[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 87 (Tuesday, May 6, 1997)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 24588-24609]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-11571]



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

50 CFR Part 227

[Docket No. 950407093-6298-03; I.D. 012595A]

Endangered and Threatened Species; Threatened Status for Southern 
Oregon/Northern California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) 
of Coho Salmon

AGENCY: National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), National Oceanic and 
Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Commerce.

ACTION: Final rule.


SUMMARY: The NMFS is issuing a final determination that the Southern 
Oregon/Northern California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) 
of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) is a ``species'' under the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, as amended, and is being listed 
as threatened. Coho salmon populations are very depressed in this ESU, 
currently numbering less than 10,000 naturally-produced adults. The 
threats to this ESU are numerous and varied. Several human-caused 
factors, including habitat degradation, harvest, and artificial 
propagation, exacerbate the adverse effects of natural environmental 
variability brought about by drought, floods, and poor ocean 
conditions. NMFS has determined that existing regulatory mechanisms are 
either inadequate or not implemented well enough to conserve this ESU. 
While conservation efforts are underway for some populations in this 
ESU, they are not considered sufficient to change the likelihood that 
the ESU as a whole will become endangered in the foreseeable future. 
NMFS will issue shortly protective regulations under section 4(d) of 
the ESA, which will apply section 9(a) prohibitions to this ESU, with 
certain exceptions. NMFS does not expect those regulations to become 
effective before July 1, 1997.
    NMFS has further determined that the Oregon Coast ESU does not 
warrant listing at this time. Accordingly, NMFS will consider the 
Oregon Coast coho salmon ESU to be a candidate species in 3 years (or 
earlier if warranted by new information).

EFFECTIVE DATE: June 5, 1997.

ADDRESSES: Garth Griffin, NMFS, Northwest Region, Protected Species 
Program, 525 N.E. Oregon St., Suite 500, Portland, OR 97232-2737; Craig 
Wingert, NMFS, Southwest Region, Protected Species Management Division, 
501 W. Ocean Blvd., Suite 4200, Long Beach, CA 90802-4213; or Joe Blum, 
NMFS, Office of Protected Resources, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver 
Spring, MD 20910.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Garth Griffin at (503) 231-2005; Craig 
Wingert at (310) 980-4021; or Joe Blum at (301) 713-1401.


Species Background

    The coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) is an anadromous salmonid 
species that was historically distributed throughout the North Pacific 
Ocean from central California to Point Hope, AK, through the Aleutian 
Islands, and from the Anadyr River, Russia, south to Hokkaido, Japan. 
Historically, this species probably inhabited most coastal streams in 
Washington, Oregon, and northern and central California. Some 
populations, now extinct, are believed to have migrated hundreds of 
miles inland to spawn in tributaries of the upper Columbia River in 
Washington and the Snake River in Idaho.
    Coho salmon on the west coast of the contiguous United States and 
much of British Columbia generally exhibit a relatively simple 3-year 
life cycle. Adults typically begin their freshwater spawning migration 
in the late summer and fall, spawn by mid-winter, and then die. The run 
and spawning times vary between and within populations. Depending on 
river temperatures, eggs incubate in ``redds'' (gravel nests excavated 
by spawning females) for 1.5 to 4 months before hatching as ``alevins'' 
(a larval life stage dependent on food stored in a yolk sac). Following 
yolk sac absorption, alevins emerge from the gravel as young juveniles 
or ``fry'' and begin actively feeding. Juveniles rear in fresh water 
for up to 15 months, then migrate to the ocean as ``smolts'' in the 
spring. Coho salmon typically spend 2 growing seasons in the ocean 
before returning to their natal stream to spawn as 3 year-olds. Some 
precocious males, called ``jacks,'' return to spawn after only 6 months 
at sea.
    During this century, indigenous, naturally-reproducing populations 
of coho salmon have been extirpated in nearly all Columbia River 
tributaries and they are in decline in numerous coastal streams 
throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. NMFS'' coho salmon 
status review identified six distinct population segments (i.e., ESUs) 
in Washington, Oregon, and California and noted that natural runs in 
all ESUs are substantially below historical levels (Weitkamp, et al. 
1995). At least 33 populations have been identified by state agencies 
and conservation groups as being at moderate or high risk of 
extinction. In general, the impacts on West Coast coho salmon stocks 
decrease geographically from south to north, with the central 
California stocks being in the worst condition.
    This Federal Register document focuses on listing determinations 
for two coho salmon ESUs--the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast 
ESU and the Oregon Coast ESU--both of which were proposed as threatened 
species under the ESA on July 25, 1995 (60 FR 38011). The Southern 
Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU is composed of populations between 
Punta Gorda (CA) and Cape Blanco (OR). In the 1940s, estimated 
abundance of coho salmon in this ESU ranged from 150,000 to 400,000 
naturally spawning fish. Today, coho populations in this ESU are very 
depressed, currently numbering approximately 10,000 naturally produced 
adults. Populations in the California portion of this ESU could be less 
than 6 percent of their abundance during the 1940s (CDFG, 1994), while 
Oregon populations have exhibited a similar but slightly less severe 
decline (ODFW, 1995); however, it is important to note that population 
abundance in the Rogue River Basin has increased substantially over the 
last 3 years (NMFS, 1997a). The bulk of current coho salmon production 
in this ESU consists of stocks from the Rogue River, Klamath River, 
Trinity River, and Eel River basins. Smaller basins known to support 
coho salmon include the Elk River in Oregon, and the Smith and Mad 
Rivers and Redwood Creek in California.
    The Oregon Coast ESU is composed of populations between Cape Blanco 
and the Columbia River. More than one million coho salmon are believed 
to have returned to Oregon coastal rivers in the early 1900s 
(Lichatowich, 1989), the bulk of them originating in this ESU. Current 
production is estimated to be less than 10 percent of historical 
levels. Spawning in this ESU is distributed over a relatively large 
number of basins, both large and small, with the bulk of the production 
being skewed to the southern portion of its range. There, the coastal 
lake systems (e.g., the Tenmile, Tahkenitch, and Siltcoos basins) and 
the Coos and Coquille Rivers have been particularly productive for coho 

