- Upper Salmon River and Clearwater River Drainage - In addition to work in the upper Salmon River, Water and Habitat is working closely with the Nez Perce Tribe to restore important tributary habitat in the Clearwater River Drainage. The Clearwater River in Idaho is home to the famed “B-run” steelhead, known far and wide for their size.
- Governor's Salmon Workgroup - Trout Unlimited is a member of the Governor’s Salmon Workgroup. Idaho Governor Brad Little established the workgroup in the Summer of 2019 to bring stakeholders together to discuss the challenges of recovering Idaho’s salmon and steelhead and offer policy proposals to the Governor.
- Smart forest management - WSI is working in Idaho to protect the best of the best anadromous fish habitat. From the Nez Perce-Clearwater Forest through the Payette National Forest all the way to the Salmon-Challis and Sawtooth National Forests, staff are engaged in making sure forest management and land protection schemes compliment high-quality, cold, clean water for salmon and steelhead after completing their 900-mile journey from the ocean.
Oregon is home to some of the best remaining runs of wild steelhead in the lower 48 states. Wild Steelheaders United has made protecting the best remaining runs in Oregon a priority, particularly in Southwest Oregon, known locally as the “Wild Rivers Coast” because of the remote geography and rugged terrain found throughout the region. We’re proud of the wins we’ve been a part of in Oregon and will continue to advocate for the protection of wild steelhead in the Beaver State.
- South Umpqua State Scenic Waterway Designation- While the North Umpqua gets most of the press when it comes to steelhead waters, the South Umpqua is an incredibly remarkable river that is home to both winter steelhead and a small run of spring chinook salmon. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is currently studying the South Umpqua for designation under the State Scenic Waterway program. With a recent win on the Nehalem’s designation as a State Scenic Waterway, Wild Steelheaders is committed to more protections under the state program and is advocating for the 27-mile section of the South Umpqua, from Tiller upstream to the confluence of Black Rock and Castle Rock forks in the headwaters as a State Scenic Waterway.
- Outstanding Resource Water Designation- Wild Steelheaders United is part of a coalition working to secure protections for Oregon’s most pristine waterways through Outstanding Resource Water Designation by the Environmental Quality Commission. Our previous win on the North Fork Smith is only the first step, as WSU believes ORWDs are critical for protecting Oregon’s drinking watersheds as well as our most iconic and cherished steelhead waters.
- Off-Highway Vehicle reform- Off-highway vehicles, also known as All-terrain Vehicles, can have serious impacts to aquatic environments through irresponsible off-road use where users traverse through spawning tributaries or create disturbances in sensitive areas that can lead to increased runoff and erosion. In Oregon, OHV users pay a $10 per biennium fee for access to public lands and are not required to license or title their vehicles. Lack of visible identification on OHVs makes enforcement of illegal uses almost impossible. Wild Steelheaders and Trout Unlimited are advocating for legislation that would require OHV users to license and title their vehicles, add visible identification plates, and pay registration fees that are in line with other recreational fees in the state.
- Federal Wild & Scenic Designations- Thanks to our federal congressional delegation’s commitment to preserving Oregon’s outdoor heritage, Oregon is home to the second highest number of river miles protected under the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Senator Ron Wyden has committed to pursuing more W&S river miles and eclipsing Alaska as the state with the highest number of river miles protected under the iconic 1968 Act. Wild Steelheaders United appreciates the efforts of Oregon’s congressional delegates and will continue to support efforts like Senator Wyden’s Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act and other efforts to designate more W&S river miles in the state.
- Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act- Southwest Oregon is home to some of the most productive steelhead water on the entire West Coast. However, a nickle laterite mine proposed for the headwaters of several SW Oregon steelhead rivers poses a grave threat to the area’s anadromous fish populations. The Southwest Oregon (Kalmiopsis) mineral withdrawal put a 20-year hiatus on mining activity in the region, but we need legislation to make the mineral withdrawal permanent. Representative Peter DeFazio’s Southwest Oregon Watershed and Salmon Protection Act would permanently withdraw the Kalmiopsis region from mineral exploration, and Wild Steelheaders United is advocating for the bill’s passage.
- Jordan Cove Energy Project- Wild Steelheaders United submitted a comment letter on the proposed Jordan Cove Energy Project, which includes a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal in Coos Bay, as well as a 230-mile connector pipeline that would bring fracked natural gas from Klamath County to the export terminal on the coast for export to overseas markets. The pipeline would have major impacts on several iconic steelhead watersheds, including the Klamath, Rogue, Umpqua, and Coquille. We will continue to advocate for responsible energy development and oppose projects like the Pacific Connector Pipeline that will negatively impact Oregon’s salmon and steelhead.
