What happens after you take out a dam (Condit) that has been here for over 100 years? Do you restock with hatchery fish or let nature take her course? Re-wilding is a term for letting nature have her way while monitoring the results, plus providing habitat restoration.
The results of re-wilding on the White Salmon River are good news, as revealed at the Wild About Nature presentation last Friday at the White Salmon library.
Chinook and Coho are finding their way back to the White Salmon river and into Rattlesnake, Mill, Spring, and Buck Creeks. What challenges do fish have in establishing themselves in a river? Barriers include: physical – dams and gradient (falls too steep to jump), biophysical -water temperature and food availability, and bio-resistance – competition for space and food with others already there. Our fish are now free to swim upriver until they hit high falls, and the White Salmon, with its swift passage from its source to the Columbia has the cold temperatures fish need. Removal of the dam has resulted in improved fish habitat downstream as well. “The White Salmon Working Group, which is a consortium of Yakama Nation, federal, state, and PacifiCorp biologists, has estimated the White Salmon River has enough spawning grounds to accommodate more than 600 steelhead spawners and 1,200 fall Chinook. Bull trout, Coho, lamprey and spring Chinook could also benefit from a reconnected river,” says the Friends of the White Salmon website. That organization has been working for 40 years to protect the White Salmon.
Amazingly our steelhead and rainbow trout who have been blocked by the dam have never given up the desire to get to the sea. After their time in the ocean, they find their way back upriver by the smell of their home waters.
Steelhead and coho chinook are now spawning in the upper White Salmon. Where did these fish come from? Most are from the (lower) White Salmon (42%), with Skamania contributing 26%, Hood River 19%, Klickitat 2%, while 1% are seriously lost fish from the Willamette River.
There are 108 different stocks on the Columbia and its tributaries. Some are world famous: The Carson Chinook, Spring Creek Tules, Columbia Redband Trout. The “smelling you way home” thing doesn’t always work perfectly and some of our fish have been found in the Great Lakes and other far-flung places.
SDS Forestry and Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Forest Herbicides was the lengthy title of the second presentation by Dave Wasgatt and Nate Putnam.
SDS is engaged in the difficult task of balancing responsible environmental practices with the fact that they are in business to earn a profit. On the plus side: they don’t use pesticides except for their seed crop, which means the 130,000 acres they own in the Gorge are insecticide free.
They are on a 60 year harvesting rotation, as opposed to some timber companies who harvest every 45 years. 25 trees can absorb the carbon footprint of one car and young trees absorb more carbon that older ones. SDS leaves streamside corridors and they have a Safe Harbor Agreement with US Fish and Wildlife.
SDS uses feller bunchers to create snags for birds to nest in, clipping a tree off at the appropriate height. If you see a tree double banded in a stand about to be harvested, that means it is destined to be left for a wildlife snag. They leave stands of Oregon White Oak, as these are valuable for acorn production which many birds and mammals use for food.
The final Wild about Nature program will be held on Friday, April 26, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Featured programs include “The Burke Museum Herbarium and the New Flora of the Pacific Northwest,” by David E. Giblin, and “Snakes of the Columbia Gorge,” by Chris Rombough.