[[Page 24589]]

Previous Federal ESA Actions Related to Coho Salmon

    The history of petitions received regarding coho salmon is 
summarized in the proposed rule published on July 25, 1995 (60 FR 
38011). The most comprehensive petition was submitted by the Pacific 
Rivers Council and 22 co-petitioners on October 20, 1993. In response 
to that petition, NMFS assessed the best available scientific and 
commercial data, including technical information from Pacific Salmon 
Biological and Technical Committees (PSBTCs) in Washington, Oregon, and 
California. The PSBTCs consisted of scientists with technical expertise 
relevant to coho salmon. They were drawn from Federal, state, and local 
resource agencies, Indian tribes, industries, professional societies, 
and public interest groups. NMFS also established a Biological Review 
Team (BRT), composed of staff from its Northwest Fisheries Science 
Center and Southwest Regional Office, which conducted a coastwide 
status review for coho salmon (Weitkamp et al., 1995).
    Based on the results of the BRT report, and after considering other 
information and existing conservation measures, NMFS published a 
proposed listing determination (60 FR 38011, July 25, 1995) that 
identified six ESUs of coho salmon ranging from southern British 
Columbia to central California. The Olympic Peninsula ESU was found not 
to warrant listing and the Oregon Coast ESU, Southern Oregon/Northern 
California Coast ESU, and Central California Coast ESU were proposed 
for listing as threatened species. The Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia 
ESU and the lower Columbia River/southwest Washington Coast ESU were 
identified as candidates for listing. NMFS is now in the process of 
completing status reviews for these latter two ESUs; results and 
findings for both will be announced in an upcoming Federal Register 
    On October 31, 1996, NMFS published a final rule listing the 
Central California Coast ESU as a threatened species (61 FR 56138). 
Concurrently, NMFS announced that a 6-month extension was warranted for 
the Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESUs (61 
FR 56211) due to the fact that there was substantial disagreement 
regarding the sufficiency and accuracy of the available data relevant 
to the listing determination (pursuant to section 4(b)(6)(B)(i) of the 
ESA). The NMFS has now completed a review of additional data pertaining 
to these two ESUs and has updated its west coast coho salmon status 
review (NMFS, 1997a).

Summary of Comments Regarding the Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/
Northern California Coast ESUs

    The NMFS held six public hearings in California, Oregon, and 
Washington to solicit comments on the proposed listing determination 
for west coast coho salmon. Sixty-three individuals presented testimony 
at the hearings. During the 90-day public comment period, NMFS received 
174 written comments on the proposed rule from state, Federal, and 
local government agencies, Indian tribes, non-governmental 
organizations, the scientific community, and other individuals. In 
accordance with agency policy (59 FR 34270, July 1, 1994), NMFS also 
requested a scientific peer review of the proposed rule, receiving 
responses from two of the seven reviewers. A summary of major public 
comments pertaining to the Oregon and Northern California coho salmon 
ESUs (including issues raised by peer reviewers) is presented below, 
grouped by issue categories.

Issue 1: Sufficiency and Accuracy of Scientific Information and 

    Comment: Many individuals urged NMFS to use the best available 
scientific information in reaching a final determination regarding the 
risk of extinction that the coho salmon ESUs face. Comments received 
from a peer reviewer, as well as from scientists representing state 
fish and wildlife agencies, tribes, and the private sector, disputed 
the sufficiency and accuracy of data that NMFS employed in its proposed 
rule to list west coast coho salmon. In particular, they questioned the 
data relating to the ESUs in Oregon and California. The primary areas 
of disagreement concerned data relevant to risk assessment and NMFS' 
evaluation of existing protective measures.
    Response: The ESA requires that listing determinations be made on 
the basis of a population's status which is determined by using the 
best available scientific and commercial data, with subsequent 
consideration being given to state and foreign efforts to protect the 
species. In response to the comments summarized above, NMFS published a 
document (61 FR 56211, October 31, 1996) extending the final listing 
determination deadline for the Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/
Northern California Coast ESUs for 6 months to solicit, collect, and 
analyze additional data. During this period, NMFS met with fisheries 
co-managers and received new and updated information on coho salmon in 
British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. This was deemed 
critical to assessing the current status of coho salmon ESUs. This new 
information, more fully described in a report from the NMFS BRT (NMFS, 
1997a), generally consists of updates of existing data series, new data 
series, and new analyses of various factors. NMFS also received 
analyses and conservation measures associated with the OCSRI (OCSRI, 
1996 and 1997). The OCSRI components relating to hatchery and harvest 
measures were assessed by the BRT (NMFS, 1997a), while remaining 
measures were assessed by the NMFS Habitat program (NMFS, 1997b).
    NMFS believes that information contained in the agency's 1995 west 
coast coho salmon status review (Weitkamp et al., 1995), together with 
more recent information collected by NMFS scientists and information 
provided to NMFS by other sources since the proposed listing 
determination was published, represent the best scientific information 
presently available for coho salmon populations on the Oregon and 
California coast. NMFS believes that this information is sufficient and 
accurate, and, in accordance with the ESA, finds it both mandatory and 
appropriate to make a listing determination at this time. If 
substantial new scientific information indicates a change in the status 
of either coho salmon ESU, NMFS will reconsider the present listing 
    Comment: Some commenters felt that NMFS should establish explicit 
listing criteria common to all coho salmon ESUs, and noted that such 
criteria would lead to different conclusions regarding extinction risk.
    Response: At this time, there is no accepted methodology nor 
explicit listing criteria for determining the likelihood of extinction 
for Pacific salmon. In November 1996, NMFS' Northwest and Southwest 
Fisheries Science Centers sponsored a symposium/workshop on ``Assessing 
Extinction Risk for West Coast Salmon'' (Seattle, November 13-15, 
1996). The objective of the workshop was to evaluate scientific methods 
for assessing various factors contributing to extinction risk for 
Pacific salmon populations. A preliminary summary of key 
recommendations was considered by the BRT during the coho salmon status 
review. Most of these recommendations require long-term development of 
improved methods, and thus, could not be substantially applied in this 

