The Klamath River Basin was once the third largest producer of salmon on the west coast of the continental United States. These salmon fed a highly diverse collection of wildlife and a robust Native American population. In the mid-1900s, they also supported a $100 million fishery, with salmon counted in the hundreds of thousands.
Today, the populations of adult Coho salmon in the Klamath Basin number only between 400 and 1,000, far below the numbers needed to sustain a viable population.
The goal of NFWF's Lower Klamath Basin initiative is to stabilize and increase the populations of Klamath River Coho salmon in order to restore biologically viable populations and eventually move their status from Federally Endangered to Threatened.
The Shasta River, historically the cornerstone river in the Lower Klamath Basin, has the greatest intrinsic potential for recovering Coho populations. NFWF investments in this river include land purchases, restoration of spring complexes, and monitoring the effectiveness of restoration projects. Elsewhere in the Lower Klamath Basin, protection and access to cold water refugia and leasing water for salmon passage and rearing are essential activities to sustain and improve endangered Coho salmon.
Key conservation strategies or this program include:
- Increase landowner trust in order to gain access to property to restore habitat and in- stream water flows
- Develop a basin-wide monitoring network in order to assess population trends and survival rates for freshwater rearing, estuarine, and ocean habitats
- Revegetate and reconnect stream riparian habitat
- Identify, protect and improve cold water habitats in the lower basin
- Increase instream flows at critical periods of the year
- Help design options for rural development and conservation
- Improve water quality
In the Lower Klamath Basin, NFWF has funded the establishment of three monitoring programs, installation of 21 miles of livestock-exclusion fencing and the opening of 23 stream miles through fish passage improvements. The efforts of such NFWF programs have helped contribute to an significant increase in the Lower Klamath Basin Coho population, from less than 200 in 2009 to approximately 1,100 in 2012.
This program is part of a conservation partnership between NFWF and PacifiCorp Energy to assist PacifiCorp in meeting the environmental commitments in its Habitat Conservation Plan.