Projects In Favor Of Wild Fish

This page is sponsored by FlyFishUSA as outreach for Native Fish Society

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This page is sponsored by FlyFishUSA as outreach for Native Fish Society
who are advocates for wild fish.
Wild Sandy River Winter Steelhead - Photo by: Mark Bachmann

"We  have reached  the time in the life of the planet, and humanity's demand upon it, when every fisherman will have to be a river keeper, a steward of marine shallows, a watchman on the high seas. We are beyond having to put back what we have taken out. We must put back more than we take out." The Longest Silence -  Tom McGuane

Native Fish Society River Steward Program

Dedicated volunteers, incredible achievements           

Native Fish Society

            The concept of river stewards is not new. The earliest stewards, or riverkeepers, served their communities as far back as the Middle Ages. They patrolled village streams and rivers to protect them for the benefit of all inhabitants. The first fulltime U.S. riverkeeper was a former commercial fisherman turned activist who was hired in 1983 by the Hudson River Fisherman’s Association to help identify polluters who were breaking environmental laws on the Hudson. During the past 25 years, riverkeeper programs have emerged in large urban rivers like the Willamette as well as classic fisherman’s rivers like the Russian River of California.               Today, the growing population creates challenges that were inconceivable for the early river stewards.  Development, water rights, land use, farming, roads, hydro projects, recreation, commercial and sport fishing, hatcheries, logging, and climate change create greater impacts on our river systems.

            Thankfully, there are dedicated individuals who have taken on this daunting task on many Pacific Northwest rivers – the Deschutes, the North Umpqua, the Rogue, the John Day, the Klamath, the Skagit, and the Molalla, to name a few. Native Fish Society River Stewards are mentored through a program that includes scientific and geologic education, retreats, policy issues, and tools to encourage involvement of local citizens. With more than 50 years of dedicated wild fish advocacy and study, the NFS staff provides for the growth and effectiveness of the Stewards.

            The NFS River Steward Program began six years ago with the original purpose of compliance monitoring, making sure the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife fish management program is consistent with the Native Fish Conservation Policy. The program has grown considerably since its conception, and while NFCP compliance remains a strong focus, NFS River Stewards go beyond compliance to conserve, protect and restore native fish populations in their watersheds through a variety of ways, including identifying threats to recovery and developing solutions, creating coalitions to stop threats to native fish, habitat restoration, nutrient enhancement, fish monitoring, public education and community outreach.

            There are currently more than 50,000 square miles of Oregon and Washington watersheds covered by 28 NFS River Stewards.

            In its first five years, the River Steward Program has seen many incredible accomplishments for native, wild fish and their habitats in the Pacific Northwest. In 2009, these accomplishments include:

*Stopped threats to the Metolius River from destination resorts.

*Installed hatchery-fish exclusion weirs on the three most important wild steelhead spawning tributaries of the Deschutes River.

*Completed work on the first draft of Oregon’s next conservation plan through participation in the South Coast Fall Chinook Native Fish Conservation Plan Advisory Committee.

*Moved the Molalla River much closer to receiving Wild and Scenic designation, protections we expect to earn in 2010. The U.S. House voted to approve designation in November.

*Created recovery actions for Molalla River spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead in cooperation with the National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a private fisheries consultant that are being incorporated in the Upper Willamette Recovery Plan, including a reintroduction of wild spring Chinook to the Molalla River.

*Successfully defended catch and release of N. Umpqua wild winter steelhead.

*Conducted watershed restoration and salmonid recovery educational presentations to more than 500 people on Central Oregon Coast watersheds.

*Conducted spawning surveys of Salmonberry River winter steelhead and coho, and Molalla River winter steelhead. Conducted temperature monitoring on the Molalla and Salmonberry rivers.

*Documented devastation caused by land use practices to the Salmonberry River.

            The above accomplishments are proof that the Native Fish Society is on the forefront of effectiveness. We have no intention of slowing down, either! Examples of the projects and campaigns NFS River Stewards are working on into 2010 include:

*Developing a detailed threats assessment of the Upper Deschutes Basin

*Keeping catch and release regulations for N. Umpqua wild winter steelhead.

*Creating a citizen-based conservation plan for N. Umpqua wild winter steelhead

*Reintroducing wild spring Chinook to the Molalla River and constructing fish habitat on the N. Fork Molalla.

*Developing alternatives to a dam on Bridge Creek of the middle-fork John Day.

*Working within the City of Medford’s Comprehensive Plan to ensure fish-bearing Bear Creek tributaries are treated as such when the city approves development permits.

*Reducing or stopping trout stockings on the McKenzie River.

*Getting federal critical bull trout habitat designation for the Upper Deschutes

*Bringing more lands into public ownership in the Alsea, Yachats, and Molalla river basins.

*Creating more wilderness in the John Day Basin.

*Removing the use of bait on the John Day and McKenzie River.

            For more information on Native Fish Society River Steward Program successes and current projects and campaigns, please visit the NFS website at You can also join us on Facebook at If you would like to get involved, we are always looking for volunteers to help with spawning surveys, temperature monitoring and advocacy. We also need dedicated and passionate River Stewards who are willing to take the hard stands to restore native fish populations in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, please contact River Steward Coordinator Russell Bassett at 503-829-6211.

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