Land Use Practices (Tech Recommend 1)

Problem Statement

Cumulative effects of land use practices have had severe impacts on tributary stream systems (NCASI 1984; Stull and Emery 1985; Li et al. 1994). Logging, irrigation, road construction, grazing, mining, and urbanization have increased rates of sedimentation, elevated water temperatures, decreased instream flows, reduced bank stability, decreased the amount of large woody debris in stream channels, and reduced channel complexity (Chamberlin et al. 1991; Furniss et al. 1991; Hicks et al. 1991; Platts 1991). This degradation has reduced the capacity of tributary habitat to support naturally spawning salmonpopulations. For instance, widespread studies in the Idaho batholith indicate that egg-to-smolt survival is 2% – 10% of predevelopment levels (Scully and Petrosky 1991). In some areas the impacts have been so severe that salmon survival is effectively zero (Scully and Petrosky 1991, NMFS 1993). Further, the overall productivity of remaining stream reaches providing suitable habitat is impaired when these habitat units are geographically fragmented. Cumulative habitat degradation in salmon-bearing stream systems, originating in headwaters, tends to progressively reduce the production capability and eliminate the potential for supporting the historical diversity of life history forms of the species (i.e., those that depended upon environmental conditions found in the downstream portions of the drainage).


Improving or eliminating land use practices that degrade tributary habitat will allow watersheds to heal, and restore salmon productivity. Specifically, application of the Coarse Screening Process (Rhodes et al. 1994) (Tables 5B.2 and 5B.3) to evaluate and guide land use practices will prevent further loss of habitat quality, will result in significant improvement in habitat quality and increase in habitat quantity, and will improve the egg-to-smolt survival of salmon in severely degraded habitat.

Recommended Actions/Tests


  • Enforce existing land use and water quality laws and regulations.
  • U.S. Forest Service, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest: implement the Upper Grande Ronde Salmon Habitat Protection, Restoration and Monitoring Plan in the Upper Grande Ronde watershed.
  • Apply the Coarse Screening Process and in-channel and land use standards (Table 5B.2 and Table 5B.3) on public lands throughout all watersheds upstream from Bonneville Dam that are accessible to anadromous fish to restore watershed, floodplain, and riparian conditions, and to improve existing salmon-production capability of in-stream habitat.
  • Use the Coarse Screening Process land management standards, and other appropriate approaches (e.g., as developed for the Walla Walla subbasin), to identify and guide actions on private lands to achieve the in-channel conditions needed to support healthy naturally reproducing salmon populations.
  • Conduct baseline surveys of watershed and in-channel conditions by ground-based survey and aerial photographic methodology in all watersheds upstream from Bonneville Dam. The minimum set of monitoring parameters should be those identified as standards in the Coarse Screening Process. Additional monitoring parameters will be required for baseline and trend monitoring, effectiveness, and validation monitoring in salmon-bearing streams. Trend monitoring will be used to document recovery. Effectiveness monitoring is needed to assess whether practices employed in land management have expected results. Validation monitoring is needed to test assumptions and key models used in land management. Among these will be validation of a sediment delivery model. A recommended guide to monitoring parameters and methodologies is given in McCullough and Espinosa (1996).
  • Monitor egg-to-smolt survival, total smolt production, and production per spawning pair in salmon-bearing watersheds.


  • Re-survey watershed and instream conditions at appropriate intervals to document watershed recovery.
  • Consider re-instituting low-impact activities in the watershed, floodplain, or riparian area when land use and instream habitat standards have been met. Do not revise land use standards to allow activities that have higher risk or foreclose management options until at least 90% of the managed watersheds in the Columbia River Basin either meet all biologically based habitat standards, or have shown a statistically significant improving trend (p<0.05) over at least a 5-year period, as documented by monitoring.

Expected Results

Short-term: Present declining trends in watershed and riparian conditions will be slowed or halted.

Long-term: Deterioration in in-stream conditions will cease. Measurable improvements will occur in most tributaries within a 10-year period of total rest. Full recovery will require a considerably longer period of time. The minimum set of monitoring parameters that need to be measured for all watersheds are those described in Rhodes et al. (1994). An extended set of monitoring parameters to be evaluated in selected, representative watersheds are described in McCullough and Espinosa (1996).

Survival rates for salmon and lamprey will increase and, given stable and/or increasing escapements, freshwater rearing populations will be large enough to provide a buffer against natural environmental fluctuations.

Watershed carrying capacity for salmon and lamprey will increase, natural communities and ecological functions will be restored, and fragmented salmon habitats will be reconnected by improvement in condition of degraded stream reaches.

Institutional/Decision Structure

Federal and state land and water management agencies: enforce existing land use and water quality laws and regulations.

Federal land and water management agencies and federal fishery managers: employ the Coarse Screening Process (Rhodes et al. 1994) in assessing consistency of land management actions with the goal of improving and protecting salmon habitat and populations.

Federal, state, and tribal land and fishery managers: develop various cooperative arrangements to accomplish the watershed and in-stream habitat restoration called for by the Coarse Screening Process (Rhodes et al. 1994).

Local Watershed Restoration Teams use the Coarse Screening Process as a tool to identify habitat problems and responses appropriate to local conditions.


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