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Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
February 26, 2010
Issue No. 521
All stories below are posted on the CBB's website at www.cbbulletin.com
Table of Contents

* Sea Lions Snacking On Sturgeon 'Slug' At Bonneville; Trapping Begins Next Week

* Latest Columbia Basin Runoff Forecast Has Flows Dropping To 46th Lowest In 50 Years

* Federal Agencies Have Three Months To Integrate Adaptive Management Plan Into Salmon BiOp

* Last Year's Huge Fall Chinook Jack Return Brings Predictions Of Big Run This Year

* Legislation Would Authorize Funding For Efforts To Reduce Toxic Pollutants In Columbia River

* USFWS Says Columbia River Coastal Cutthroat Doing Well Enough To Avoid Listing

* Higher Return Of Sacramento River Fall Chinook Will Allow Some Ocean Fishing Off California, Oregon

* Alaska Projects Higher Chinook, Sockeye Harvest Over Last Year, Decrease In Pinks

* USFWS Names Richard Hannan New Assistant Regional Director For Fishery Resources

* Public Meeting Set On Proposal To Revise Critical Habitat For Bull Trout

* Northwest Tribes Receive $1.3 Million In Grants For Habitat Projects

* IDFG Kills Wolf Pack After Depredations At Feedlot Continued


* Sea Lions Snacking On Sturgeon 'Slug' At Bonneville; Trapping Begins Next Week

Steller sea lions continue to pluck white sturgeon from Columbia River waters just downstream of Bonneville Dam at nearly double last year's record pace as they take advantage of a "slug" of the big fish that have once again assembled in the area below the hydro project's second powerhouse fish ladders.

Through late last week observers atop the dam had recorded the taking of 532 sturgeon so far this year, one by California sea lions and 531 by the larger Steller sea lions, according to a "Status Report" compiled by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers researchers Robert Stansell and Karrie Gibbons and distributed Feb. 19. A status report completed on Feb. 20 last year said sea lions had taken 309 white sturgeon through that point in time.

The 758 white sturgeon observed taken during the entire season (January through May) in 2009 was a record high.

The sea lion predation on white sturgeon through the third week in February in 2009 and 2010 could be closer to on par. Last year Steller sea lions were also seen taking 231 fish of unknown species while this year only 94 fish fell into that category. Researchers say it is likely that most of the "unknown" fish caught by the Steller sea lions' were white sturgeon.

The observations are made by researchers primarily concerned with collecting data about the sea lions' predation on steelhead and spring chinook salmon. The study was launched because of concerns about the growing legion of sea lions that had started making its way upriver each spring to munch on, primarily, salmon. Wild Snake River spring/summer and Upper Columbia spring chinook are among the stocks swimming upstream in springtime that are listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Data on, primarily, California sea lion predation on salmon and steelhead dates back to 2002. The Steller record book goes back to 2005. Since then the number of Steller sea lions camped out at Bonneville has slowly grown, and so has their consumption of sturgeon.

"It's easy picking for them," Stansell said. As has happened in other years, large numbers of sturgeon of all sizes have gathered below the dam. Following a recent remote video maintenance inspection of the powerhouse's fishway, entrance crews "reported thousands of sturgeon down there," Stansell said.

Large numbers of sturgeon have also been seen in recent days hugging the Washington shoreline below powerhouse 2, many of them visible from that shoreline with their fins literally sticking out of the water.

"It's quite the sight," said Michael Parsley, project leader for sturgeon studies at the U.S. Geological Survey's Western Fisheries Research Center. "It's one of the few times you can see sturgeon in their natural environment."

He said such gatherings seem to occur primarily in wintertime. That type of sturgeon behavior has been chronicled in studies elsewhere, though no one knows why the fish often spend part of their winter huddled together.

"We know that this happens, maybe every year," Parsley said.

The sea lions are heavily tapping that sturgeon store. A total of 57 sturgeon were observed caught on Jan. 25, which was the most seen taken on a single day over the course of the study. Most of the fish were in the 3- to 4-foot-long range.

There are few other targets now. Through Tuesday, only three chinook and 1,220 steelhead had been counted climbing over Bonneville's fish ladders so far this year. The spring chinook counts typically start to build in March, heading toward peak daily counts in late April or early May.

Oregon and Washington department of fish and wildlife crews have since the beginning of the year worked from boats to haze the sea lions, hoping to drive them away from the feeding ground below the dam.

"Boat hazing continues to have some limited, local, short term impact in reducing predation in the tailrace, primarily by Stellers on sturgeon, during this time of year," the status report says.

During 11 days of hazing prior to Feb. 19, 143 fish (sturgeon, salmonids, unknown) were observed caught, for an average of 13.9 catches per day, while on 13 days with no hazing, 458 fish were observed caught, an average of 34.2 catches per day. Number of pinnipeds present during hazing days compared to non-hazing days was virtually the same (10.2 per day and 10.7 per day respectively).

Researchers have seen as many as 19 Steller sea lions at the dam and six sea lions so far this year on a given day. Those numbers are similar to last year when as many as 17 Stellers and six California had been seen on a given day during the early season.

In past years the presence of California sea lions has grown as the spring chinook numbers start to climb.

The two states plan to start their 2010 California sea lion trapping effort next week. Oregon, Washington and Idaho in the spring of 2008 were granted the authority under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to remove, lethally or otherwise, individually identifiable California sea lions that having a significant impact on listed salmon runs.

Last year a total of 14 California sea lions were removed. Four went to aquariums and 10 were euthanized. There were 54 different California sea lions observed at the dam last year, which was the lowest since the first year of the research when 30 visited. The high count was 104 in 2003.

So far this year eight different California sea lions have been spotted at the dam. Six of them have been observed at the dam in previous years preying on salmon and as such are eligible for removal.

The states will begin monitoring four floating sea lion traps below powerhouse 2. In past years a few of the trapped animals were moved to zoos and aquariums. But as of this week, there are no such prospects this year.

"We put out the call, but no one has responded," Garth Griffith, NOAA Fisheries Service, said of the process the agency triggered nationally in an attempt to find facilities willing to take captured animals. NOAA Fisheries is the federal agency responsible for evaluating the states request for authority to remove sea lions.

Salmon predation by California sea lions was not confined to the area below Bonneville during the past year, the Feb. 19 status report noted. A pinniped that rode a tug up through Bonneville's navigation lock on May 16, 2009, was trapped above the dam 275 days later, on Feb. 2, 2010, and transported downstream for release at the river mouth.

During that time he gained about 275 pounds, feeding on salmon and steelhead exiting the Bonneville fishway . The pinniped was trapped and weighed just before his journey upstream and then weighed again in early February.


* Latest Columbia Basin Runoff Forecast Has Flows Dropping To 46th Lowest In 50 Years

Runoff volumes past The Dalles Dam on the lower Columbia River would rank as 46th lowest in the past 50 years if the latest forecast proves to be accurate.

The Northwest River Forecast Center's "early bird" forecast says the most likely scenario would be a total water volume of 74 million acre feet past The Dalles from January through July. That would be only 69 percent of the 1971-2000 annual average of 107.3 MAF.

