Salmon are naturally productive. They will thrive if given clean, cold water, access to and from the sea, and good rearing and spawning habitat.
More than any other factors, the quantity and quality of habitat determine the health of the salmon resource. Good habitat builds resiliency in salmon stocks. But as habitat disappears, so does the salmon’s ability to withstand and recover from the impacts of both people and nature.
In the last 20 years, policies and infrastructure have been established, and many projects to improve habitat have been started. Small improvements, either in the number of fish using the habitat or changes to the landscape that support salmon survival, are being measured. While we celebrate these small changes, they are not enough.
To give salmon the habitat they need to survive, we need to take on the larger projects that affect entire landscapes, the harder projects that affect people’s behavior and require fundamental changes in how we handle a growing population.
These tough changes are going to affect each and every one of us and will take a huge effort to address, but turning dead or dying rivers into thriving hubs of life and vitality will not only improve the habitat for salmon, but will support life systems for other animals, including people.
There are harder projects that if given priority and funding, can and will move the needle on wild salmon recovery. There are aspects of habitat threatening these fish: timber, mining, and development, but there are ways to mitigate or repair what's broken.