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About The Oregon Plan
What is the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds?
"Restoring our native fish populations and the aquatic systems that support them to productive and sustainable levels that will provide substantial environmental, cultural, and economic benefits."
This is the mission of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, an initiative all Oregonians can join to help restore healthy watersheds that support the economy and quality of life of Oregon. Agriculture, forestry, recreation, fisheries, and industry all need healthy watersheds, along with every person and community in Oregon. The Plan has a strong focus on salmon because they have such great cultural, economic and recreational importance to Oregonians - and because they are important indicators of watershed health.
An Oregon Plan brochure  (pdf 823k) provides an outline of the key elements of the plan along with examples of projects throughout Oregon. For copies of the brochure, call (503) 986-0202 in Salem.
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Origins of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds
In 1997, with the support and participation of a wide spectrum of stakeholders from all sectors and regions of the state, the Oregon Legislature and Governor established the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds. Motivated at first by the conviction that Oregon must devise its own homegrown response to listings of coho and other salmon species under the federal Endangered Species Act, the plan quickly evolved and expanded into an unprecedented statewide program to preserve and profit from Oregon's natural legacy.

Why is the Plan Needed?
Populations of anadromous (or oceangoing) fish have declined dramatically all over the Pacific Northwest. Many populations of chinook coho, chum, and steelhead are at a tiny fraction of their historic levels. At the same time, 13,326 miles of Oregon's streams and rivers, and 30 lakes do not meet the water quality standards that support drinking water, recreation and fisheries.

Why are Fish Populations So Low?
There is no single or simple reason. Many factors have combined to reduce the number of oceangoing fish returning to Oregon streams to spawn. These factors are usually characterized as harvest, hatcheries, hydropower, and habitat changes. They are the result of an historical lack of understanding of how human activities affect salmonids. Natural factors, like predators and ocean conditions, also affect fish populations.

How Does the Plan Work?
The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds organizes specific actions - called "measures" - around the factors that contribute to the decline in fish populations and watershed health. Most of these focus on actions to improve water quality and quantity and restore habitat. Landowners and other private citizens, community organizations, interest groups, and all levels of government come together to organize, fund, and implement these measures. Watershed councils and soil and water conservation districts lead efforts in many watersheds.

Key Elements of the Plan
The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds has been likened to a four legged stool, with success depending on strong implementation of each element:
  • Voluntary restoration actions by private landowners - individuals and industry, rural and urban - with support from citizen groups, businesses, and local government. It takes local knowledge of problems and a local sense of ownership to achieve solutions.  
  • Coordinated state and federal agency and tribal actions to support private and voluntary restoration efforts, effectively implement regulatory programs, soundly manage public lands, and promote public education and awareness about watersheds and salmon. These agencies are responsible for water quality, water quantity, and a wide variety of habitat protection, alteration, and restoration activities, as well as fishery harvest management and production of hatchery fish.  
  • Monitoring watershed health, water quality, and salmon recovery to document existing conditions, track changes, and determine the impact of programs and actions. Biological and physical sampling is conducted to determine whether salmon habitats and populations are improving under conservation and restoration efforts.  
  • Strong scientific oversight by the Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team, an independent panel of scientists who evaluate the plan´s effectiveness, identify needed changes, and guide research investments. The IMST helps ensure that the best available science is incorporated into decision making and actions.  
  • In contrast to endangered species recovery and environmental protection plans that rely primarily on regulatory approaches, the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds represents a new way of restoring natural systems, one that relies on the spirit of volunteerism and stewardship that is so characteristic of Oregonians. Citizens, sport and commercial fishing interests, the timber industry, environmental groups, agriculture, utilities, businesses, tribes, and government agencies are working together to make sure people and salmon can thrive over the long term.
Original documents comprising the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds are available from the History/Archives page of this website. You can review hard copies of these documents at these locations around the state.