The only totals lower than 74 MAF on the 50-year chart are the record low volume of 53.29 MAF past The Dalles in 1977, followed by 58.19 MAF in 2001, 70.99 MAF in 1973 and 73.55 in 1992.

The 2010 forecast has dropped from 82 percent of average on Jan. 8 to 74 percent of average Feb. 5 while the region was experiencing mostly cloudless skies. Virtually all of the water that drains from Columbia-Snake river basin snowpacks eventually flows past The Dalles.

"That's what happens when it doesn't rain" or snow, NWRFC senior hydrologist Tom Fero said of the sinking forecasts. "All of the energy is passing by us."

The outlook is somewhat cheerier to the north. The early bird forecast for January-July flows into Grand Coulee Dam's reservoir is 77 percent of normal, 48.7 MAF. Grand Coulee straddles the Mid-Columbia in central Washington.

The forecast for the Snake River, as measured at Lower Granite Dam in southeast Washington,is only 59 percent of normal.

Inflows into Libby Dam's reservoir are forecast to be 72 percent of normal. Libby Dam in northwest Montana regulates Kootenai River flows.

And the North Fork of the Clearwater River is expected to provide only 54 percent of the average flows into Dworshak Dam's reservoir. The Dworshak water is key to efforts to augment Snake River flows with cool water for migrating salmon during the summer months.

The culprit most often blamed for the relatively dry and warm winter conditions in the Pacific Northwest is El Niño, a climatic condition in which sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean are higher than normal. An El Nino tilts the odds toward those drier and warmer winters in the Northwest.

Signs of El Nino emerged last summer and have persisted, according to NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

"Based on current observations and dynamical model forecasts, El Niño is expected to continue at least into the Northern Hemisphere spring 2010," according to the center's weekly update.

The split flow pattern that impacted the Columbia-Snake basin in early winter was replaced in January by a strong southerly jet which is directing storms into California, according to the NWRFC. As a result, the northern Columbia basin areas had January precipitation of from 60 to 80 percent of average. In the southern reaches of the drainage January precipitation ranged from 85 to 120 percent. Warm temperatures basinwide prevented the normal snow accumulations during January.

And the skies have been even less giving so far in February. Precipitation totals through Feb. 1-22 range from 39 to 72 percent of normal with two exceptions. The Harney/Malheur basins -- which are in that southern tier -- have received 84 percent of normal precipitation and the upper John Day is at 90 percent of normal. The upper John Day snowpack is at 74 percent of normal precipitation through Wednesday.

The Malheur basin is in the best shape of any in the Columbia basin with 86 percent of its normal snowpack, as measured in snow-water equivalency, through Feb. 24, according readings from the National Resources Conservation Service electronic SNOTEL measuring sites. Nearby Owyhee River basin has 79 percent of its average snowpack through that date. Both flow north, the Owyhee from Nevada and the Malheur from southeast Oregon, and into the Snake River on the Idaho-Oregon border.

Tributary snowpacks feeding into the upper Columbia (79 percent of normal) and central Columbia (75 percent) in Washington are in decent shape. The upper Yakima River snowpack is at 64 percent of normal while the lower Yakima is at 80 percent. The snowpack that will feed the Spokane River this spring and summer is at 52 percent of average.

Elsewhere in Oregon, the Grande Ronde snowpack is at 74 percent of average, the Umatilla-Walla Walla-Willow at 66 percent and the upper Deschutes-Crooked at 57 percent, the Hood-Sandy-lower Deschutes at 49 percent. The lowest snowpack in the entire Columbia River basin hovers over the Willamette River basin -- just 40 percent of average through Feb. 24, according to the NRCS.

In Idaho, the Panhandle now has 70 percent of its average snowpack while down south the Weiser River has 75 percent through Wednesday. The rest of the state's drainages have snowpacks that range from the high 50s into the 60s as a percent of average. The exception is the Clearwater River in central Idaho with only 53 percent of its average snowpack.

Western Montana's mountains are also lightly dusted, relatively speaking. The Kootenai snowpack in Montana is at 68 percent of normal, the Flathead at 72 percent, the upper Clark Fork at 70 percent, the Bitterroot at 52 percent and the lower Clark Fork at 53 percent.

Snow conditions at snow pillows, similar to the NRCS's automated SNOTEL sites, in most of the major river basins in British Columbia declined steadily during January, and have continued to decline during the first half of February, according to the province's River Forecast Centre. Snowpacks rimming the upper Columbia in British Columbia were the best on the province's east side at 96 percent of normal on Feb. 15. Typically three-quarters of the winter's snowpack has been accumulated by that date.

The lower Columbia snowpack in British Columbia was at 77 percent of normal. The Kootenay River (81 percent) and Similkameen River (82 percent) snowpacks in Canada are also low.

"Following the major drought of the 2009 summer, the below normal snow conditions in south and central BC indicate potential for water-supply challenges to develop again this summer," according to the centre's week pillow commentary.

The NWRFC produces three primary forecasts each month. The early bird forecasts are the center's best estimate of what next month's "final" forecast will look like and have available only about half the precipitation reports used in the monthly final. All available snow water equivalent values and observed runoff reports are used.

The NWRFC final forecasts, completed early each month in season, are produced in conjunction with the NRCS and other cooperating agencies. These finals are based on precipitation reports from more than 400 sites. Also included are snow water equivalent and observed runoff values from all available sites in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, western Montana, western Wyoming; northern Nevada and British Columbia.

The next final forecast is scheduled to be completed March 5.


* Federal Agencies Have Three Months To Integrate Adaptive Management Plan Into Salmon BiOp

Judge James A. Redden on Friday (Feb. 19) gave agencies three months to make whole their strategy for assuring the Federal Columbia River Power System avoids jeopardizing the survival of protected Columbia-Snake river salmon and steelhead stocks.

The U.S. District Court order was issued within two hours after federal agencies had notified the court that they would accept the judge's plan for a voluntary remand of the May 2008 FCRPS biological opinion. Redden in a Feb. 10 memo said there was more work to do than just officially attach a Sept. 15, 2009, addendum to the BiOp as part of the record in the ongoing lawsuit, which the U.S. Department of Justice said could be done in 10 days.

"I hereby remand the 2008 BiOp and its record to NOAA Fisheries, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ('Agencies') to allow these Agencies to consider, among other actions, integrating the Adaptive Management Implementation Plan and its administrative record into the 2008 BiOp," Redden's Feb. 19 order says.

"The court finds that due to the length of the previous remand, complexity of the existing litigation, and the significant effort by all of the parties throughout this case, there is good cause to allow a limited, voluntary remand.

"I do not make any formal ruling as to the validity of the 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion ("2008 BiOp") at this time, and I will review the legal adequacy of the agency actions upon completion of this voluntary remand," the judge said.

Redden has twice in the past declared FCRPS BiOps illegal, forcing NOAA Fisheries back to the drawing board with plans issued in 2000 and 2004. The 2008 BiOp replaces the 2004 version.

NOAA Fisheries is charged by the ESA with determining whether federal actions, such as dam operations, jeopardize listed salmon and steelhead. The 2008 BiOp, with its "reasonable and prudent alternative," concludes that the fish stocks are not jeopardized. The RPA includes numerous mitigation actions, such as more fish-friendly operations and habitat restoration, that are intended to improve fish survival.

