Pacific Salmon Restoration Program
In the United States, the vast majority of the wild salmon populations that once widely inhabited California and the Pacific Northwest are now at risk of extinction. Many other once abundant runs are already extinct. The reason? Decades of over-logging of old growth forests, over-grazing, over-appropriation of water, water pollution and the deliberate blockage of fish migration routes have resulted in the widespread destruction and blockage of critical spawning and rearing habitat.
To date, IFR, via its Pacific Salmon Restoration Program, has made significant progress in its efforts to protect and restore native salmon habitat. The salmon program has many components that, in combination, provide a complete strategic vision for an effective, long-term conservation campaign. Some of our successes to date include:
Bringing Salmon Home: Dam Removal on Salmon Rivers
IFR is a leader in the fight to dismantle deadbeat dams and restore natural fish migratory routes, and have been instrumental in opening hundreds of miles of previously unreachable salmon habitat. Our efforts led directly to an agreement to bring down four salmon-killing dams on the Klamath River in 2020. We are fighting or have fought to take down dams on the Columbia, Eel, and Elwha Rivers, and Butte and Battle Creeks in California.
Beyond the Dams: River Flows for Fish and Improving Fish Passage
Where dam removal is not on the table, IFR has used every tool at its disposal to improve fish passage to spawning habitat and to increase streamflows that support juvenile and adult salmon migration. We engage in administrative, legal and public outreach efforts to hold government agencies and unsustainable stream diverters accountable. Our work has protected against destructive diversions in the Sacramento and San Joaquin, Klamath and Columbia River watersheds.
Fish Need Forests: Major Industrial Forestry Reforms
In the past, IFR successfully advocated for better watershed protections affecting millions of acres of federal and private timberlands throughout the Northwest United States. However, current logging practices will not prevent salmon extinction. IFR and its partner organizations recognize that long term success hinges on continued reform, including the full implementation of the Aquatic Conservation Strategy outlined in the Northwest Forest Plan.
Safer Agricultural Practices
IFR helped implement comprehensive regulations that govern the use of pesticides in and near salmon streams, control erosion, and improve water temperature standards as per the Clean Water Act. IFR also supports watershed councils who work with farmers and ranchers to control bank erosion and remove livestock from rivers.
The Grader-Bingham Mentoring Programs
Each year, IFR mentors one to four fisheries law and policy clerks from Bay Area law schools. Our fisheries clerks are assigned to the IFR office to learn fishery/conservation policy, while working extensively with a number of different projects. Staff also works with students in the Bay Area, providing education about fisheries and fish conservation. And in 2015, following the death of IFR’s founding Executive Director, Zeke Grader, IFR established a scholarship fund to provide financial support for individuals seeking an education in fisheries resource policy or management.
IFR successfully generated a resource information system that allows operators to retrieve trend information both spatially and over time, called the Klamath Resource Information System (KRIS). Designed to capture relevant data about a watershed’s fish populations and water quality, KRIS combines maps, data tables, charts, photographs and bibliographic materials into an easy-to-use, PC-based computer program that enables information to be shared quickly and easily among fisheries, government agencies, and private citizens.
The Future of Salmon Restoration
Without doubt, IFR, with the support of its affiliates and allies, has accomplished a great deal in a very short time frame. However, for IFR to realize its long-term goals for protecting and restoring Pacific salmon habitat, it must parlay these initial successes into a sustainable plan for effecting necessary reforms in government policy at both the state and federal level. IFR’s Pacific Salmon Restoration Program includes several ongoing initiatives, including:
- Building a strong partnership between commercial fishermen and environmentalists to better protect fish and wildlife
- Reforming forestry regulations that govern public and private forest and rangelands
- Increasing water appropriations and in-stream flow rights for fish and wildlife
- Correcting problematic fish passage and fish screen issues
- Protecting aquatic resources throughout federal power and water projects
- Developing wild fish conservation policies
- Assessing the true economic and social costs of environmental damage to salmon
- Encouraging voluntary, community-based grassroots salmon restoration efforts