[[Page 24590]]

    In recent months, NMFS has also evaluated three different 
population simulation models for coho salmon developed by members of 
the OCSRI Science Team. The preliminary results of these viability 
models provide a wide range of results, with one model suggesting that 
most Oregon coastal stocks cannot sustain themselves at the ocean 
survival rates that have been observed in the last 5 years (even in the 
absence of harvest) and another suggesting that stocks are highly 
resilient and would be at significant risk of extinction only if 
habitat degradation continues into the future (more detailed 
evaluations of these models are presented in NMFS' status review update 
(NMFS, 1997a)). While these models have potential heuristic value, NMFS 
is presently reluctant to employ them to forecast extinction risk for 
coho salmon. Instead, NMFS has relied on its traditional assessment 
method, which employs a variety of information types to evaluate the 
level of risk faced by an ESU. These include: (1) Absolute numbers of 
fish and their spatial and temporal distribution; (2) current abundance 
in relation to historical abundance and carrying capacity of the 
habitat; (3) trends in abundance, based on indices such as dam or redd 
counts or on estimates of spawner-recruit ratios; (4) natural and 
human-influenced factors that cause variability in survival and 
abundance; (5) possible threats to genetic integrity (e.g., fisheries 
and interactions between hatchery and natural fish); and (6) recent 
events (e.g., a drought or a change in management) that have 
predictable short-term effects on the ESU's abundance. These 
considerations and the approaches to evaluating them are described in 
more detail in Weitkamp et al. (1995) and have been used by NMFS in 
other salmon status reviews. At this time, NMFS believes that an 
integrated assessment using these types of information is both 
desirable and appropriate for determining whether a Pacific salmon 
species is likely to become endangered or extinct.

Issue 2: Description and Status of the Southern Oregon/Northern 
California Coast and Oregon Coast Coho Salmon ESUs

    Comment: A few commenters disputed NMFS' conclusions regarding the 
geographic boundaries for these ESUs; those who did, believed that NMFS 
should reduce the size/number of populations that constitute ESUs. One 
commenter believed that the Umpqua River basin (in the Oregon Coast 
ESU) should be considered a separate ESU and that listing was not 
    Response: The NMFS has published a policy describing how it would 
apply the ESA definition of a ``species'' to anadromous salmonid 
species (56 FR 58612, November 20, 1991). More recently, NMFS and the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a joint policy, 
consistent with NMFS' policy, regarding the definition of ``distinct 
population segments'' (61 FR 4722, February 7, 1996). The earlier 
policy is more detailed and applies specifically to Pacific salmonids 
and, therefore, was used for this determination. This policy indicates 
that one or more naturally reproducing salmonid populations will be 
considered to be distinct and, hence, species under the ESA, if they 
represent an ESU of the biological species. To be considered an ESU, a 
population must satisfy two criteria: (1) It must be reproductively 
isolated from other population units of the same species, and (2) it 
must represent an important component in the evolutionary legacy of the 
biological species. The first criterion, reproductive isolation, need 
not be absolute but must have been strong enough to permit 
evolutionarily important differences to occur in different population 
units. The second criterion is met if the population contributes 
substantially to the ecological or genetic diversity of the species as 
a whole. Guidance on applying this policy is contained in a scientific 
paper entitled: ``Pacific Salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) and the Definition 
of `Species' under the Endangered Species Act.'' It is also found in a 
NOAA Technical Memorandum: ``Definition of `Species' Under the 
Endangered Species Act: Application to Pacific Salmon.'' NMFS' proposed 
listing determination and rule (60 FR 38011, July 25, 1995) for west 
coast coho salmon and the west coast coho salmon status review 
(Weitkamp et al., 1995) describe the genetic, ecological, and life 
history characteristics, as well as human-caused genetic changes, that 
NMFS assessed to determine the number and geographic extent of the coho 
salmon ESUs.
    With respect to the Umpqua River, NMFS recognizes that physical and 
hydrological conditions in this basin are unique (i.e., it is by far 
the largest basin in the Oregon Coast ESU, and it is the only basin in 
the ESU to cut through the Coast Range to drain the Cascade Mountains). 
However, NMFS believes that application of the agency's policy 
(described above) justifies including Umpqua River coho salmon 
populations as an integral part of the Oregon Coast ESU. Ocean 
distribution patterns (based on marine recovery locations of fish 
tagged with coded wire tags) for coho salmon released from this ESU 
(including releases from the Umpqua stocks) are distinctly different 
from the distribution patterns for coho salmon released from ESUs to 
the north and south. Thus, NMFS concludes that the ocean migration 
patterns of the Umpqua stocks are similar to the rest of the stocks in 
the ESU. In addition, genetic data that NMFS reviewed (Weitkamp et al., 
1995) indicate that genetic discontinuities are particularly pronounced 
at Cape Blanco and the mouth of the Columbia River. While there is 
evidence of genetic heterogeneity within this area (e.g., the Oregon 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has identified the Umpqua River 
basin as one of six distinct gene conservation groups of coho salmon), 
NMFS believes that this ESU, as a whole, which includes the Umpqua 
stocks, exhibits a reasonable degree of reproductive isolation from the 
other two ESUs that border it.
    Comment: Most commenters expressed an opinion as to whether listing 
was warranted for these and other coho salmon ESUs, although few 
provided substantive new information relevant to making risk 
assessments. The majority of comments stated that both ESUs should be 
listed as threatened or endangered, while relatively few stated that 
listing was not warranted.
    Response: Recent Status of the Southern Oregon/Northern California 
Coast ESU: The Estimates of natural population abundance in the ESU 
continue to be based on very limited information, but the ESU has 
clearly undergone a dramatic decline. Favorable indicators include 
recent increases in abundance in the Rogue River and the presence of 
natural populations in both large and small basins within the ESU--
factors that may provide some buffer against the ESU's extinction. 
However, large hatchery programs, particularly in the Klamath/Trinity 
basin, raise serious concerns about effects on, and sustainability of, 
natural populations. For example, available information indicates that 
virtually all of the naturally spawning fish in the Trinity River are 
first-generation hatchery fish. Several hatcheries in the California 
portion of this ESU have used exotic stocks extensively in the past, in 
contrast to Cole Rivers Hatchery in Oregon which has only released 
Rogue River stock into the Rogue River. New data relating to coho 
salmon presence/absence in northern California streams that 
historically supported coho salmon are even more disturbing than 