The Bureau and Corps are included as defendants in the lawsuit because they operate Columbia-Snake river mainstem hydro projects.

"We're pleased that the court views the Adaptive Management Implementation Plan as a positive development," Jane Lubchenco, NOAA's administrator, said of Redden remarks issued Feb. 10 at the same time as the judge's proposed order.

"Federal Defendants deserve credit for developing additional mitigation measures, enhanced research, monitoring and evaluation actions, new biological triggers, and contingency actions to address some of the flaws in the 2008 BiOp," the Feb. 10 memo said.
The judge said, however, that as matters now stand the AMIP's measures could not be legally considered as he judges the validity of the 2008 BiOp. In his Feb. 10 memo he offered the federal defendants two options.

"Pursuant to the attached proposed order, Federal Defendants can conduct a voluntary remand using the best available science and addressing all relevant factors. Alternatively, Federal Defendants can reject the proposed order, and I will issue a ruling on the validity of the 2008 BiOp without consideration of the AMIP."

The federal attorneys at about midday Friday asked Redden to issue his proposed order. The judge quickly responded affirmatively.

"We're ready to proceed with the voluntary three-month remand as the court outlined in its proposed order so the court may consider the AMIP in evaluating the 2008 Federal Columbia River Power System Biological Opinion," Lubchenco said.

"The court noted that we do not need to start over from scratch, develop a new jeopardy framework or put at risk the progress made through the regional collaborative process," Lubchenco said, again referencing the judge's Feb. 10 memo. "However, we will review any new, pertinent scientific information to ensure that the BiOp and AMIP continue to be based on the best available science.

"We will also continue to work in partnership with our state and tribal partners," Lubchenco said of a collaborative effort carried out during the 2 ½-year construction of the 2008 BiOp.

"And we remain mindful of the concerns the Court and parties have expressed during the development and consideration of the AMIP," NOAA's chief said of alleged shortfalls in the BiOp noted by the state of Oregon, the Nez Perce Tribe and a coalition of fishing and conservation groups.

"If Federal Defendants agree to the court's proposed order of voluntary remand, I urge them to seize this opportunity to produce a stronger BiOp/AMIP...," Redden's memo said. "Federal Defendants should do more. Indeed, they have acknowledged that they can do more. Federal Defendants should re-examine the court's previous concerns regarding the lack of specificity and certainty (i. e., funding) in both the 2008 BiOp/RPA and the AMIP. I also encourage them to consider some of the parties' suggestions for improving the AMIP."

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit - the coalition and Oregon - have complained that the BiOp, with or without the AMIP, does not do enough to address issues that plague the 13 Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks that are listed under the ESA and that the BiOP is based on a flawed analysis of the jeopardy faced by listed fish. They have also said their critiques and suggestions for improving the BiOp have been dismissed out of hand.

"We're still hopeful they will take this opportunity to talk to the parties and get this right," said Steve Mashuda of Earthjustice, which represents the coalition of fishing and conservation groups. That includes "fixing the problems that have been identified by the court and the plaintiffs."

"We intend to make them aware of what we think those things are," Mashuda said. They could range from altered levels of spill for fish passage at dams and flow for migrations, the incorporation of fast-evolving climate change knowledge and numerous other issues.

The 2008 BiOp was challenged soon after its release by Oregon and the coalition.

The AMIP was produced by the Obama Administration after extensive review of the 2008 FCRPS BiOp over this past summer. The review included consideration of concerns about the BiOp expressed by the judge in a May 18 letter.

That letter said Redden had "serious concerns" about the agencies' trending toward recovery jeopardy analysis framework and that the BiOp's "conclusion that all 13 species are, in fact, on a 'trend toward recovery' is arbitrary and capricious."

He asked the federal agencies to "consider implementing some, or all, of the following measures as part of the adaptive management process:

"-- committing additional funds to estuary and tributary habitat mitigation, monitoring, and identifying specific tributary and estuary habitat improvement projects beyond December 2009;
"-- providing periodic reports to the court, and allowing for independent scientific oversight of the tributary and estuary habitat mitigation actions;
"-- committing additional flow to both the Columbia and Snake Rivers;
"-- developing a contingency plan to study specific, alternative hydro actions, such as flow augmentation and/or reservoir drawdowns, as well as what it will take to breach the lower Snake River dams if all other measures fail (i. e., independent scientific evaluation, permitting, funding, and congressional approval); and
"-- continuing ISAB's recommended spring and summer spill operations throughout the life of the BiOp."

The plaintiffs say that most of those issues have yet to be addressed.

For more information and documents related to BiOp litigation go to www.salmonrecovery.gov


* Last Year's Huge Fall Chinook Jack Return Brings Predictions Of Big Run This Year

Fishery managers are predicting that "upriver" fall chinook salmon returns to the Columbia River this year will be the biggest since 2004, and the third largest since the late 1980s.

A huge return of fall chinook salmon jacks -- 2-year-old fish -- in 2009 is considered a signal that this year's upriver bright and Bonneville pool hatchery tule returns will include an outsized crop of 3-year-olds. Upriver chinook are fish from hatcheries and spawning grounds above Bonneville Dam.

A total of 310,800 adult URBs are expected to return this year. That would be well above last year's actual return (212,000) and the recent 10-year average of 237,100 adult URBS to the mouth of the Columbia, according to the Feb. 19 forecasts produced by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and a U.S. v Oregon Technical Advisory Committee subgroup. That 1999-2008 average is boosted by totals of 373,200 adult URBs in 2003 and 363,500 in 2004.

The URB jack count last year was the largest in 23 years. In all, 114,995 fall chinook jacks were counted last year climbing over Bonneville's fish ladders compared to a 10-year average of 41,803. The upriver run includes URB, BPH and a portion of the Mid-Columbia bright stock.

The forecast estimates that about 42 percent of the URB return will be 3-year-old fall chinook, which is slightly higher than average. Fall chinook return to freshwater at age 2, 3, 4, 5 and even age 6 or 7 on rare occasions.

The BPH jack return in 2009 was the highest on record, about 24,000 fish compared to a 10-year average of 10,000. A jack return of 22,000 in 2001 was followed by the three highest BPH returns on record (dating back to 1985) in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The 2010 BPH forecast is for a return of 169,000 adults as compared to a 2009 return of only 49,000. The BPH return has not risen above 100,000 since 2004. Age 3 fish are expected to make up 91 percent of the 2010 BPH return.

The BPH stock is produced primarily at Spring Creek National Fish Hatchery in Bonneville's reservoir, although natural production of tules also occurs in the Wind, White Salmon and Klickitat rivers in Washington, according to the 2009 Fall Joint Staff Report produced by the Oregon and Washington departments of fish and wildlife.

The Feb. 19 forecast is for an overall Columbia River fall chinook return of 652,700, which is also greater than the 10-year average and much higher than the 2009 return of 418,300.

The 2010 run is expected also include 30,300 Bonneville upriver bright (BUB) fall chinook, which would be 69 percent of the 10-year average and less than the 39,000-fish return in 2009. The pool upriver bright (PUB) forecast is for a return of 42,300 adults to the mouth of the river, which would be similar to the 10-year average and up from 2009 when 34,100 fish returned.

