Working with Loggers to Save Salmon

The Conservancy works with timber companies on the North Coast to save coho salmon from extinction. It’s a cost-effective strategy with tremendous potential.

Creating Habitat with Logs in Streams

Deep in the forests of Mendocino County we are racing against time to save endangered coho salmon before they are lost to extinction in California. Coho numbers here have fallen by 99 percent in 60 years.

In a unique twist, The Nature Conservancy and our partners at The Conservation Fund are working with loggers to improve salmon habitat by putting trees and logs into streams. When trees are strategically placed into streams they create prime coho habitat—deep, cool pools and clean nesting areas—and they provide ample food and cover from predators. Yet a legacy of historic logging practices and other uses have cleared the streamsides of trees.

Loggers are now strategically placing logs in the water, letting the power of winter rains move the wood to create log jams and salmon habitat naturally. Traditional restoration projects often require anchoring material with steel rebar or braided steel cable, producing a costly and static structure that doesn’t adjust as the stream adjusts.

The change seems simple, but the results are dramatic. This new technique reduces costs by more than a third and effectively improves habitat in 12 months or less.

If we can’t restore streams quickly and cheaply, we will lose this iconic California species. With these inexpensive techniques, we can do this type of restoration across entire watersheds.

And while we know saving salmon is a complicated process, the work with the loggers is a critical step in ensuring the coho’s long-term survival.