[[Page 24591]]

results, indicating that a smaller percentage of streams in this ESU 
contain coho salmon than did during an earlier study. However, it is 
unclear whether these new data represent actual trends in local 
extinctions, or if they are simply biased by sampling methods.
    In the Rogue River basin, natural spawner abundance in 1996 was 
slightly above levels found in 1994 and 1995. Abundances in the most 
recent 3 years are all substantially higher than they were in 1989-93, 
and are comparable to counts at Gold Ray Dam (upper Rogue) in the 
1940s. Estimated return ratios for 1996 are the highest on record, but 
this may be influenced by an underestimate of parental spawners. The 
Rogue River run included an estimated 60 percent hatchery fish in 1996; 
this figure is comparable to the percentages found in recent years. The 
majority of these hatchery fish return to Cole Rivers Hatchery, but 
NMFS has no estimate of the actual number that stray into natural 
    Response: Recent Status of the Oregon Coast ESU: While this ESU's 
current abundance is substantially less than it was historically, 
recent trends indicate that spawner escapements in this ESU are stable 
or increasing as a likely result of significant harvest restrictions 
(or other factors). Although escapement has been increasing for the ESU 
as a whole (1996 estimate of ESU-wide escapement indicates an 
approximately four-fold increase since 1990), recruitment and recruits-
to-spawner ratios have remained low. While recent natural escapement 
has been estimated to be on the order of 50,000 fish per year in this 
ESU (reaching approximately 80,000 fish in 1996), this has been 
coincident with drastic reductions in harvest. Pre-fishery recruitment 
was higher in 1996 than in either 1994 or 1995, but it still exhibits a 
relatively flat trend since 1990. When looked at on a finer geographic 
scale, the northern Oregon coast still has very poor escapement, the 
north-central coast is mixed with strong increases in some streams but 
continued poor escapement in others, and the south-central coast 
continues to have increasing escapement.
    In contrast to most of the 1980s, spawner-to-spawner ratios in this 
ESU have remained at or above replacement since 1990 (due primarily to 
sharp reductions in harvest). This represents the longest period of 
sustained replacement observed in the past 20 years. It is notable that 
this sustained replacement has occurred during a period of low 
recruitment and primarily poor-to-fair ocean conditions. However, 
significant concerns remain regarding the declining trend in this ESU's 

Issue 3: Factors Contributing to the Decline of West Coast Coho Salmon 

    Comment: Many commenters addressed factors contributing to the 
decline of coho salmon. These included overharvest, predation by 
pinnipeds, effects of artificial propagation, and the deterioration or 
loss of freshwater and marine habitats. One peer reviewer and several 
commenters believed that NMFS' assessment did not adequately consider 
the large influence of natural environmental fluctuations. Some 
commenters took exception to generalizations that NMFS made regarding 
the various factors for decline and requested more detail on the 
various factors so that recovery efforts could be appropriately 
    Response: NMFS agrees with the commenters that many factors, past 
and present, have contributed to the decline of coho salmon. The agency 
also recognizes that natural environmental fluctuations have likely 
played a large role in the species' recent declines. However, NMFS 
believes that other human-induced impacts (e.g., from overharvest, 
hatchery practices, and habitat modification) have been equally 
significant and, moreover, have likely reduced the coho salmon 
populations' resiliency in the face of adverse natural factors such as 
drought and poor ocean conditions. Since the time of NMFS' proposed 
listing, several documents have been produced that describe in more 
detail the impacts of various factors contributing to the decline of 
coho and other salmonids (NMFS, 1996a, 1997a, and 1997b; OCSRI 1997). 
In addition, NMFS has developed a document titled ``Making Endangered 
Species Act Determinations of Effect for Individual or Grouped Actions 
at the Watershed Scale'' (NMFS, 1996b). This document presents 
guidelines to facilitate and standardize determinations of ``effect'' 
under the ESA and includes a matrix for determining the condition of 
various habitat parameters. This matrix is being implemented in several 
northern California and Oregon coastal watersheds and is expected to 
help guide efforts to define salmon risk factors and conservation 
strategies throughout the west coast. A concise description of 
information contained in these documents, as well as new information 
provided by commenters, has been incorporated in the section below 
titled ``Summary of Factors Affecting Coho Salmon.''