Much of the upriver MCB component (PUB or PUB stock) is comprised of brights that are reared at Little White Salmon, Irrigon, and Klickitat hatcheries and released in areas between Bonneville and McNary dams. Natural production of brights derived from PUB stock is also believed to occur in the mainstem Columbia River below John Day Dam, and in the Wind, White Salmon, Klickitat, and Umatilla rivers.

The production of some BUB stock occurs below Bonneville Dam at Bonneville Hatchery in Oregon.

The lower river hatchery fall chinook return is expected to number 90,600 adults, which would also be the best total since 2004. The return last year was 76,600.

The lower river wild return is forecast to be 9,700 in 2010, which would be slightly higher than the past three years but below the 10-year average.

The LRH stock is produced from hatchery facilities (five in Washington and one in Oregon) while the LRW stock is naturally produced primarily in the Lewis River system in Washington, with smaller components also present in the Cowlitz, in Washington, and Sandy, in Oregon, rivers. Some natural production of LRH stock likely occurs in many tributaries below Bonneville Dam, including the Coweeman, East Fork Lewis and Grays rivers.


* Legislation Would Authorize Funding For Efforts To Reduce Toxic Pollutants In Columbia River

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., this week introduced legislation that would authorize funding of efforts to reduce pollution in the Columbia River.

"The Columbia River Restoration Act" would authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to work with the Lower Columbia River Partnership, the states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, tribal governments, local governments, citizen groups, industry and other federal agencies to develop and implement a strategy to increase monitoring and reduce pollution.

The bill authorizes up to $40 million a year for this effort. An actual appropriation would require separate legislation.

"The Lower Columbia River Estuary stretches 146 miles from the Bonneville Dam to the mouth of the Pacific Ocean, and much of this area is degraded. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in salmon tissue and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in salmon prey exceed estimated thresholds for delayed mortality, increased disease susceptibility, and reduced growth," says the legislation. "Legacy contaminants (DDT and PCBs) banned in the 1970s are still detected in river water, sediments, and juvenile Chinook salmon. Several pesticides have been detected, including atrazine and simazine, which can affect salmon behavior or act as hormone disruptors.

"Emerging contaminants, such as hormone disruptors from pharmaceutical and personal care products, have been found in river water and juvenile male salmon. These contaminants may impair salmon growth, health, and reproduction."

Regarding the middle and upper Columbia River basin, the bill says the "Columbia River Basin Fish Contaminant Survey detected the presence of 92 priority pollutants, including PCBs, dioxins, furans, arsenic, mercury, and DDE (a breakdown product of DDT), in fish that are consumed by the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the Nez Perce Tribe, as well as by other people consuming fish throughout the Columbia River Basin.

"A fish consumption survey by the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission showed that tribal members were eating 6 to 11 times more fish than EPA's estimated national average. The nuclear and toxic contamination at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation presents an ongoing risk of contamination in the Middle Columbia Basin. Sampling of sediments by the EPA in 2004 documented widespread presence of toxic flame retardants known as polyrominated diphenylv ethers."

"The Columbia River is a resource for millions of people, providing livelihoods for fishermen, hydropower for the Northwest, and recreational opportunities for families across the Pacific Northwest," said Blumenauer. "The dangerous pollutants that have accumulated in the river imperil not just the ecosystem, but salmon, other fish, and the people who consume them. As we look towards the Columbia River with a hundred year vision of the future, it is imperative that we not only restore this beautiful landmark, but protect public health and ensure sustainable jobs for future generations."

"The Columbia River is in many ways the lifeblood of the Northwest," said Merkley. "It has not only provided the Oregon fishing industry and tribes with salmon and steelhead for generations, but it has become a transportation artery for businesses, a hydropower generator for our economy, and the source of irrigation for our farmers. By restoring the Columbia River and reducing toxic contamination, we will create jobs, protect public health and contribute to a healthy economic future for those who depend on the river for their livelihood."

The focal point of the proposed legislation is the "Columbia River Basin Toxics Reduction Action Plan" being developed by EPA and the Columbia River Toxics Reduction Working Group. It is expected to be completed by May, 2010.

It calls for the EPA administrator to establish in the Environmental Protection Agency a Columbia River Program Team and team leader with staff who would "support the development and implementation of projects, programs, and studies necessary to implement the Action Plan."

The Columbia River Program team would coordinate functions of the federal government related to the implementation of the Action Plan, including projects, programs, and studies for: water quality improvements; toxics reduction and monitoring; wetland, riverine, and estuary restoration and protection; nearshore and endangered species recovery; and stewardship and environmental education.

The bill says that one year after enactment the EPA must submit a report to Congress summarizing "the progress made in implementing the Action Plan."

"The Columbia River has long been in need of a thoughtful and comprehensive toxins reduction strategy. Our tribal members are the most vulnerable when the river's health suffers," said McCoy Oatman, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "The Columbia River Restoration Act of 2010 will have significant benefits for fish, tribal fishers exercising their treaty fishing rights, and tribal communities."

"The Lower Columbia River Estuary Partnership is very excited about this Authorization," said Debrah Marriott, executive director of the Lower Columbia River Partnership. "It recognizes the Columbia as one of the nation's great water bodies and in doing so opens the door to address long term toxics contamination. It allows us to focus on toxics reduction efforts, improve the overall ecosystem, add jobs and begin long term improvements to public health and our economic stability."


* USFWS Says Columbia River Coastal Cutthroat Doing Well Enough To Avoid Listing

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday it will again withdraw its proposal to list as threatened the Southwest Washington/Columbia River Distinct Population Segment of coastal cutthroat trout.

Initially proposed for listing as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1999, the USFWS withdrew the proposal to list the DPS in 2002 after determining the trout were more numerous than previously known and not declining in number as had been thought.

A U.S. District court upheld the USFWS decision in 2005, following a legal challenge filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups.

In April 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision in part and reversed the decision in part. The Ninth Circuit found no error in the Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that the DPS as a whole did not merit listing, but held that the agency failed to consider whether the marine and estuarine portions of the DPS constitute a significant portion of the range.

One of the legal claims in that challenge was that the USFWS didn't consider separately the effect of an altered estuary on the segments of the stock that travel from streams to the sea and back again. Two other life strategies within the DPS spend their entire lives in freshwater.

The April 2008 Ninth Circuit memorandum said that "the agency's own reasoning underscores the significance of these areas to the DPS: They are vital to the anadromous life-form of the DPS, and the anadromous life form is important to the DPS's long-term survival strategy."

The listing decision was remanded to the district court, which on July 1, 2008, remanded the listing decision to the agency. The district court ordered the federal agency to reconsider whether coastal cutthroat trout in marine and estuarine areas of the DPS would meet the criteria for listing.

The USFWS published a notice announcing its review of the status of coastal cutthroat trout in the marine and estuarine areas of the DPS in March 2009 and invited the public to submit information relevant to the status review.

Following a thorough review of the best available scientific and commercial data, the agency determined that the threats to coastal cutthroat trout in the marine and estuarine areas of its range within the DPS, as analyzed under the five listing factors described in section 4(a)(1) of the Act, are not likely to endanger the DPS now or in the foreseeable future.

The five listing factors are: (a) The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of the species' habitat or range; (b) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes; (c) Disease or predation; (d) Inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and (e) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence.

