State of Our Watersheds: Less forest cover is bad news for coastal salmon

Declining forest cover in coastal river basins leads to fewer salmon returning, hurting both sport and tribal fishermen. That is a finding in the recently released State of Our Watersheds Report by the treaty tribes in western Washington.

From the report:

Between 2006 and 2011, watersheds within Olympic National Park and U.S. Forest Service lands had little (<1%) or no change in forest cover conditions while within the state and private lands, the overall trend is negative. Watersheds with the highest losses were West Fork Dickey (with a 12.1% change) and Lower Bogachiel River (9.9%).

Even though these coastal watersheds generally have healthy forest conditions, the decline in forest health is still worrisome.

Healthy forest cover conditions are vital for the maintenance of proper watershed processes and thus salmonid habitat. A major goal of the WRIA 20 watershed plan “is the maintenance of forest cover to benefit fish habitat, water quantity and water quality, and to provide additional ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration.”

The 2011 forest cover conditions of most of the watershed units in the Quileute Area of Concern were generally good to healthy, but moderate forest cover conditions do exist in the northwest part of the area near Lake Ozette, as well as in the central region near the city of Forks.