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Washington's Watershed Conditions Continue to Decline

Oregon Department of Forestry
File photo of coho salmon swimming in a stream in Oregon's Tillamook State Forest.

The condition of watersheds in Washington state continues to decline. That’s according to the the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. The organization delivered the news to the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday.

Biologist Tyson Waldo said limiting fish harvest coupled with various habitat restoration projects simply isn’t enough.

“The legacy of 165 years of land use has left our watersheds keeps them degraded,” Waldo said. “Without change in land use practice and regulatory commitment to protecting the resources of our watersheds, habitat restoration will not be enough to recover salmon.”

Waldo pointed to a number of land-use practices including the timber industry.

“Too many forest roads creates too much sediment, which fills spawning gravels and rearing pools -- grave impacts for the fish,” Waldo said. “Our watersheds have too many forest roads.”

The Commission releases a report on Northwest watershed conditions every five years. Some of the data collected for this year’s report was used to inform this week’s 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that requires Washington to replace or repair fish-blocking culverts statewide.