"Therefore, based on the lack of significant present or foreseeable threats, we have determined that the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River DPS of coastal cutthroat trout is not likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range, including the marine and estuarine areas of the DPS, and, therefore, does not meet the Act's definition of a threatened or endangered species," according to USFWS findings published Thursday in the Federal Register.

They also said the DPS appeared to be in relatively good shape.

"Although not reflective of a trend, new information on emigration of cutthroat juveniles from lower Columbia River tributaries in both Oregon and Washington indicates tributaries that are monitored for cutthroat trout are still delivering anadromous smolts to the estuary and that adults are returning at rates that are similar to healthy salmon and steelhead populations," the findings say.

"New information from ODFW provides additional evidence that resident cutthroat trout isolated above long-standing anthropogenic barriers still produce anadromous smolts. This suggests that, to the extent that there is a hereditary basis for life history, it is not lost rapidly even under strong selection against the anadromous form.".

According to the USFWS, coastal cutthroat trout do not meet the definition of threatened or endangered under the ESA throughout all or a significant portion of their range within the Southwestern Washington/Columbia River DPS. As a result the agency is withdrawing its 1999 listing proposal.

Coastal cutthroat trout live in 10 distinct population segments distributed from Alaska to California, and inland as far as the crest of the Cascades in Washington and Oregon. The Southwestern Washington/Columbia River segment includes the Columbia River and its tributaries from the mouth to the Klickitat River on the Washington side of the river and Fifteenmile Creek on the Oregon side; the Willamette River and its tributaries from its confluence with the Columbia upstream to Willamette Falls; Willapa Bay and its tributaries and Grays Harbor and its tributaries.

Coastal cutthroat trout differ from all other trout by their profusion of small- to medium-sized spots of irregular shape. In addition, they do not develop the coloration associated with interior forms of cutthroat trout. While these trout are at sea and during seaward migrations, this coloration and spotting are obscured by the silvery skin color common to anadromous salmonids. At maturity, freshwater life-history forms of coastal cutthroat trout tend to be darker, with a "coppery or brassy" sheen.

The life history of coastal cutthroat trout is one of the most complex of any Pacific salmonid with three general life-history forms, according to the USFWS. They include nonmigratory stocks generally found in small streams and headwater tributaries, freshwater-migratory populations that move from large tributaries to small tributaries to spawn or that inhabit lakes and migrate upstream to spawn in the lake's tributaries or downstream to spawn in the lake outlet, and saltwater-migratory fish that leave freshwater natal areas in the late winter and spring to feed in marine environments such as estuaries and nearshore ocean areas during the summer.

The saltwater migrants re-enter fresh water in the winter to feed, seek refuge, or spawn, sometimes returning to seawater in the spring.


* Higher Return Of Sacramento River Fall Chinook Will Allow Some Ocean Fishing Off California, Oregon

The Pacific Fishery Management Council says higher returns of Sacramento River fall chinook this year will allow for some ocean fishing.

PFMC scientists have reviewed 2009 returns and have prepared a forecast of 2010 salmon abundance for use in setting ocean salmon fishing seasons this summer. The Council will discuss the forecasts at their upcoming meeting March 6-11 in Sacramento.

"The forecast for Sacramento River fall Chinook will undoubtedly draw the most attention, given the extensive fishing closures the past two years to protect this valuable run of fish," said Council Chairman David Ortmann. "It is important for everyone to recognize that at our Sacramento meeting, we will be preparing three fishing season options for further analysis and public review, and won't make a final decision until the April 10-15 meeting in Portland, Oregon."

While the returns of Sacramento River fall chinook in 2009 fell far below expectations and represented the third consecutive year of shortfall from the conservation goal, the forecast for 2010 is for a higher level of abundance that is sufficient to support some level of ocean fishing opportunity, according to Council.

The Council this week released two comprehensive informational reports, available at http://www.pcouncil.org/

The first, "Review of 2009 Ocean Salmon Fisheries," includes data on 2009 salmon returns, including spawning escapements. Spawning escapement is the number of fish returning to spawn after harvest and other removals from the population. Escapement numbers in one year do not necessarily predict escapement numbers the next year, since salmon juveniles enter the ocean several years before returning to the streams of their birth; however, the return of jack salmon in one year are used to forecast abundance the next year's return.

The second report, "Stock Abundance Analysis for 2010 Ocean Salmon Fisheries," details the various forecasts for West Coast salmon stocks.

2009 Spawning Escapements

South of Cape Falcon:

Fisheries South of Cape Falcon (near Nehalem in northern Oregon) are supported primarily by Sacramento River fall chinook. In 2008 and 2009, poor Sacramento returns led to the largest fishery closure on record. In 2009, adult spawning escapement for Sacramento River fall chinook was dismally low -- only 39,500 adult salmon returned compared to the escapement goal of 122,000 adults, which was the management target in 2009. That marked the third consecutive year the escapement goal has not been met, which led to the formal declaration of an overfishing concern.

The Sacramento River fall chinook escapement goal, or conservation objective --122,000-180,000 adult fish -- is the estimated optimal number of adult fish returning to spawn in order to maximize the production of the stock.

In contrast, the count of jacks in the Sacramento River fall chinook return this past fall was 9,200, a significant increase compared to the return of 4,000 jacks in 2008 and 1,900 in 2007. However, the Council noted that the long-term average return of jacks is about 40,000.

Klamath River returns included 44,600 adults spawning in natural areas, which is above the 35,000 minimum conservation objective and the 2009 rebuilding management objective of 40,700.

Oregon coastal coho returns included about 235,500 natural spawners, the second highest in recent years.

North of Cape Falcon:

Columbia River fall chinook returns in 2009 were mostly above average, although the North Lewis River wild return was slightly less than the management objective of 5,700 adults. Jack returns for most Columbia River stocks were above average, including a record high for the Spring Creek Hatchery stock, which supports fisheries off Washington and northern Oregon.

Columbia River hatchery coho returning to the river mouth were the highest since 2001. However, jack returns were substantially lower in 2009.

2010 Salmon Abundance Estimates

South of Cape Falcon:

The forecast for the Sacramento Index of ocean abundance (Sacramento River fall chinook) in 2010 is 245,500 adults, which should provide adequate spawning escapement to meet management objectives and provide some fishing opportunity. The Klamath River fall chinook forecast for 2010 is for a total ocean abundance of 331,500 adults, which also should provide adequate spawning escapement to meet the management objectives and provide some fishing opportunity.

The Oregon Coast natural coho forecast in 2010 is for an ocean abundance of about 148,000 adults, which is 70 percent of last year's forecast, but still above the 15-year average.

North of Cape Falcon:

The 2009 Columbia River tule chinook forecast for Spring Creek and lower river hatchery combined is 259,600, well above recent year forecasts. In contrast, the hatchery coho forecasts for the Columbia River are 245,300 early stock and 144,200 late stock, collectively about a third of the 2009 abundance level.

Based on these forecasts, there should be more chinook opportunity but less coho opportunity in 2010 ocean fisheries north of Cape Falcon.

The Sacramento River fall chinook stock is the driver of commercial and recreational salmon fisheries off California and most of Oregon. As recently as 2002, 775,000 adults returned to spawn.

