Fly Fishing Forum

Fly Fishing Forum (
-   Our Environment (
-   -   Critical Habitat Designations (

DEERHAAWK 08-24-2005 10:22 PM

Critical Habitat Designations
Good evening,
The Bush Administration, on Aug. 12, announced new critical habitat designations for 20 species of North West Salmon and Steelhead. This tactic will mean a reduction in areas formely designated "Critical". Most of the fish in this group are listed as Threatend or Endangered under the ESA (Endangered Species Act) This threatens to effect already "reduced" spawning and rearing habitat.

I dont get it.

The whole reason for "Critical Habitat Designations" is to define areas "Essential" for Salmon and Steelhead recovery. Removal of these habitat areas will UNDERMINE efforts over the years to HELP these species recover!
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary of the Interior, why would 2 grown adults like yourselves want to put something in play that will have a Negative effect on these species? I mean it dosen't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is the WRONG direction!

Some of the information contained here is from Earthjustice.


flytyer 08-24-2005 10:55 PM

This topic was covered in more detail this past winter. Don't forget that most of the so-called critical habitat that was removed for salmon and steelhead recovery was in river and streams (or portions thereof) that never had salmon or steelhead swimming in them because of natural barriers.

For example, there are a lot of small seasonal streams in the Skagit River drainage that never supported salmon or steelhead, including many that empty into one of the up-river dams (which were constructed above a natural barrier to fish migration thus anadromous fish never utilized them); but they used to be designated critical habitat. These are now not included in the critical habitat.

Another example, the Snoqualmie River above Snowqualmie falls never had anadromous fish in it, its three branches, or the tributaries above the falls. Despite this, these streams and the three branches of the river were designated critical habitat, now they are not.

I ask: How can rivers, streams, or sections of rivers or streams that never had anadromous fish in them be considered as critical for the survival and recovery of an anadromous species? This leads to a second question: Since they never had anadromous fish in them, how is removing the critical habitat designation going to harm the anadromous fish?

Eric 08-24-2005 11:04 PM

Hey, Deerhawk,

Thanks for posting this.

I think the current administration is setting environmental policy based on a very archaic notion of natural resource sustainability, a notion straight out of the 19th Century and founded on the belief that the world's resources are here for the benefit of those most able to exploit them. It's really distressing that Dick Cheney, a very good fly fisherman, is an apparently willing accomplice to much of this short sighted and destructive policy making.

I really think these policies are consistent with the administration's world view, which to me is anathema. Local politics and local action is about all we have. We need to support habitat enhancement and protection, natural reproduction, riparian zones, reduced pollution, etc. in every way we can. We need to support the volunteer groups and organizations that are fighting the good fight in every way we can.

We need to weather out this national onslaught against our resources and maybe elect some more enlightened and sensitive legislators beginning in 2006. We need to get enviromental issues, such as the Critcal Habitat bs, back on the public's radar screen.

Hang in there. Your post is a motivator.

dc_chu 08-25-2005 12:46 AM

flytyer's assessment doesn't fully apply for California, whose much of its rich steelhead/salmon runs have been wiped out. Restoration efforts underway to bring back historical runs (some wiped out as recently as 20 years ago), are definitely in question with the removal of critical habitat designation.

The article below provides a good example of how this policy undercut's California's restoration efforts. :mad:

Feds cut chinook protection
Critical-habitat designation removed from nearly all Sonoma County creeks

Monday, August 22, 2005


The federal government has withdrawn its critical habitat designation for imperiled chinook salmon from every creek in Sonoma County except the main stem of the Russian River and Austin and Dry creeks.

The action removes a layer of scrutiny if new development or agriculture is contemplated along streams such as Santa Rosa Creek, the Laguna de Santa Rosa, Mark West Creek and Copeland Creek.

Officials for the Fisheries Service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the designation wasn't necessary to protect the chinook. But environmental groups said the agency's action could keep salmon from reclaiming their historic spawning grounds.

Initially, NOAA Fisheries required all creeks and rivers accessible to endangered or threatened salmon be protected as habitat critical to their survival under the Endangered Species Act.

In 2000, the National Association of Home Builders challenged the designation, and in 2002 the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations filed suit to restore it.

In response, NOAA Fisheries on Aug. 12 cut back the critical habitat designation on California rivers by nearly 80 percent, from 46,500 miles of river to 9,800 miles.

The designation was removed from all urban streams, and in rural areas protects only the parts of rivers and streams currently used by salmon.

A spokesman for NOAA Fisheries said the critical-habitat designation added little protection once a species was already listed as threatened or endangered.

That's because the listing still prohibits any direct harm to fish, and county setback rules and state and federal clean-water and wetlands protections still apply, said Bob Lohn, Northwest regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

"I think the practical impact should be quite small," Lohn said.