Issue 4: Adequacy of Existing Conservation Measures or Regulatory 

    Comment: Many commenters expressed opinions regarding the adequacy 
of existing conservation efforts or regulatory mechanisms. While many 
thought that existing programs were sufficient to conserve coho salmon 
(and hence avoid listing), others believed that efforts were either 
inadequate, poorly implemented, or of uncertain benefit to the species.
    Response: The regulatory mechanisms established by Federal, state, 
tribal, and local governments provide the most effective and available 
means to prevent a species from facing the peril of extinction. In its 
proposed rule, NMFS concluded that existing measures were not 
sufficient to offset population declines. Since that time, several 
documents have been produced that describe in more detail the existing 
conservation efforts for salmon in Oregon and California (NMFS, 1996a, 
1996c, and 1997b; OCSRI, 1997). Moreover, the agency has reviewed a 
variety of state and Federal conservation efforts (including regulatory 
mechanisms) aimed at protecting coho salmon and their habitats in these 
ESUs, and NMFS recognizes that significant conservation efforts have 
been made by an array of government agencies and private groups in 
California and Oregon. NMFS has also developed a document titled 
``Coastal Salmon Conservation: Working Guidance for Comprehensive 
Salmon Restoration Initiatives on the Pacific Coast'' (NMFS, 1996d). 
This document was drafted to guide the Pacific Coast states, tribes, 
and other entities in taking the initiative for coastal salmon 
restoration; it also provides a framework for developing successful 
salmon restoration strategies. Information that commenters provided 
regarding existing regulatory mechanisms has been incorporated in the 
sections below titled: ``Summary of Factors Affecting Coho Salmon, and 
Efforts to Protect Oregon and California Coho Salmon.''

Issue 5: Information Received After the Close of the Comment Period

    Comment: When the states of Oregon and California announced that 
they were in the process of developing salmon restoration initiatives 
(61 FR 56211, October 31, 1996), it generated considerable interest 
among the general public. This was especially true for the OCSRI. 
Between the time the August OCSRI draft was released and this Federal 
Register document was written, NMFS received a great deal of

[[Page 24592]]

correspondence on this subject. Some of the mail was addressed to NMFS, 
but much of it arrived in the form of courtesy copies of mailings sent 
to the state. The majority of the comments NMFS received supported the 
concept of a state restoration initiative, but they also expressed the 
thought that NMFS should still provide the additional protections 
afforded by a listing under the ESA.
    Response: NMFS has considered this information and thanked as many 
of these commenters as time has allowed, and, moreover, appreciates the 
input it has received from the many comments that were submitted.
Summary of Factors Affecting Coho Salmon
    Section 4(a)(1) of the ESA and NMFS listing regulations (50 CFR 
part 424) set forth procedures for listing species. The Secretary of 
Commerce (Secretary) must determine, through the regulatory process, if 
a species is endangered or threatened based upon any one or a 
combination of the following factors: (1) The present or threatened 
destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range; (2) 
overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or 
educational purposes; (3) disease or predation; (4) inadequacy of 
existing regulatory mechanisms; or (5) other natural or human-made 
factors affecting its continued existence.
    The factors threatening naturally-reproducing coho salmon 
throughout its range are numerous and varied. For coho salmon 
populations in California and Oregon, the present depressed condition 
is the result of several long-standing, human-induced factors (e.g., 
habitat degradation, harvest, water diversions, and artificial 
propagation) that serve to exacerbate the adverse effects of natural 
environmental variability from such factors as drought, floods, and 
poor ocean conditions.
    As noted earlier, NMFS received numerous comments regarding the 
relative importance of various factors contributing to the decline of 
coho salmon. Several recent documents have been produced that describe 
in more detail the impacts of various factors contributing to the 
decline of coho and other salmonids (NMFS, 1996a, 1997a, and 1997b; 
OCSRI, 1997). The following sections provide an overview of the various 
risk factors and their role in the decline of Oregon and California 
coho salmon.

