Making the transition from fly shop employee to the watershed council world, one thing has become abundantly clear. Many fishermen, hikers, kayakers, and outdoor enthusiasts in Oregon aren’t familiar with their local watershed council and what these groups are doing to restore and protect the rivers we all cherish and respect.
Watershed councils are locally organized, voluntary, non-regulatory groups established to improve the condition of natural resources in the state’s watersheds. In Oregon, around 90 recognized councils are engaged in a wide range of watershed activities addressing local priorities for water quality, as well as fish and wildlife habitat. Councils receive much of their funding from the Oregon State Lottery. Ballot Measure 76 which passed in 2010 directs 7.5% of all state lottery dollars to Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, who then awards grants to watershed councils to complete restoration projects. Councils also rely on private donations, and foundation grants to conduct education, outreach, and community events.
Watershed councils restore riparian areas that filter pollutants and control runoff and erosion, and provide valuable shade for streams that might otherwise reach dangerously warm temperatures during summer months. Councils enhance in-stream habitat by placing boulders and large woody debris in streams, so that fish have places to hide from predators. These groups reconnect floodplain and back-channel areas to rivers, so that juvenile fish have refuge from turbulent and turbid waters when rivers swell during high winter and spring flows. Councils work to educate young Oregonians on the delicate ecosystems of the many rivers, streams, and creeks we are lucky to have access to in this state. And councils work to spread awareness of what we can all do as individuals to promote river health and ensure our favorite streams and creeks are there for future generations to enjoy.
Watershed councils are required to represent the interests of their respective basins and often bring together diverse groups of individuals to find solutions to local issues. Watershed councils offer local residents the opportunity to independently evaluate watershed conditions and identify opportunities to restore or enhance conditions. Through the councils’ partnerships between residents, local, state, and federal agencies, and other groups, the state’s watersheds are protected and enhanced.
With almost 90 watershed councils in Oregon, it’s likely your favorite place to fish is being restored by one of these groups. To find out more about your local council and what you can do to help, see the Network of Oregon Watershed Councils’ website at www.oregonwatersheds.org.