Most adult Sacramento River fall chinook live to be about 3 years old, but some return as four year olds. Sacramento fall chinook of catchable age this year were spawned in 2006 and 2007 and migrated to the ocean in 2007-2008.

The Council says the reason for the collapse of the Sacramento fall chinook stock is not readily apparent, although both natural and hatchery-produced fish have been affected. Many biologists believe a combination of human-caused and natural factors explain the bulk of the collapse, including freshwater factors such as in-stream water withdrawals, habitat alterations, dam operations, construction, pollution, and changes in hatchery operations, as well as below-average survival conditions in the marine environment.

The Council will review the stock size projections and set harvest levels this spring. At its March 5-11 meeting in Sacramento, the Council will develop a range of management options. Salmon management discussions begin on March 8, when the Council will review 2009 salmon fisheries and discuss stock abundance estimates.

The Council will tentatively adopt salmon management measures for analysis by the Council's Salmon Technical Team on March 8, and discussions will continue through March 10. On Thursday, March 11, the Council is scheduled to adopt management options for public review. These options will represent a range of possible fishing seasons.

Public hearings to receive input on the options are scheduled for March 29 in Westport, Wash., and Coos Bay, Ore., and for March 30 in Eureka, Calif. The Council will consult with scientists, hear public comment, and revise preliminary decisions until it chooses a final option at its meeting during the week of April 10 in Portland. At its Portland meeting, the Council will narrow these options to a single season recommendation to be forwarded to National Marine Fisheries Service for their final approval by May 1.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council is one of eight regional fishery management councils established by the Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 for the purpose of managing fisheries up to 200 miles offshore of the United States coastline. The Council recommends management measures for fisheries off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.


* Alaska Projects Higher Chinook, Sockeye Harvest Over Last Year, Decrease In Pinks

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says that the statewide commercial salmon harvest in 2010 is projected to total 138 million salmon of all species. This is a decrease compared to 2009, with most of the decrease expected to come from lower pink salmon catches.

Overall, chinook and sockeye salmon harvests are expected to be higher than in 2009, while the coho and chum salmon harvests are expected to be similar to the actual harvests taken in 2009. This forecast would represent the 19th largest harvest since 1960, if achieved.

The forecasted harvests for individual species in 2010 are 515,000 chinook salmon, 45.8 million sockeye salmon, 4.4 million coho salmon, 69.1 million pink salmon, and 18.0 million chum salmon.

A 2010 sockeye salmon harvest of 45.8 million salmon would be the ninth largest sockeye salmon harvest since 1960; and a 2010 chum salmon harvest of 17.9 million fish would be the 10th largest chum salmon harvest since 1960. A 2009 coho salmon harvest of 4.4 million salmon matches the most recent 10-year average.

The estimated 2010 chinook salmon harvest of 515,000 salmon would mark an increase over the 2009 harvest of 359,000 salmon.

These forecasts are based on quantitative projections of this year's salmon run using information on previous spawning levels, smolt outmigrations, returns of sibling age classes, and recent survival rates observed for hatchery releases.

In-season harvest information, postseason statistics, and other information about salmon in Alaska at http:///www.cf.adfg.state.ak.us/


* USFWS Names Richard Hannan New Assistant Regional Director For Fishery Resources

Richard Hannan, an 18-year veteran of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been named the Pacific Region's assistant regional director for Fishery Resources, Robyn Thorson, regional director, announced today.

Hannan, currently the assistant director for Budget and Administration in the agency's Alaska Region, succeeds Dan Diggs, who retired in January.

"With his scientific credentials and experience in a variety of the Service's programs, Richard will be a valuable addition to our regional directorate team," Thorson said. "He will provide strong leadership for our fisheries program, which works with tribes, states and others to protect, restore and enhance fish and other aquatic resources."

Hannan will lead the daily operation of the fisheries program and the implementation of its strategic plan. The fishery program is a network of 25 field stations with about 260 employees in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Hawaii. The network includes 15 national fish hatcheries producing approximately 60 million salmon and steelhead each year, three fish health centers, two fish and wildlife offices, three fisheries resources offices, the agency's largest fish technology center and a Lower Snake River Compensation Program office. The Lower Snake Compensation Program office administers the production program and funds the operation of 26 state and tribal hatchery, research and fish health facilities using money generated by the Bonneville Power Administration's sale of hydroelectric power.

The program's 2010 budget is $40.3 million, which includes $20 million in reimbursable funds from other agencies.

Hannan, who graduated from Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Wash., said he is excited about returning to the region that inspired his career choice.

"In high school, the time I spent enjoying the mountains and magnificent forests, fields and streams of the Pacific Northwest pushed me into a career in natural resource management," he said. "Returning to the area and its resources is the fulfillment of a life-long dream."

Hannan has been in Alaska since 1999. He had previously been the supervisor for the Fisheries and Ecological Services programs, managing operations in the Arctic and Southeast Alaska and overseeing the region's Conservation Genetics Laboratory. Before working in Alaska, Hannan was deputy chief of the USFWS' Division of Endangered Species in Washington, D.C. He worked in the Washington office for four years, serving in various management positions.

Hannan started his career with the Fish and Wildlife Service in 1992 in Atlanta, Ga., where he was the Southeast Region's Endangered Species Act consultation coordinator, working on controversial endangered species issues throughout the region. Before joining the USFWS, he was the director of the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, where he worked for 14 years. Hannan has a master of science degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University.

Hannan begins his new duties April 26.


* Public Meeting Set On Proposal To Revise Critical Habitat For Bull Trout

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will hold a public meeting Wednesday, March 3, on its proposal to revise critical habitat for the bull trout, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The meeting is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 S.E. Columbia Way, Vancouver, Wash. A formal presentation will begin at 6:15 p.m., followed by a question-and-answer period and an opportunity to review maps and talk with biologists. No formal testimony will be taken but written comments will be accepted.

In total, the agency proposes to designate approximately 22,679 miles of streams and 533,426 acres of lakes and reservoirs in as critical habitat for the wide-ranging fish. The proposal includes 985 miles of marine shoreline in Washington.

If finalized, the proposal would increase the amount of stream miles designated as bull trout critical habitat in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Nevada by 18,851 miles and the amount of lakes and reservoirs designated as critical habitat by 390,208 acres.

Developed by a team of federal scientists, the proposal is intended to provide sufficient habitat to allow for genetic and life-history diversity, ensure bull trout are well distributed across representative habitats, ensure sufficient connectivity among populations and allow for the ability to address threats facing the species.

More information on the Service's proposal to revise critical habitat for bull trout can be found at:

The proposed revision is the result of an extensive review of a 2005 designation, public comments and new information. The agency voluntarily conducted the re-examination to ensure that the best science was used to identify the features and areas essential to the conservation of the species.

The validity of the 2005 decision had been challenged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and in March 2009, the USFWS requested a voluntary remand of the rule from the court to address irregularities in the rule-making process and outcome, as identified in a 2008 Investigative Report by the Department of the Interior Inspector General. That report found a former Department of the Interior political appointee had interfered with the final 2005 designation by directing that large areas be excluded from what had been proposed.

