A Coastal Comeback
Development, diking and draining have gone a long way over the past 150 years to deplete important wetlands and estuary habitat along the Oregon Coast — habitat salmon need to thrive. The Tillamook Basin area alone has lost more than 80% of its estuarial lands and wetlands, according to Dick Vander Schaaf, associate director for the Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Marine Program.
To help correct that course, the Nature Conservancy and other organizations have been working to restore and protect salmon habitat on the coast. One project, near where the Miami River enters Tillamook Bay, restored more than 40 acres with native plantings and other efforts. Just two years later, salmon smolt were using the revitalized habitat. Another project in the works will tend to 66 acres along the Kilchis River.
Vander Schaaf notes that estuary restoration isn’t limited to environmentalists. One of the previous owners of part of the restored land on the Miami was closely tied to the Tillamook Anglers, a fishery organization that runs a small hatchery in Netarts Bay.
“Fishermen are very much engaged in this,” Vander Schaaf says. “It’s very well understood that producing fish is good business in the basin.”
The Wild Salmon Center, a nonprofit headquartered in Portland, has also turned its attention to coastal areas, particularly in the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests, home to five salmon-rich rivers. The organization has been working with Gov. Kitzhaber and the Oregon Board of Forestry on setting aside conservation areas to help protect existing habitat.
“The exciting thing about Oregon is that we still have some healthy runs of wild salmon, and we have the opportunity to protect them,” says Guido Rahr, the organization’s president and CEO.