A. The Present or Threatened Destruction, Modification, or Curtailment 
of its Habitat or Range

    NMFS, in conjunction with the State of Oregon, identified the 
habitat factors for decline that have affected coho salmon. The factors 
are: Channel morphology changes, substrate changes, loss of instream 
roughness, loss of estuarine habitat, loss of wetlands, loss/
degradation of riparian areas, declines in water quality (e.g., 
elevated water temperatures, reduced dissolved oxygen, altered 
biological communities, toxics, elevated pH, and altered stream 
fertility), altered streamflows, fish passage impediments, elimination 
of habitat, and direct take. Additional detail on each of these factors 
for decline can be found in reports by NMFS (NMFS, 1996a, 1997a, and 
1997b) and the State of Oregon (OCSRI, 1997).
    The major activities responsible for the decline of coho salmon in 
Oregon and California are logging, road building, grazing and mining 
activities, urbanization, stream channelization, dams, wetland loss, 
beaver trapping, water withdrawals and unscreened diversions for 
irrigation. Many commenters expressed concern that these and other 
habitat-related activities, if unchecked, could ultimately lead to the 
ESUs' becoming endangered or extinct. The following discussion provides 
an overview of the types of activities and conditions that adversely 
affect coho salmon in coastal watersheds.
    Numerous studies have demonstrated that land use activities 
associated with logging, road construction, urban development, mining, 
agriculture, and recreation have significantly altered the quantity and 
quality of coho salmon habitat. Impacts of concern associated with 
these activities include the following: Alteration of streambank and 
channel morphology, alteration of ambient stream water temperatures, 
alteration of the magnitude and timing of annual stream flow patterns, 
elimination of spawning and rearing habitat, fragmentation of available 
habitats, elimination of downstream recruitment of spawning gravels and 
large woody debris, removal of riparian vegetation resulting in 
increased stream bank erosion, and degradation of water quality (CDFG, 
1965; Bottom et al., 1985; California Advisory Committee on Salmon and 
Steelhead Trout, 1988; CDFG, 1991; Nehlsen et al., 1991; California 
State Lands Commission, 1993; Wilderness Society, 1993; Bryant, 1994; 
CDFG, 1994; Brown et al., 1994; Botkin et al., 1995; McEwan and 
Jackson, 1996). Of particular concern is the increased sediment input 
into spawning and rearing areas that results from loss of properly 
functioning riparian areas, land management activities that occur on 
unstable slopes, and certain agricultural practices. Further, 
historical practices, such as the use of splash dams, widespread 
removal of log jams, removal of snags from river channels, and 
eradication of beaver have adversely modified fish habitat (Bottom et 
al., 1985).
    Agricultural practices have also contributed to the degradation of 
salmonid habitat on the west coast through irrigation diversions, 
overgrazing in riparian areas, and compaction of soils in upland areas 
from livestock (Botkin et al., 1995; Spence et al., 1996). The vigor, 
composition, and diversity of natural vegetation can be altered by 
livestock grazing in and around riparian areas. This in turn can affect 
the site's ability to control erosion, provide stability to stream 
banks, and provide shade, cover, and nutrients to the stream. 
Mechanical compaction can reduce the productivity of the soils 
appreciably and cause bank slough and erosion. Mechanical bank damage 
often leads to channel widening, lateral stream migration, increases in 
water temperature, and excess sedimentation. Agricultural practices are 
also a key producer of non-point source pollution which includes runoff 
from livestock and tilled fields (nutrients and sediments) and 
agricultural chemicals.
    Urbanization has degraded coho salmon habitat through stream 
channelization, floodplain drainage, and riparian damage (Botkin et 
al., 1995). When watersheds are urbanized, problems may result simply 
because structures are placed in the path of natural runoff processes, 
or because the urbanization itself has induced changes in the 
hydrologic regime. In almost every point that urbanization activity 
touches the watershed, point source and nonpoint source pollution 
occurs. Water infiltration is reduced due to an increase in impervious 
surfaces. As a result, runoff from the watershed is flashier, with 
increased flood hazard (Leopold, 1968). Flood control and land drainage 
schemes may concentrate runoff, resulting in increased bank erosion 
which causes a loss of riparian vegetation and undercut banks and 
eventually causes widening and down-cutting of the stream channel. 
Sediments washed from the urban areas contain trace metals such as 
copper, cadmium, zinc, and lead (CSLC, 1993). These, together with 
pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, gasoline, and

[[Page 24593]]

other petroleum products, contaminate drainage waters and harm aquatic 
life necessary for coho salmon survival. The California State Water 
Resources Control Board (CSWRCB, 1991) reported that nonpoint source 
pollution is the cause of 50 to 80 percent of impairment to water 
bodies in California.
    Forestry has degraded coho salmon habitat through removal and 
disturbance of natural vegetation, disturbance and compaction of soils, 
construction of roads, and installation of culverts. Timber harvest 
activities can result in sediment delivered to streams through mass 
wasting and surface erosion that can elevate the level of fine 
sediments in spawning gravels and fill the substrate interstices 
inhabited by invertebrates. Where logging in the riparian areas occurs, 
inputs of leaf litter, terrestrial insects, and large woody debris to 
the stream are reduced. Loss of large woody debris, combined with 
alteration of hydrology and sediment transport, reduces complexity of 
stream micro-and macrohabitats and causes loss of pools and channel 
sinuosity. The structure of the biological community may also change. 
This includes fish assemblages and diversity as well as timing of life 
history events (Spence et al., 1996).
    Depletion and storage of natural flows have drastically altered 
natural hydrological cycles, especially in California and southern 
Oregon rivers and streams. Alteration of streamflows has increased 
juvenile salmonid mortality for a variety of reasons: Migration delay 
resulting from insufficient flows or habitat blockages; loss of usable 
habitat due to dewatering and blockage; stranding of fish resulting 
from rapid flow fluctuations; entrainment of juveniles into unscreened 
or poorly screened diversions; and increased juvenile mortality 
resulting from increased water temperatures (California Advisory 
Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout, 1988; CDFG, 1991; CBFWA, 1991; 
Bergren and Filardo, 1991; Palmisano et al., 1993; Reynolds et al., 
1993; Chapman et al., 1994; Cramer et al., 1995; Botkin et al., 1995). 
In addition, reduced flows degrade or diminish fish habitats via 
increased deposition of fine sediments in spawning gravels, decreased 
recruitment of new spawning gravels, and encroachment of riparian and 
non-endemic vegetation into spawning and rearing areas.
    Important elements of water quality include water temperatures 
within the range that corresponds with migration, rearing and emergence 
needs of fish and the aquatic organisms upon which they depend (Sweeney 
and Vannote, 1978; Quinn and Tallman, 1987). Desired conditions for 
coho salmon include an abundance of cool (generally in the range of 
11.8 degrees C to 14.6 degrees C), well oxygenated water that is 
present year-round, free of excessive suspended sediments and other 
pollutants that could limit primary production and benthic invertebrate 
abundance and diversity (Cordone and Kelley, 1961; Reiser and Bjornn, 
1979; Lloyd et al., 1987).
    There are approximately 18,137 miles (30,228 km) of streams in the 
coastal basins of Oregon. Of that number, 6,086 stream miles (10,143 
km) (33.5 percent) have been assessed by Oregon Department of 
Environmental Quality (DEQ) for compliance with existing water quality 
standards using available water quality information. Of the 6,086 
stream miles assessed (10,143 km), 3,035 stream miles (5,058 km) (49.9 
percent) were found to be water quality limited, and 2,345 stream miles 
(3,908 km)(38.5 percent) need additional data or were of potential 
concern. Only 706 stream miles (1,177 km)(11.6 percent) of those 
assessed were found to be meeting all state water quality standards 
(OCSRI, 1997).
    Eighteen water bodies in northern California, including eight 
within the range of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU, 
have been designated as impaired by the Environmental Protection Agency 
(EPA) under section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA). These 
eight river basins include the Mattole, Eel, Van Duzen, Mad, Shasta, 
Scott, Klamath, and Trinity Rivers. The primary factors for listing 
these river basins as impaired are excessive sediment load and elevated 
water temperatures.
    Although individual management activities by themselves may not 
cause significant harm to salmonid habitats, incrementally and 
collectively, they may degrade habitat and cause long-term declines in 
fish abundance (Bisson et al., 1992). Changes in sediment dynamics, 
streamflow, and water temperature are not just local problems 
restricted to a particular reach of a stream, but problems that can 
have adverse cumulative effects throughout the entire downstream basin 
(Sedell and Swanson, 1984; Grant, 1988). For example, increased erosion 
in headwaters, combined with reduced sediment storage capacity in small 
streams, from loss of stable instream large woody debris (LWD), can 
overwhelm larger streams with sediment (Bisson et al., 1992). Likewise, 
increased water temperature in headwater streams may not harm salmonids 
there but can contribute to downstream warming (Bisson et al., 1987; 
Bjornn and Reiser, 1991).
    The most pervasive cumulative effect of past forest practices on 
habitats for anadromous salmonids has been an overall reduction in 
habitat complexity (Bisson et al., 1992), from loss of multiple habitat 
components. Habitat complexity has declined principally because of 
reduced size and frequency of pools due to filling with sediment and 
loss of LWD (Reeves et al., 1993; Ralph et al., 1994). However, there 
has also been a significant loss of off-channel rearing habitats (e.g., 
side channels, riverine ponds, backwater sloughs) important for 
juvenile salmon production, particularly coho salmon (Peterson, 1982). 
Cumulative habitat simplification has caused a widespread reduction in 
salmonid diversity throughout California, Oregon, and the region.

