National Fish & Wildlife Foundation Grants $65,511 to ‘Bring Back the Natives’

February 3, 2016

One of the world’s largest conservation grant-makers has awarded The Freshwater Trust more than $65,000 to improve salmon and steelhead habitat in northwestern Oregon’s Sandy River basin.

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) award will help accelerate the recovery of naturally functioning conditions within the stream channels and floodplain areas of Salmon River and Still Creek, two critical waterways of the basin. The foundation has supported more than 14,000 conservation projects in all 50 states since its founding by Congress in 1984.

The award is part of NFWF’s Bring Back the Natives/More Fish program. The initiative invests in conservation activities that restore, protect, and enhance native populations of sensitive or listed fish species across the United States, especially in areas on or adjacent to federal agency lands.

Flow will be reactivated to six historic side channels, 49 large wood habitat structures will be constructed, and additional large wood and boulders will be placed in side channels and on stream margins. Restoration will occur on public land managed by the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and private land.

“At one point, tens of thousands of anadromous fish were in these waterways,” said Mark McCollister, habitat restoration director with The Freshwater Trust. “But over the past century, populations have dwindled to the point where some are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.”

In 1964, sections of the Salmon River were straightened and diked by the Army Corps of Engineers and large wood was removed from the river and floodplain. This channelization, coupled with the loss of large wood from the river corridor, decreased diversity and complexity. Studies have shown a 25% to 40% mortality rate for juvenile salmon and steelhead in the river during their first year, due to a lack of rearing habitat.

The construction of roads, recreation, stream cleanouts, forest fires, and historic timber harvest along the stream corridor have degraded the quality of Still Creek. Numbers of Juvenile steelhead, Chinook and coho have declined as result.

”We have a real opportunity to reverse these impacts for the benefit of the basin and its wildlife,” said McCollister.

The Upper Sandy River Basin Habitat Restoration Project is a multi-year restoration effort. The Freshwater Trust, USFS and BLM have been working in the basin on behalf of the Sandy River Basin Partners, a group of public and private organizations working to restore the native fish populations of the basin.

“We’ve seen fish immediately respond to the improvements we’ve made thus far,” said McCollister. “The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has aptly named their program ‘Bring Back the Natives.’ That’s what we’re doing.”

Founded in 1983, The Freshwater Trust accelerates the pace and scale of freshwater restoration through the use of science, technology and incentive-based solutions to restore rivers on a timeline that matters. The nonprofit uses quantified conservation to fix more rivers faster, and in 2013 received the U.S. Water Prize for its innovation. For more information, please visit

The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and its funding sources. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government, or the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation or its funding sources.

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