliott for the future, Wild Salmon Center in partnership with the Oregon Hunting Association, is providing critical input to the state. We will make sure the Elliott evolves into a thriving forest with a strong emphasis on both recreation and conservation.
Creating coastal sanctuaries for wild fish
Wild Salmon Center believes hatcheries play an important role producing salmon for recreational and commercial harvest. But to protect diverse runs of wild fish, we should prevent the spread of hatcheries into rivers that support important wild salmon populations.
On the Oregon Coast, a series of rivers north of the Rogue River stretching up to the Columbia remain free of hatchery fish. WSC supported the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in establishing “Wild Fish Emphasis Areas” on roughly half of the watersheds between the Rogue River and Columbia. The state has committed to keep these watersheds “hatchery free” for 12 years.
In the coastal watersheds where hatchery programs remain, Oregon is also reducing hatchery releases and changing hatchery release locations and timing to avoid overlap with wild salmon migrations.