In July 2009, the court granted the agency's request and directed the agency to complete a proposed revision by Dec. 31, 2009, with a final designation due by Sept. 30, 2010. The 2005 designation will remain in effect until a revised designation is final.
A draft economic analysis released in January estimates the potential incremental cost of the proposed revised critical habitat at approximately $5 to $7 million a year over the next 20 years. Most of the potential costs are associated with additional consultation requirements for federal agencies.

Other potential incremental costs stem from possible fish passage improvements at dams, estimated at $2.1 million to $2.5 million a year spread among more than 70 federal and non-federal dams. Many of these improvements already are occurring for salmon. No significant impact to regional energy production is predicted.
Additional potential expenses, approximately $400,000 to $1.65 million a year, are associated with changes to forest management, such as removal of culverts and efforts to reduce sediment.

By state, the proposed designation covers approximately (rounded to nearest whole number):
-- Idaho: 9,671 stream miles and 197,915 acres of lakes or reservoirs;
-- Oregon: 3,100 stream miles and 29,139 acres of lakes or reservoirs;
-- Washington: 5,233 stream miles, 82,610 acres of lakes or reservoirs and 985 miles of marine shoreline;
-- Montana: 3,094 stream miles and 223,762 acres of lakes or reservoirs;
-- Nevada: 85 stream miles;
In some areas, the critical habitat proposal spans shared border designations along the Columbia or Snake rivers. These are:
-- Oregon/Idaho (Snake River): 170 stream miles
-- Washington/Idaho (Snake River): 37 stream miles
-- Washington/Oregon (Columbia River): 304 stream miles

The proposal review process has included eight public meetings held earlier this winter.

Comments on the proposed critical habitat revision and the draft economic analysis will be accepted until March 15. Bull trout are members of the char subgroup of the salmon family, which also includes the Dolly Varden, lake trout, and Arctic char. They can grow to more than 30 pounds in lakes, but in streams rarely exceed 4 pounds.

They have small, pale yellow to crimson spots on a darker background, which ranges from olive green to brown above, fading to white on the belly. Historically, bull trout occurred throughout the Columbia River Basin, east to western Montana, south to the Jarbidge River in northern Nevada, the Klamath Basin in Oregon, the McCloud River in California and north to Alberta, British Columbia, and possibly southeastern Alaska.

Bull trout are still widely distributed but they have declined in overall distribution and abundance. Small bull trout eat terrestrial and aquatic insects but shift to preying on other fish as they grow larger.


* Northwest Tribes Receive $1.3 Million In Grants For Habitat Projects

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded $7 million in grants to fund 42 Native American projects that benefit fish and wildlife and their habitat. Of those funds, $1,302,539 will be awarded to tribes in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

More than $50 million has gone to Native American tribes through the Tribal Wildlife Grants program in the past eight years, providing funding for 400 conservation projects administered by 162 participating federally recognized tribes. The grants provide technical and financial assistance for the development and implementation of projects, including non-game species, that benefit fish, wildlife, cultural and natural resources.

"The Tribal Wildlife Grants program has helped the Service collaborate more effectively with Pacific Region tribes in conserving and restoring the vast diversity of fish and wildlife habitats they manage," said Robyn Thorson, director of the agency's Pacific Region.

The grants have enabled tribes to develop increased management capacity, improve and enhance relationships with partners including state agencies, address cultural and environmental priorities, and heighten interest of tribal students in fisheries, wildlife and related fields of study. Some grants have been awarded to enhance recovery efforts for threatened and endangered species.

The grants are provided exclusively to federally recognized Indian tribal governments and are made possible under the Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2002 through the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant program.

During the current grant cycle, tribes submitted a total of 137 proposals that were scored by panels in each Fish and Wildlife Service region using uniform ranking criteria. A national scoring panel recommended 42 proposals for funding. Grants awarded in the Pacific Region are:

Nez Perce Tribe, $200,000
Rare Plant Conservation of Nez Perce Lands

The Nez Perce Tribe will implement conservation actions for up to 24 species of rare plants located at over 260 sites on tribal lands in Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Populations of rare plants have been inventoried and their needs assessed through completion of Trial Landowner Incentive Program grants awarded to the Nez Perce Tribe by the USFWS in 2004 and 2006. The current program will implement conservation measures and management actions identified through that earlier work. Plant populations deemed to be at highest risk (smallest size, highly restricted distribution, most imminent threats) will receive priority. Conservation measures will include fencing and gating to restrict vehicular and livestock access, noxious weed control, seed collection and cryopreservation, pollinator habitat conservation, creation of herbicide buffer zones, and public outreach and education efforts.

Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, $177,416
California Bighorn Sheep Project -- Second Year

The Colville Confederated Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department will continue augmentation and management of California bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis californicus) in the Hell's Gate Game Reserve and the Omak Lake Ridge Game Reserve on the Colville Reservation. This continued effort will supplement the ongoing projects working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's successful transplant of 36 California bighorn sheep into the Hell's Gate Game reserve in January and February 2009.

The Colville Reservation now supports two bighorn sheep populations. The first herd is the existing herd within the Omak Ridge Game Reserve. This herd showed up in the early 1980's, likely deserters from either the Mt. Hull or Sinlahekin herds located north of the Reservation. The Omak Ridge Reserve herd has remained un-hunted, yet observed numbers have never exceeded 20 animals.

This project will address management needs for the existing Omak Ridge Game Reserve herd and the Hell's Gate Game Reserve herd for the next two years through: continued monitoring of population composition and mortality through radio telemetry; GPS collar data and aerial and ground surveys; continued genetic testing of Mt. Hull and Sinlahekin bighorn sheep herds to identify the source stock of the Omak Ridge Reserve herd; continued collaring efforts for home range analysis and identification of winter and summer ranges, seasonal movements, and habitat mapping of suitable habitat in core use areas; designing and constructing a portable ground trapping structure suitable for sheep capture operations on the Colville Reservation; completing the Colville Confederated Tribes Bighorn Sheep Management Plan; constructing a public outreach and education interpretive sign and possibly a bighorn sheep monument on the Colville Reservation.

Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Reservation, $127,882
Upstream Migration of Pacific Lamprey in the Willamette Basin, Oregon - Phase II

The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon will continue to study the upstream migration habits of Pacific lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) in the Willamette River Basin, Ore.

Pacific lamprey populations have declined throughout their range in the Pacific Northwest. Dam counts and harvest rates have fallen dramatically. Within the Willamette Basin, lampreys appear to have fared better than in other river basins of the Columbia Basin, though they have declined and face considerable threats. The CTGR and other partners in the region believe that understanding Pacific lamprey status, distribution, and life history are required to ensure the persistence of healthy Pacific lamprey populations into the future.

Under this proposal, the CTGR will radio tag Pacific lamprey in the Willamette River and track their movements as they migrate upstream to spawning grounds. The benefits expected to result from the project include understanding the timing of Pacific lamprey migration, identifying important over-wintering locations, and determining the relative use of primary tributaries for spawning.

The CTGR will also work collaboratively with other entities and agencies studying Pacific lamprey in the Willamette Basin to gain crucial information that will help us understand the variables involved in Pacific lamprey migration and habitat use. The information gained from this project will allow the CTGR and other fish and wildlife managers to effectively manage and conserve Pacific lamprey and their habitat.