But local environmental groups said NOAA has essentially given up on restoring streams where salmon have historically been found, diminishing the fish's chances of returning there, said Don McEnhill of Friends of the Russian River, an environmental group.

"It's unscientific to just write off Mark West Creek, Santa Rosa Creek, and the top end of Copeland Creek where we have endangered fish," McEnhill said. "These are places where we've spent millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours to restore habitat, and NOAA is turning its back."

NOAA also removed critical habitat protection for steelhead from Santa Rosa Creek and the Laguna de Santa Rosa. The actions do not affect critical habitat protection for coho salmon, which also includes the main stem of the Russian River.

juro 08-25-2005 03:53 AM

Flytyer makes a good point, I am familiar with those waters... however, what percentage of these designations (in terms of quantity) are natural barrier water vs. not?

If all of these removed designations are on the other side of natural barriers then a wild salmon / steelhead policy seems moot, unless we are talking about waters like the upper Skykomish in which case it makes perfect sense.

If we can take away, and that we've proven we can do VERY well, then why not give something free to our inseparable partner in survival, mother nature?

I'd be curious to see if these designations make anadromous sense (per above logic) or not. It would be a refreshing first if it did.

What I find disturbing about this is that the impetus behind it is to expedite further exploitation of these watersheds in the typically self-centered manner with the greenback leading the charge - where the original designation was intended to provide a layer of protection for these species which we have already pounded into submission.


OC 08-25-2005 11:16 AM

What I would like to know about all this is how will it effect Salmon and Steelhead below the man made and natural barriers? Will farmers and industry be able to take more water from these areas where no fish reside thus effecting in stream flow down river where fish do exist. Will industry be able to let's say make gravel quaries or mining operations in these no fish zones thus creating run off, heavy metals and increased water temps below in summer? Will timber companies and private land owners be able to cut timber all the way to the strean bank now because no fish exist above the barrier and their property is above the barrier? My main concern is East of the Cascades here in Washington and Oregon and probably in parts of Eastern California. We must remember that water flows down hill. We must also remember that politians from all parties produce something else when mixed with water that flows down hill too, all in the name of profits for those who support them.

DEERHAAWK 08-26-2005 12:16 AM

Let's approach Flytier's 2 questions, but first a response.
Any issue dealing with the survival of endangered species, should be debated openly for as long as it takes to achieve a suitable end that will ensure the species in question has safeguards in place that will allow it to be an thriving part of it's Natural suroundings.
Obviously this is NOT the case now!

How can rivers and streams, or portions of them, that never had Anadromous fish be considered "Critical" for the survival of Anadromous species?
So you have river A, and river A has had a small run of steelhead, but only up to stream 1, because above stream 1 is a dam thats been in place for 100 years, or a 50foot waterfall, etc.
Above this obstruction is the mainstem of river A which breaks into S and N forks as well as numerous feeder streams.
Along comes the Gov, and the Gov says "Aint never seen no steelhead up in theese parts, so theese parts aint "Critical" Designation droped.
Along comes contractor Smith, buys up the land above the obstruction, cuts down all the trees and builds condos, which polutes the mainstem and wipes out alot of the feeder streams.
Meanwhile downstream the steelhead run starts feeling a little quezy and they start diein off cause the portion of the stream that they "Never used" got screwed up, and in there world everything runs downhill.
And when this happens, will you see the steelhead walkin in front of City Hall in Seattle or Portland or Sacramento with little signs sayin "Unfair to Fish"?
We have to stand up for them
We have to make sure that no one has a chance to screw it up!

Since they never had Anadromous fish, how is removing critical habitat going to hurt them?
Same as story one, except instead of diein in the river, they die in the ocean!
It is not "Part" We have to get away from this "Part" stuff. These seperate and unique systems are intergrated with other unique systems to form a "Whole"!
If certain individuals are allowed to put these things in play, it will take ten times as long to remove them when the effects are realized.
Why when something is Good and does Good would anyone want to stop it and take a chance on making it Bad.
Beats the Hell out of me.
Puget Sound has less than 5% of its historical Salmon and Steelhead runs. The Columbia system is just as bad. Im sure it's the same for our Brothers in Fish to the south. Ive only been on this planet for 50 years, I don't know where the Salmon were 100, 200 500 years ago! Mabye they were in these streams and rivers that don't have them now.
But Ill say this, Ill bet it wasn't other fish that booted them out...
My question is, why should we remove even an inch more of Critical Habitat regardless of whether the Steelhead or Salmon visit there or not?
I am sure there is some species that would bennifit, mabye Us?

juro 08-26-2005 07:46 AM

I share the passion brother.

However if the habitat designations are for wild salmon and steelhead, then flytyer's argument carries water for those sections that are truly never graced by indigenous anadromous species.

