Steelhead listing means chance to recover irreplaceable Northwest icon

May 7, 2007 Statement by Rob Masonis, Northwest regional director, American Rivers Contact: Rob Masonis, 206-213-0330 x12 Amy Kober, 206-213-0330 x23 Seattle -- American Rivers praised today’s determination by NOAA Fisheries that Puget Sound steelhead are “threatened with extinction” and deserve protection under the Endangered Species Act. Endangered Species Act protection is essential to restoring healthy, self-sustaining populations of steelhead in Puget Sound rivers, where these incredible fish once thrived. Like salmon, a wild steelhead migrates thousands of miles in its lifetime, from river to ocean and back again, to give birth to its offspring. Despite its hardiness and resilience, it cannot survive in rivers where dams block access to spawning grounds, where too much water is withdrawn, or where bad land management destroys streamside forests and wetlands. Rob Masonis, Northwest regional director for American Rivers, made the following statement: “Anyone who has had the privilege of fishing for or watching wild steelhead on Puget Sound rivers knows why we must restore them. Steelhead are a wild symbol of this place and a reason why so many of us love living here. “We are fortunate to already have an ambitious Chinook salmon recovery effort in Puget Sound that was designed from the bottom-up by local people. It’s not perfect, but it provides a great vehicle for making sure we do what it takes to recover steelhead as well. The Puget Sound salmon recovery plan should be expanded to encompass both Chinook salmon and steelhead. “There is considerable overlap between Chinook salmon and steelhead habitat, so many protection and restoration actions will benefit both fish. But, since steelhead typically migrate much further up rivers to spawn in smaller streams, recovering wild steelhead will require extending the scope of habitat protection and restoration actions into headwater streams. “The addition of steelhead to the list of Puget Sound species protected under the Endangered Species Act along with Chinook salmon, chum salmon and orca whales underscores the urgent need for a Sound-wide effort to restore this special place. Rivers must be a central focus of that effort, because so many species depend on healthy rivers for their survival.”