B. Overutilization for Commercial, Recreational, Scientific, or 
Education Purposes

    Coho salmon have historically been a staple of Pacific Northwest 
and northern California Indian tribes and have been targeted in 
recreational and commercial fisheries since the early 1800s (Nickelson 
et al., 1992). Coho salmon harvested by California Native American 
tribes in the northern California portion of the Southern Oregon/
Northern California Coast ESU is primarily incidental to larger chinook 
salmon subsistence fisheries in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers; in 
neither basin is tribal harvest considered to be a major factor for the 
decline of coho salmon. The recent estimated Yurok tribal net harvest 
of coho salmon in the Klamath River was 27 in 1994, 660 in 1995, and 
540 in 1996. The Yurok tribal fishery is managed annually under a 
Harvest Management Plan adopted by the Tribal Council pursuant to the 
authority of the Yurok Tribal Fishing Rights Ordinance. The Hoopa 
Tribe's estimated net harvest of coho salmon from 1982-96 averaged 263 
fish per year and ranged from a low of 25 fish in 1994 to a high of 
1,115 fish in 1985. Harvest management practiced by the tribes is 
conservative and has resulted in limited impacts on the coho salmon 
stocks in the Klamath and Trinity Rivers.
    Overfishing in non-tribal fisheries is believed to have been a 
significant factor in the decline of coho salmon. Marine harvest in the 
Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESUs occurs 
primarily in nearshore waters off Oregon, and California (Weitkamp et 
al., 1995). Coho

[[Page 24594]]

salmon landings off the California and Oregon coast ranged from 0.7 to 
3.0 million in the 1970s, were consistently below 1 million in the 
1980s, and averaged less than 0.4 million in the early 1990s prior to 
closure of the fisheries in 1994 (PFMC, 1995).
    Significant overfishing occurred from the time marine survival 
turned poor for many stocks (ca. 1976) until the mid-1990s when harvest 
was substantially curtailed. This overfishing compromised escapement 
levels. Spawning escapement targets established for the Oregon Coastal 
Natural (OCN) coast wide aggregate (comprised of all naturally produced 
coho salmon from Oregon coastal streams) were rarely met over the past 
2 decades. There are many reasons that escapement targets were not met, 
including excessive harvests and difficulty in estimating the maximum 
sustainable yield given extreme fluctuations in ocean productivity and 
the inability to properly distinguish wild spawners from stray hatchery 
    Coho salmon stocks are managed by NMFS in conjunction with the 
Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), the states, and certain 
tribes. Coho salmon ocean harvest is managed by setting escapement 
goals for OCN coho salmon. This stock aggregate constitutes the largest 
portion of naturally-produced coho salmon caught in ocean salmon 
fisheries off California and Oregon (PFMC, 1993). The PFMC prohibited 
the retention of coho salmon in both the commercial and recreational 
salmon fisheries along the entire west coast in 1994. A similar action 
prohibiting the retention of coho salmon in all salmon fisheries south 
of Cape Falcon (on the northern Oregon coast) was implemented in 1995. 
These actions were taken because of the depressed status of Oregon and 
California coastal coho salmon stocks in 1994 and 1995 and are believed 
to have immediately benefitted these stocks by increasing escapement.
    New OCN coho salmon adult spawner escapement rebuilding criteria 
and associated fishery management strategy for OCN are currently being 
proposed by Oregon to the PFMC and NMFS and are described in more 
detail in the OCSRI (1997). Key provisions of this management strategy 
include: (1) Disaggregation of OCN stock into four components for 
better management of weaker stock units; (2) setting new adult spawner 
escapement rebuilding criteria for each component derived from a model 
based on freshwater habitat assessment and production capability; and 
(3) establishing future coho salmon fishery-related exploitation rates 
under a more restrictive fishery management regime that allocates most 
of future population increases to escapement.
    Recreational fishing for coho salmon is pursued in numerous streams 
throughout the Oregon and California coast when adults return on their 
fall spawning migration. The contribution of coho salmon to the in-
river sport catch is unknown for most California watersheds, and losses 
due to injury and mortality from incidental capture in other authorized 
fisheries, principally steelhead, are also unknown. The California 
Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has monitored, with Trinity River 
Basin Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act funding, angler harvest of coho 
salmon in the Trinity River above Willow Creek with reward tags since 
1977. In-river angler harvest estimates for coho salmon range from zero 
in 1980 to a high of 3,368 in 1987, with an average of 598 coho salmon 
harvested per year.
    In the Oregon portion of the Southern Oregon/Northern California 
Coast ESU, marked hatchery coho salmon are allowed to be harvested in 
the Rogue River. All other recreational coho salmon fisheries in the 
Oregon portion of this ESU are closed. In the Oregon Coast ESU, 
recreational fisheries for coho salmon are limited to three rivers: 
North Fork Nehalem River (primarily a hatchery run), Trask River, and 
Yaquina River. Regulations for the latter two rivers allow only marked 
hatchery fish to be kept. With the marking of all hatchery fish, the 
Nehalem River recreational fishery will also be limited to harvest of 
marked hatchery coho salmon in the near future.
    Collection for scientific research and educational programs is 
believed to have had little or no impact on coho salmon populations in 
these ESUs. In both California and Oregon, most of the scientific 
collection permits are issued to environmental consultants, Federal 
resource agencies, and universities by the CDFG and the ODFW. 
Regulation of take is controlled by conditioning individual permits. 
The state fish and wildlife agencies require reporting of any coho 
salmon taken incidentally to other monitoring activities; however, no 
comprehensive total or estimate of coho salmon mortalities related to 
scientific sampling is kept for watersheds in either state. Neither 
CDFG (F. Reynolds, pers. comm.) nor ODFW (R. Temple, pers. comm.) 
believe that mortalities, as regulated by the states' permitting 
processes, are detrimental to coho salmon in California and Oregon.