BUT (and this is a huge but) one of the biggest problems with watershed management is that actions are made in a small-minded manner without considering (or caring for) the impacts on adjacent waters, in this case as Deerhawk and OC pointed out being directly downstream which is the worst possible scenario.

But even when an aquifer is drained far away from the river banks it negatively affects the welfare of fragile systems. The average north american aquifer is hundreds of square miles.

Use of pesticides and fertilizers without proper buffering and precautions can devastate an entire system.

I see no point in moving backwards, regardless of whether the fish moved thru that particular section or not.

A compromise that alleviated constraints on these adjacent waters while restricting impact on the overall watershed would be acceptable. My level of confidence that special interests could maintain such respect for the overall watershed while they move toward expliotation? Very, very low.

The proof is in the pudding, history proves that humans really suck at this sort of thing.


SSPey 08-26-2005 11:38 AM


Originally Posted by flytyer
Don't forget that most of the so-called critical habitat that was removed for salmon and steelhead recovery was in river and streams (or portions thereof) that never had salmon or steelhead swimming in them because of natural barriers.


aside from the obvious fact that water flows downhill, which raises concerns alone ....

can you provide documentation or a link showing clearly that "most of the so-called critical habitat" areas in question were never accessible due to natural barriers?

I'd be willing to get that MOST of the areas in question - and certainly ones of which I am aware in Central Oregon upriver of the Deschutes dams - come up a flaming bright RED on these maps


SSPey 08-26-2005 11:51 AM

from the Seattle Times:

In a new, narrower interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, the Bush administration yesterday said for the first time that it wants to safeguard as "critical" only those waterways currently occupied by salmon and steelhead not areas that might be considered part of a fish's historic range.

I don't want to get into a cut-n-paste war, but many quotes like the one above are floating around.

Yet, when I visit some of the most pro-wild fish extinction websites that I can find (Klamath Alliance, Pacific Legal Foundation), I am unable to find information backing your claim that "MOST" critical habitat in question occurs above natural barriers to anadromy. And even if I could find it there - which I can't - I wouldn't trust the words of these one-eyed groups any more than words from our own pro-wild-fish extinction administration

flytyer 08-26-2005 04:49 PM

Puget Sound and the Columbia basin have had a lot of alterations to natural water flow and ability of anadromous fish to ascent the rivers because of dams. And it is very unlikely that those dams will be coming down. Before folks go ballistic on the current administration, keep in mind that these fish blocking dams were built long before this administration was in office and most were built when the so-called "fish friendly" federal and state administrations were in power. These dams that have blocked anadromous fish (or made it much more difficult for them to get over them and upriver or through them and downriver) have had a detrimental effect on fish runs.

Keep in mind that the governors of both Washington and Oregon were opposed to the extra water being spilled over the Columbia dams this summer, and both are supposedly "fish friendly". There is also the problem of whether policy ought to be formulated by biologist, politicians, courts, or interest groups.

Regarding the dam spill this year (which environmental groups hailed as a victory for the fish) were considered by the biologists not to be the best way to insure the survival of the maximum number of fish in low-water years like this. The biologists were of the opinion that barging in low-water years was best. Of course, the opinnion of the biologists working in the Columbia basin was ignored because emotionally, it didn't make sense. Afterall, fish need water and if more water is spilled over the dams, the fish have to benefit, right? The opinion of the biologist didn't fit this type of emotional reasoning, so they were ignored and the judge ruled in favor of spilling the water.

Commercial over harvest and sportsfishing over harvest have also been detrimental to fish run sizes. Plus, there is the ocean, over which we have precious little control, that plays a significant role in the relative abundance or lack thereof of the fish.

Then there are things such as the Mining Act of 1872 that Congress (regardless of which party has been in control) has been unwilling the change or eliminate, which also play a role.

And we must not forget that a Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3 years ago that only things that have demonstrated, actual value can be considered in the economic value portion of a plan or designation of habitat, and it was upheld by the Supreme Court when it refused to hear the appeal by NMFS and the Forest Service of this ruling. Thus, NOAA-F and other federal and state agencies can no longer include the value of recreation unless they have hard evidence of the actual economic activity (i.e. how many dollars were generated) of that activity. This has had a majoy impact on these agencies.

There are a lot of factors involved: court decisions, legislative, interest groups (environmental, conservation, agriculture, power generation, logging, mining, and development), media, and fisherman (sportsfishers, tribal, and commercial). And we can't ignore any of them because all of them have an impact on the fish. Eliminating those areas that never had anadromous fish from the areas deemed "critical habitat" for anadromous fish hardly constitutes the sky is falling and the fish are losing even more rhetoric I've been reading from environmental groups. Simply put, doing so is emotional reasoning and as such, does not help find solutions to the problem of declining runs.

