On February 4 of this year, the California Fish and Game Commission at long last voted to move forward with endangered status listing for coho salmon populations north of San Francisco under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). Populations south of SF were already listed under CESA, and all California coho populations have been listed as endangered under the federal ESA since the mid 90's. The state listing is particularly important because it not only offers additional protections over the federal ESA, particularly on private lands, but it is accompanied by a recovery plan. The feds have never released a recovery plan.
The 786-page California Coho Salmon Recovery Strategy, delivering over 750 recommendations, was completed and released last fall. The final Recovery Strategy was adopted by the Fish and Game Commission at their Feb. 4 meeting, and the Commission's formal listing decision will take place at their June 25 meeting in Crescent City. The cost of full implementation is estimated to be $5 billion, but many of the recommendations can be implemented at a much lower cost. Adoption of regulations to guide issuance of "incidental take permits" is expected to take six months or longer.
Some of the recommendations address adverse impacts on the fish from bad logging practices. Although the
California Forest Practice Rules purport to ensure protection of "sensitive resources" such as anadromous fish, the rules are either too open to interpretation, or lose their intent in weak implementation and enforcement. A
scientific panel in 1999 found that the failure to
protect the coho is largely due to the lack of a watershed analysis approach
capable of assessing cumulative effects of logging plans. California's native coho
populations find their homes in heavily forested, low elevation, cool coastal streams. The fish suffered a precipitous decline with the advent of tractor logging and other very destructive
methods of modern industrial logging, leading to the
conversion of our once lush forests to moonscapes or vineyards or developments. Less than 1% of the wild native coho salmon population remains.
The preparation of the Recovery Strategy was the result of a strenuous effort over the course of more than a year by the Coho Recovery Team, composed of stakeholders including land-owners, tribes, fishing interests, environmental groups and agency staff. In May, the Board of Forestry had a joint meeting with the Fish & Game Commission to determine policy and actions for implementation of the Recovery Strategy, but the agencies took no action at that time, disappointing those who had worked on the plan. It was hoped the agencies would develop joint policy for salmon and anadromous trout based on the Recovery Strategy, but now it could be months before that happens.
The Fish and Game Commission needs your informed input on the urgency of implementation of the Coho Recovery Strategy. You can write them and urge that the listing of the coho be finalized and that the Recovery Strategy be implemented to its fullest capacity. The point to be made is that the listing is long overdue, particularly because the salmon population continues to decline.
Fish and Game Commission
1416 Ninth St., 13th floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Check these sites for information on coho populations and current action status:
Dept. Fish & Game home page: http://www.dfg.ca.gov
Fish & Game Commission home page: http://dfg.ca.gov/fg_comm/
Board of Forestry page:
Little Hoover Commission: http://lhc.html (click on Commission reports)
EPIC website: http://www.wildcalifornia.org/pages-31
for Scientific Review Panel Report