Jamestown S'Kllalm Tribe, $57,312
Restoring the Dungeness Elk Herd to its Historic Range

For more than a decade the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe has worked to restore a culturally significant elk herd to its historic home range in the Dungeness River valley in northwestern Washington. In recent decades weather events and agricultural practices have caused this herd to shift its home range from its historic forest habitats in the Olympic mountain foothills to the urbanizing lowlands around Sequim, Wash. Because relentless urban sprawl is rapidly displacing suitable habitat in the lowlands, elk range there is not sustainable long-term. Consequently, there is a need to restore the Dungeness elk herd to its historic range.

This project will be a part of a larger, cooperative effort by the Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe, Point No Point Treaty Council, Washington, the U.S. Forest Service and two local governments to reestablish the Dungeness elk herd on its former year-round range and allow the herd to exist in sustainable habitat on public forest and low-intensity agricultural lands. The Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe will conduct a thorough inventory of habitat resources on the herd's current and traditional ranges, and develop a GIS-based habitat capability model that will help identify areas where restoration efforts are most likely to be successful.

The tribe will conduct long-term elk monitoring, habitat assessment, enhancement, and management. The Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe and its partners will share the cost of radio telemetry marking, monitoring, population management, habitat assessment, and habitat model validation in this effort.

Lower Elwha K'lallam Tribe, $199,995
Impact of river restoration on river-dependent species: river otters and American dippers

River otters and American dippers are of particular interest to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe because of the imminent removal of two hydroelectric dams from the Elwha River and subsequent salmon restoration. Both species are known to use the Elwha River below, between, and above the two dams, but we know little about their distribution, seasonal habitat requirements, movement patterns, or how their diets might be altered after salmon restoration.

Further, it is not understood how these dietary shifts might impact salmon populations as they recolonize the Elwha River after dam removal. In light of dam removal activities, which are slated to begin by 2011, and subsequent restoration of salmon stocks to the Elwha River, the tribe will conduct research aimed at gathering baseline data on river otters and American dippers in the Elwha River, such as how otters and dippers use the river to meet their spatial, habitat, and dietary needs.

The tribe will then be able to 1) better document the effects of river restoration on these two river obligate species and then use these species as indicators of ecosystem health in the future; 2) understand how these species, particularly otters, might impact salmon populations that are of great importance to the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe; and 3) incorporate monitoring and/or management of these species into a Tribal Wildlife Management Plan.

This study will help the tribe and project partners monitor the effects of dam removal and subsequent salmon restoration on representative river-dependent wildlife species, will provide the tribe with valuable baseline data by which to examine otter predation on restored salmon populations, and will provide important species-specific information for incorporation into a Wildlife Management Plan for the tribe.

Lummi Nation,$200,000
South fork Fobes Reach Project

Lummi Natural Resources will conduct habitat restoration activities in the Nooksack River basin to support endangered species recovery of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawtscha) and other salmonid species. The tribe will address factors of degraded habitat that have been identified as production-limiting to ESA-listed chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout, and other treaty-protected species of tribal significance by constructing 21 pool-producing logjams in the South Fork's floodplain and active channel.

The project reach is the core spawning area for ESA-listed chinook and used by all salmonids present in the Nooksack watershed. This project will not only provide significant environmental benefits, but it will also help defend treaty-protected harvest rights and build the Lummi Nation's technical capacity to further defend these rights. Working with the Nooksack Tribe on this project will continue an important partnership for salmon restoration in the Nooksack basin.

Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians, $147,895
Klein Farm Wildlife Preserve

The Stillaguamish Tribe of Indians will restore, enhance, and protect in perpetuity 60 acres of floodplain habitat along the South Fork Stillaguamish River in Arlington, Wash., for the benefit of fish and wildlife. A 10-year conservation management plan is being developed as part of this project to ensure long-term protection and management.

This effort will benefit the severely depressed South Fork Stillaguamish Chinook stock, provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife species, fulfill requirements outlined in the Stillaguamish Chinook Recovery Plan, and provide a learning demonstration site to teach tribal members about nature and cultural history.

The Tulalip Tribes of Washington, $192,039
Monitoring Fish and Water Resources

Monitoring fish and water resources on the Tulalip Tribes Indian Reservation, usual and accustomed lands and marine waters of the Pacific Northwest

This project will support a fisheries, water resources, and habitat monitoring project with two components. Part I seeks partial operations funding needed for two tribal employees to operate the Tulalip Tribes' Stock Assessment Laboratory, located on the Tulalip Indian Reservation, and for temporary sample collections. Laboratory operations funding is needed to cover the remaining time not funded (less 700 hours) for a full-time tribal laboratory manager to provide six months of part time laboratory analysis for 18 months.

Finally, salaries requested also include 693 hours for a temporary field and fishery sampler to provide a total of four months of assistance with field sample collections throughout the Snohomish River basin during an 18-month period.

Part II seeks funding for a one-year subcontract between the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Geological Survey to continue cost-sharing funding for essential surface water monitoring of three primary streams on the Tulalip Indian Reservation.

This effort will greatly help to restore losses to fish, wildlife and habitat resources by funding the cost of basic and essential measures of fish and their critical habitat - measure water quantity, fish identification and abundance. Both components of this monitoring proposal have interacting, interdependent effects on each other and provide enormous benefits on fish, wildlife, plants, their habitats, and the people of the Tulalip Tribes.


* IDFG Kills Wolf Pack After Depredations At Feedlot Continued

In January, wolves killed four calves and a cattle dog at a Sweet-Ola area feed lot.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials worked with the producer and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to stop depredations, but the wolves kept coming back.

After the first two calves were killed, Wildlife Services staff removed two wolves. The rest of the pack came back a few days later. After wolves killed two more calves and a cattle dog, Wildlife Services killed the remainder of the pack in early February.

Lethal control of wolves in response to livestock depredation is nothing new.

When wolves were still on the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed wolves to be killed when they repeatedly preyed on livestock. Now that Idaho manages wolves, the same measures will continue.

Since September 2009, Idaho Fish and Game has authorized the removal of three wolf packs in response to chronic depredation similar the Sweet-Ola pack. The response to chronic depredation by wolves is set out in the Idaho Wolf Population Management Plan 2008-2012, adopted by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission in March 2008, and approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the process of removing wolves from the endangered species list.

The response is consistent with Fish and Game's long-standing practice for dealing with big game conflicts with human activities, such as when deer and elk eat farm crops, or when black bears or mountain lions kill livestock.

Depredation hunts are commonly used to respond to crop damage by deer and elk.

Since 2003, confirmed wolf depredations on livestock have increased nearly threefold from 140 to 385 in 2009. In that time, the wolf population has gone from a minimum of just under 400 to a minimum of 850 wolves.

One of the goals of Idaho's wolf management plan is to allow wolves to persist in areas where they do not cause excessive conflict with human activities. But in areas where wolf depredation on livestock is chronic or losses are deemed unacceptable, sterner measures are used.


For more information about the CBB contact:
-- BILL CRAMPTON, Editor/Writer, bcrampton@cbbulletin.com, phone:
541-312-8860 or
-- BARRY ESPENSON, Senior Writer, bespenson@msn.com, phone: 360-696-4005; fax: 360-694-1530

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