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Increased Protections Sought For Coho Salmon In Oregon Coastal Rivers

<p>A coho salmon makes its way up Cedar Creek on its way to the Sandy fish hatchery.</p>

Rick Swart

A coho salmon makes its way up Cedar Creek on its way to the Sandy fish hatchery.

Twenty environmental groups are calling on Oregon to protect imperiled coho salmon with more restrictions on logging and roadbuilding in coastal forests.

The groups delivered a rule-making petition Wednesday to the Oregon Board of Forestry. It calls for designated “resource sites” for coho salmon on state and private forestlands.

Nick Cady, legal counsel with one of the petitioners, Cascadia Wildlands, said the Oregon Board of Forestry needs to address the impacts of logging on habitat for a species at risk of extinction.

“There are major ongoing conflicts between logging practices and coho salmon habitat that need to be resolved,” he said.

Oregon coho are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Their numbers are thought to have ranged between 1 million and 2 million in Oregon before white settlement. But periods of poor ocean conditions, logging, agriculture, dams and road culverts are blamed for reducing their numbers to about 30,000 in Oregon coastal rivers by the 1990s.

In their petition, environmental and fishing groups say these activities have degraded water quality, blocked fish passage and led to the loss of favorable habitat, such as rivers with large wood debris, deep pools, and connections to off-channel waters that rearing salmon need, such as beaver ponds, lakes and wetlands.

Advocates argue for the protection of cold water and more salmon habitat by designating resource sites for coho. Forests would be left in place within 150 feet of coho-accessible waters and 100 feet of non-coho-bearing headwaters.

The proposal is expected to draw opposition from the timber industry, since it would restrict logging and road-building in these protected resource sites.

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