- Eel River Restoration—Potter Valley Project. The Potter Valley Project (PVP) on the upper Eel River—two dams and a tunnel that diverts water from the Eel into the Russian River watershed—blocks steelhead and salmon from more than 150 miles of good spawning and rearing habitat. TU and Wild Steelheaders United are working closely with Congressman Jared Huffman and other conservation groups—in particular California Trout—to develop a “two-basin solution” that will improve fish passage and flows for steelhead and salmon. In early 2019, PG&E formally discontinued its effort to relicense the PVP, and in July 2019 a coalition of water interests and conservation groups (informed by an ad hoc advisory committee convened by Huffman which includes TU) formally petitioned to take over the project license.
- Protecting steelhead habitat and water quality on public lands in northwest California—Eel and Trinity Rivers. TU and Wild Steelheaders United are the lead sportsmen’s groups working to permanently protect key steelhead habitats in the Eel and Trinity Rivers—two of the most famous steelhead streams in the West. These rivers flow largely through public lands. In 2018, Congressman Jared Huffman and Senator Kamala Harris introduced legislation to accomplish this goal, through a package of new land and water designations, forest and watershed restoration measures, development of new and enhanced recreational infrastructure, and restoration of illegal cannabis cultivation sites.
- TU’s California Water Project completes fish passage and habitat restoration projects that benefit steelhead. In recent years TU and Wild Steelheaders United have led multiple restoration projects in coastal steelhead waters, including agricultural water supply solutions in the steelhead factories of Pescadero and San Gregorio Creeks; Mill and Yellowjacket Creeks (important spawning and rearing tributaries to the Russian River); and Pennington Creek, a steelhead stream that connects to Morro Bay near San Luis Obispo.
- San Geronimo Creek/Lagunitas Creek restoration. In 2019 TU and Wild Steelheaders United partnered with the Trust for Public Land to acquire and begin restoration of a former golf course on San Geronimo Creek, an important tributary to Lagunitas Creek, which harbors the last best run of wild coho salmon in California and also supports steelhead. TU volunteers have played a lead role in restoration efforts on Lagunitas Creek for many years, and TU’s North Coast Coho Project will lead the San Geronimo Creek restoration work.
- Puget Sound portfolio and wild fish management zones- For much of the past fifty years, nearly all major steelhead streams in Puget Sound received plants of hatchery steelhead, and today, there is almost no opportunity to fish for wild steelhead in the Sound. Trout Unlimited has spent a significant amount of time meeting with fishery managers, anglers, and tribes to change this situation.
Our vision is a Portfolio Approach, where rivers with the best habitat are managed for wild steelhead and catch‐and‐release fisheries, while rivers with highly degraded habitat have well‐managed hatcheries and the fisheries they provide. Mobilizing our "army of anglers" we pushed to ensure the Elwha and Nisqually rivers are designatied as wild steelhead Gene Banks, ensuring they will not be planted with hatchery steelhead. The process is ongoing, and the proposed changes would be dramatic and would also help ensure the Skagit River remains free of hatchery steelhead for years to come.
Steelhead are documented in about 350 of the coastal streams of Alaska from Dixon Entrance northward and west around the Gulf of Alaska down to the Port Heiden and Cold Bay area on the Alaska Peninsula. In addition to the documented populations, there are many streams where the presence of steelhead is anecdotal and further documentation is needed to establish their use by steelhead. There are no documented populations of steelhead on the Alaska mainland west of the Susitna River and north of the Chignik River system. This area is generally known as Bristol Bay and the populations of rainbow trout in this area do not migrate to sea and are considered resident rainbow trout. Alaska is unique in that it relies primarily on wild propagation of steelhead populations versus the lower 48 states where a majority of the steelhead populations are enhanced. While there are approximately 75 steelhead streams in Alaska that see annual runs of 500 or more adults, the majority of Alaska’s steelhead streams have annual spawning populations of fewer than 200 adults.
- Conserving the Roadless Rule: The Roadless Rule has been instrumental in conserving the Tongass National Forest and growing the economy of Southeast for more than 20 years including important areas of the forest for fish and wildlife like the high-fish-producing Tongass 77 areas. The State of Alaska petitioned the Forest Service to undo the rule on the Tongass, jeopardizing fish and wildlife including steelhead. Trout Unlimited and our partners as working to ensure the rule remains in place. Learn more and comment here: http://americansalmonforest.org/take-action
We steelheaders share a common vision of the future of wild steelhead and know what has to be done to bring them back. Together, we can make that vision a reality. With millions of dollars, countless staff and volunteer hours invested in restoring wild steelhead habitat, Trout Unlimited has launched the Wild Steelhead Initiative to make sure those investments (along with the efforts of countless other organizations) pay dividends. For more information please visit tu.org.