Forest practices preserve fish habitat

SKAGIT COUNTY (Oct. 8, 2008) – Protecting fish habitat begins with determining where the fish are.

Biologist Doug Couvelier and field technician Tim Shelton, with the Upper Skagit Tribe, recently waded up a tributary from its confluence with Day Lake to establish how much of the creek is being used by fish. Using an electroshocker strapped to a backpack, Couvelier created an electrical field that attracted fish to a submerged electrode. They marked the spots where fish were sighted as they moved 3,000 feet upstream, finding fish within 400 feet of the main road.

“We found lots of fish throughout the stream, even with a fairly steep gradient and boulder cascade reaches,” Couvelier said. Species found in Day Lake include rainbow, cutthroat and brook trout; the lake is not accessible to anadromous fish.

Forest practices on private land in western Washington are managed through the state Forest Practices Board under the Forests and Fish Report Habitat and Conservation Plan and the Timber/Fish/Wildlife (TFW) Agreement. TFW participants include tribes, state departments of Natural Resources, Ecology, and Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, private forest landowners and local governments.

Tribal biologists work with timber companies to ensure logging practices don’t devoid streams of the trees required to keep water cool, filter runoff, stabilize banks and create pools for fish to rest and feed. Where fish are found, timber companies are required to maintain an appropriate streamside buffer.

Riparian buffers consist of a core zone, inner zone and outer zone that vary in width depending on stream size and site class. No harvest is allowed in the core zone. Inner zone harvest is allowed under certain conditions, and harvest in the outer zone requires that 20 trees per acre be retained.

Under current regulations, a fish-bearing stream of the size and site class of the one near Day Lake calls for a 50-foot core zone, 55-foot inner zone and 35-foot outer zone.

For more information, contact: Doug Couvelier, TFW biologist, Upper Skagit Indian Tribe, 360-854-7090, [email protected]; Kari Neumeyer, information officer, NWIFC, 360-424-8226, [email protected].