Coho salmon have been listed by the California Fish and Game Commission as either threatened or endangered throughout the entire range of the fish in California; the fish is listed as threatened in the Smith River. This listing mirrors the listing of coho salmon under the Federal Endangered Species Act. The listing under the California Endangered Species Act was brought about by a petition submitted to the CA Fish & Wildlife Commission by the Salmon and Steelhead Coalition (SSRC) of which the Smith River Alliance (SRA) was an active member. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) must play a pivotal role in the implementation of measures for the protection, restoration, monitoring and adaptive management for recovery of coho. This project seeks to support this critically important role for NGOs in the recovery of coho.

Throughout the United States and the world, NGOs play an important role in: 1) development and support of rules and regulations governing land and water use; 2) development, implementation, and monitoring of policies and plans for the protection and recovery of threatened species and habitats; 3) education of the general public and decision-makers concerning the importance of native species and habitats; and 4) implementation and monitoring of protection and recovery plans/programs for native species and habitats.

The primary goal of SRA’s Coho Restoration Project is the protection and recovery of coho salmon. A secondary goal is to support NGO leadership associated with the recovery of coastal salmonids and the interest-based processes that are often involved in recovery efforts.

In 2003, SRA secured a grant which enabled participating NGOs to more fully contribute to the recovery planning of coho salmon thereby: 1) providing improved community participation during the planning process and 2) providing improved support for DFG and other public trust agencies responsible for restoration of native anadromous fish.

Recovery Strategy

Coho salmon are listed as endangered or threatened in California under the federal and California Endangered Species Acts. The State of California has adopted a Recovery Strategy under CESA for coho salmon which identifies restoration actions and some regulatory measures which, if completed, would provide the necessary habitat and water flows to recover coho salmon. Coho salmon are very sensitive to the effects of logging, water diversion and road-building in the watershed. These fish need cool water, are sensitive to sedimentation of stream beds, and must have complex stream habitat, side channels, and wetlands in fresh water.

The recovery of coho salmon would provide broad benefits to other species of wildlife and to the environment of northwestern California, from Santa Cruz County north to the Oregon border. The potential benefits include the perpetuation of this species but also the economic benefit of recovery of a sport and commercial fishery which was once a vital part of the economy from San Francisco northward. The following is a partial list of restoration projects which are included in the Coho Recovery Strategy for the Smith River:

1) Develop a program to control exotic vegetation, especially canary grass, which may be impeding salmon passage on the lower stretches of the Smith River plain tributaries.

2) Assess, prioritize, and treat barriers to fish passage on the smaller tributaries which enter the Smith on the lower Smith River.

3) Restore effectiveness of lower river sloughs and slackwater areas such as Yontocket, Tillas, and Tryon and reestablish some of the wetlands along the lower Smith River and estuary. This could involve some modification of the levee system. Allow winter flows to enter and flow through sloughs to provide more estuary and side channel habitat.

4) Investigate the feasibility of restoring channelized reaches of streams on the Smith River plain to a natural meander (particularly lower Rowdy Creek).

5) Assess, prioritize, develop implementation, and treat sediment sources (mostly legacy roads) in the recently acquired Mill Creek/Stimson property.

6) Develop a short-term plan and implement the plan to immediately add large woody debris to Mill Creek and other tributaries and develop a long-term strategy to promote natural recruitment of large woody debris.

7) Replant riparian zones to accelerate development of adequate buffer zones on Class 1 and Class 2 stream segments of the Smith and lower river tributaries.

To read the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Coho Recovery Strategy, click here.