New Plan Proposed to Restore Salmon, Steelhead Habitat in Northern California

NOAA Fisheries has introduced a new approach to restoring habitat for salmon and steelhead in Northern California, where these species have been troubled with habitat damage for over 100 years due to human activity. And now, according to the NOAA report, climate changes has only worsened these habitat problems.

Now NOAA Fisheries has introduced the Salmonid Habitat Restoration Priorities (SHaRP), a process that creates a strategy to rebuild salmon and steelhead within a watershed by focusing on restoring its heathier less impaired areas. According to the NOAA announcement, scientists expect that improved fish survival and reproduction in these restored areas will enable faster recolonization of the more degraded areas.

“The SHaRP process builds upon existing recovery plans and identifies very specific actions to create real wins for declining species,” said Barry Thom, regional administrator for NOAA Fisheries West Coast. “This approach to conservation offers the restoration community a seat at the table to design a near-term recovery strategy to maximize restoration impacts for their watershed,” he said.

The process was developed by NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and first applied to the South Fork Eel River, a few hours’ drive north of San Francisco Bay. The process starts by identifying the focus areas within an overall watershed that have the greatest potential to support healthy salmon and steelhead. Local experts in each area then come together to evaluate the challenges facing each life stage of each species, come to an agreement on the best restoration solutions to these challenges, and develop an action plan.

The SHaRP process involves collaboration, partnership and community engagement at its core, to rebuild streams and rivers so they can support salmon and steelhead runs and the cultural, economic and environmental benefits that they provide, NOAA officials said.