About the Oregon Plan
Mission: 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.
All Oregonians can 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.
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 developed into an unprecedented statewide program to preserve and benefit from Oregon's natural legacy.
Need for the Plan
When the plan began, populations of anadromous (or oceangoing) fish had declined dramatically all over the Pacific Northwest. Many populations of chinook coho, chum, and steelhead were at a tiny fraction of their historic levels. At the same time, 13,326 miles of Oregon's streams and rivers, and 30 lakes did not meet the water quality standards that supported drinking water, recreation, and fisheries.
Many factors combined to reduce the number of anadromous fish returning to Oregon streams to spawn. Factors that resulted from lack of understanding of how human activities affect salmonids included harvest, hatcheries, hydropower, and habitat changes. Natural factors, like predators and ocean conditions, also affect fish populations.
The Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds organized specific actions - called "measures" - around the factors that contributed to the decline in fish populations and watershed health. Most of these focused on actions to improve water quality and quantity and habitat restoration. Landowners and other private citizens, community organizations, interest groups, and all levels of government came together to organize, fund, and implement these measures. Watershed councils and soil and water conservation districts have led efforts in many watersheds.
The four elements of the Plan:
- Voluntary restoration actions by private landowners - individuals and industry, rural and urban - with support from citizen groups, businesses, and local government. Local knowledge of problems and a sense of ownership gave rise to workable solutions.
- Coordinated state and federal agency and tribal actions to support private and voluntary restoration efforts, implement regulatory programs, manage public lands, and promote public education and awareness about watersheds and salmon. These agencies have been responsible for water quality and quantity; a wide variety of habitat protection, alteration, and restoration activities; and fishery production and harvest management.
- 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 has been conducted to determine whether salmon habitats and populations improved under conservation and restoration efforts.
- Strong scientific oversight by the Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team (IMST), an independent panel of scientists who evaluated the plan's effectiveness, identified needed changes and guided research investments. The IMST contributed to science-based decision-making and actions.