To the skeptics who say small habitat projects don’t make a difference…

From Alan Moore, TU national staff in PDX: Check out this video at the link below. This year has seen an unbelievable, off-the-charts return of ESA-listed wet n’ wild Oregon Coast coho to Thompson Creek, a conservation property and small spawning tributary of the Necanicum River literally on the outskirts of Seaside, owned and managed by our wonderful partners at the North Coast Land Conservancy.

Coincidentally – OR IS IT? – these booming returns correspond directly with the first year the NCLC took control of the property and when TU first arrived, which is also when the habitat work we did allowed the beavers to return and begin improving rearing habitat for the coho fry that emerged that year. Can we thank good ocean conditions and other factors for that in part? Absolutely. Are we taking better advantage of those ocean conditions by providing better habitat for those large numbers of fish returning now to spawn and rear to weather the next downturn in the ocean and elsewhere? I’d sure say so.

The carcasses alone from this year’s run could feed an army, provided that army was very, very hungry and without a keen sense of smell. To the skeptics who say small habitat projects don’t make a difference, or those who say many watersheds impacted by human development are too far gone to do wild fish recovery any good – we give you Thompson Creek:

Some of you have seen Thompson Creek and many of you haven’t. Trust me when I say the fact that there were fat n’ happy wild coho stacked in like cordwood spawning in this place is nothing short of a miracle. Pristine it is not in its lower reaches. The returns this year have been off the charts in comparison with recent history with many large fish, including an estimated 20-pounder nicknamed “Godzilla” trying to squeeze his fat self up up into the spawning reach, all the while being stalked and documented by NCLC patriarch Neal Maine.

The Tualatin Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited adopted Thompson Creek in 2008 and has been the lead in organizing TU’s work there with the NCLC, along with help from the Clackamas Chapter, the Oregon Council of TU, Save Our Wild Salmon, Carex Consulting and Doug Ray, the Rainland Flycasters, Tongue Point JobCorps, Seaside HS and many others. TU’s investments at Thompson Creek have been made possible by generous multi-year funding from the Jubitz Family Foundation. With their consistent help and the start they gave us, TU has been able to build our coastal initiative into something big and getting bigger, and one we can all be proud of. Stay tuned because the best is yet to come.

To all the partners who’ve helped make TU’s investments in the Necanicum possible, our sincere thanks. We are just getting started, so tell all your friends to hop on board. We’ll need them.

As an epilogue to the happy happy joy joy of graphic coho-on-coho spawning footage, a cautionary note: we can restore and reconnect spawning habitat till we’re blue in the face but if we ignore the needs of juveniles and other life stages in the process, we’re still hosed. Fish that don’t survive the winter don’t tend to have much to report in terms of return spawner success. TU’s Coastal initiative includes projects designed to restore and reconnect critical off-channel rearing areas that coho, cutts and other fish depend on to survive and get huge before smolting. If you’re in the Seaside area this Saturday Jan. 22, we’ll be working at our Stanley Marsh Beaver Enhancement Project as part of an open community day by the North Coast Land Conservancy. This project is within spittin distance of the Thompson Creek project shown in the video, and is designed to encourage beavers to re-populate a semi-dry field that was formerly a tidal wetland. Their damming activity will spread water flows sideways, recreating the marsh and the habitat for countless fish and other species. In other words, this wetland will serve as a “nursery” for all the fry emerging from the gravels of Thompson Creek and so many other spawning streams. Drop a line to amoore@tu.org or the NCLC’s project director Celeste Coulter (celeste.coulter@gmail.com) for details.

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2 Responses to To the skeptics who say small habitat projects don’t make a difference…

  1. Nate K. says:

    That kind of thing gives me hope. Many, many thanks to all involved with this.

  2. Nick says:

    I agree. Sad that we are excited to witness a few fish “gettin’ it on” however it is a start. Make babies, die and become bug food. Babies eat the bugs and go to the ocean. Avoid the sea lions, orcas and nets let your stupid city cousins (hatchery) fall into their traps. Wash and repeat.

    Keep the videos coming!

    ~n

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