Items such as the WA State legislators or governors getting rid of sportsfishing and/or conservation friendly Fish & Wildlife Dept. Directors or Commission members cannot be ignored or put on the back burner because they are not as "big" emotionally as changing critical habitat designations. I've seen virtually nothing about this problem from the environmental groups. Likewise, fish farms can't be ignored. Nor can things like: irrigating what used to be high desert to grow grass or alfalfa for cattle (like in the upper Klamath) or holding back water to save fish that has thrived only because of the irrigation dams on the Klamath, while the native anadromous fish suffer from a lack of water in the river; or the dams on the Deschutes used for power generation and irrigation (although then we need to have electrical power generated some other way, perhaps nuclear).

SSPey 08-26-2005 05:24 PM

yeah, ok, but none of that speaks to the veracity of your claim that:


Originally Posted by flytyer
most of the so-called critical habitat that was removed for salmon and steelhead recovery was in river and streams (or portions thereof) that never had salmon or steelhead swimming in them because of natural barriers.

.... did you make up that statement? :redface:

inland 08-26-2005 07:42 PM


I understand where you are coming from. But I don't agree with it. In a few areas it won't impact much. But overall I can think of hundreds of scenarios that aren't going to do the ecosystems any favors. Crappy water quality starts somewhere. The higher in the drainage it starts the more it impacts. Things flow downhill. A green light to go back to more destructive land uses is only going to make things worse.

This is nothing more than political games. Optimistically we can hope the next regime is more ecologically sound. There's always hope...


flytyer 08-26-2005 07:50 PM


I don't like to do this; but since you have questioned my integity and directly flamed me instead of speaking on the issue in all three of your posts, which is very different from the way Deerhaawk, OC, dc_chu, and Juro did things, here goes.

If you go back and read what Keith Jackson posted when this topic came up this past winter/spring, you will see that as far as WA State goes, the streams, rivers, and drainages that were to be removed from the critical habitat designation indeed were areas that did not have anadromous fish in them. That is also why I provided the examples of the Snoqualmie River above the falls, the Skagit River tributaries above the dams (which were built above where anadromous fish had access due to the severe hydraulics of the long catarac at that point in the river, which was a natural barrier to anadromous fish), and the Skagit River tributaries that didn't have anadromous fish in them being removed from the critical habitat designation.

This is why I commented in my first post on this thread that this subject was covered in more detail before in the hope that folks would take the time to search for it, read what was posted before on the topic, and then add to the discussion instead of covering what was covered before or having the thread turn into a flame fest of emotional reasoning.

Also, the maps in the link you provided in your prior post had nothing in them on what areas have been or are now considered critical habitat. Therefore, they are not very useful to this discussion on the changes to how much land area has been designated critical habitat.


Remember there is nothing wrong with disagreement and telling someone you disagree because this adds to a discussion and allows more information to be provided on a given issue or topic. However, doing so requires that we state our position(s), provide some rationale for what we post, and not make personal attacks (also known as flaming) because we disagree with what someone posted.

flytyer 08-26-2005 08:24 PM


I grew up in the anthracite coal country of Northeastern Pennsylvania (I left there at age 25 back in 1978) and saw hundreds of miles of rivers and streams be devoid of any life because of acid mine drainage from the coal mines and coal processing plants called coal breakers. I also spent a lot of time exploring small streams in Montana during the 12 years I lived there from 1979 to 1981 and saw a lot of mine tailings problems in the now ghost town mining towns, not to mention to huge problem in the Clark Fork River from the copper mining and smelting in Butte and Anaconda Montana area.

I witnessed a huge fish kill after a short, intense cloudburst on the Upper Clark Fork in 1989 because it washed heavy metals, cyanide, and arsenic from the "slickens" along the river into it. I also witnessed what happened to the Blackfoot River in the early summer of 1990 when the old 7-Up Pete mine tailings pond located upstream of the town of Lincoln, MT broke and dumped heavy metals, cyanide, and arsenic into the big Blackfoot and killed fish all the way to Milltown dam some 90 miles downstream. This "event" took a long time for the river to recover from this and only recently has become a decent fishery again.

These things have made me very aware of the dangers of development such as mining in upstream areas. That is why I mentioned the Mining Act of 1872. It allows individuals or mining companies to stake a claim for the metals or minerals found, patent the mine site (meaning it becomes their propery), and then mine it if they get permission to do so while not even having to pay royalties on the metals or minerals extracted. That is something only Congress can change.

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:46 PM.

vBulletin Security provided by vBSecurity v2.2.2 (Pro) - vBulletin Mods & Addons Copyright © 2017 DragonByte Technologies Ltd.
Copyright (All Rights Reserved)