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Standing Up for Northern CA Salmon and Trout species

On June 16th, after much deliberation and significant public comments that included verbal comment from CalWild staff, the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) moved in favor of protecting two symbolic salmon and trout species of Northern California under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The petitions to list the Upper Klamath-Trinity river spring Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and Northern California summer steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) were both found to be warranted in order to list the two different species as Endangered. Both fish populations have been in decline for years and share multiple similar threats to extinction including residing in highly modified watersheds and streams, particularly the watersheds of the Klamath River and the Eel River.

The listing of the spring run Chinook is especially noteworthy since this was arguably the first time that the state recognized and accepted Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) offered by local Tribes as a major source of information to make a CESA listing decision. Among the moving and diverse set of tribal voices heard during the public comments, community members from the Karuk, Yurok, and Hoopa Valley tribes shared their worries about the dwindling Chinook and what their potential extinction would signify for their Indigenous culture, history, and overall way of life. The public comments shared by tribal youth and others further supported the scientific information presented to the FGC during the meeting by one of the original petitioners calling to list the species, the Karuk Tribe.

Above: Spring Chinook salmon. Top: steelhead trout. Both photos by NOAA

In a somewhat similar discussion, the FGC heard from Friends of the Eel River (FOER), the original petitioner, and the public as to why the summer steelhead deserve protections under CESA. CalWild was proud to support the protections for the steelhead trout, a distinct native fish with a unique life history, and excited to back those protections through the great leadership of FOER.

An additional species that had CESA protective action taken on its behalf was the Clara Hunt’s milkvetch. This purple and white legume family (family of beans and peas) annual herb was previously listed as Threatened under CESA but had its status changed to Endangered as the small and rare population of the species continues to decline. While not located on any federal public land, this small native wildflower nonetheless deserves recognition as part of the natural landscape that is unique to Northern California.

CalWild looks forward to continuing to be a voice for California’s wildest lands and streams and the iconic species that inhabit those places.