C. Disease or Predation

    Relative to effects of fishing, habitat degradation, and hatchery 
practices, disease and predation are not believed to be major factors 
contributing to the overall decline of coho salmon in California and 
Oregon. However, disease and predation may have substantial impacts in 
local areas.
    Coho salmon are exposed to numerous bacterial, protozoan, viral, 
and parasitic pathogens in freshwater and marine environments. Specific 
diseases such as bacterial kidney disease (BKD), ceratomyxosis, 
columnaris, furunculosis, infectious hematopoietic necrosis, redmouth 
and black spot disease, Erythrocytic Inclusion Body Syndrome, whirling 
disease, and others are present and known to affect salmon and 
steelhead (Rucker et al., 1953; Wood, 1979; Leek, 1987; Cox, 1992; 
Foott et al., 1994; Gould and Wedemeyer, undated). Very little current 
or historical information exists to quantify prevalences and mortality 
rates attributable to these diseases for coho salmon. However, studies 
have shown that native fish tend to be less susceptible to these 
pathogens than hatchery-reared fish (Buchanon et al., 1983; Sanders et 
al., 1992).
    Infectious disease is one of many factors that can influence adult 
and juvenile survival (Buchanan et al., 1983). Disease may be 
contracted by direct infection with waterborne pathogens or by 
interbreeding with infected hatchery fish (Fryer and Sanders, 1981; 
Evelyn et al., 1984 and 1986). Salmonids typically are exposed to a 
variety of pathogens throughout their life; however, disease results 
only when the complex interaction among host, pathogen, and environment 
is altered.
    Many natural and hatchery coho salmon populations throughout 
California's coast have tested positive for Renibacterium salmoninarum, 
the causative bacterium of BKD (Cox, 1992; Foott, 1992). For example, 
in the Central California Coast ESU, the overall prevalence of BKD 
measured by direct fluorescent antibody technique among Scott Creek 
coho salmon was 100 percent (13/13 fish) and 95.5 percent (21/22 fish) 
among San Lorenzo River coho salmon (Cox, 1992). The CDFG recently 
initiated a treatment protocol to attempt to control BKD outbreaks in 
hatchery fish released into the Russian River and Scott Creek (Cox, 
1992). The impacts of this disease are subtle. Juvenile salmonids may 
survive well in their journey downstream but may be unable to make 
appropriate changes in kidney function for a successful

[[Page 24595]]

transition to sea water (Foott, 1992). Stress during migration may also 
cause overt disease (Schreck, 1987). Water quantity and quality during 
late summer is a critical factor in controlling disease epidemics. As 
water quantity and quality diminishes, stress may trigger the onset of 
these diseases in fish that are carrying the infectious agents (Holt et 
al., 1975; Wood, 1979; Matthews et al., 1986; Maule et al., 1988).
    Freshwater predation by salmonids and other fishes is not believed 
to be a major factor contributing to the decline of coho salmon in the 
Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESUs, 
although it could be a factor for some individual populations. For 
example, predation by exotic warmwater fish is believed to be a major 
factor limiting the production in Tenmile Lake, formerly one of the 
largest producers of coho salmon along the Oregon coast (Reimers, 
1989). Higgins et al. (1992) and CDFG (1994) reported that Sacramento 
River squawfish have been found occupying anadromous salmonid habitat 
throughout the Eel River basin and are considered to be a serious 
threat to native coho salmon. Avian predators have been shown to impact 
some juvenile salmonids in freshwater and nearshore environments. 
Ruggerone (1986) estimated that ring-billed gulls consumed 2 percent of 
the salmon and steelhead trout passing Wanapum Dam, in the Columbia 
River, during the spring smolt outmigration in 1982. Wood (1987) 
estimated that the common merganser, a known freshwater predator of 
juvenile salmonids, were able to consume 24 to 65 percent of coho 
salmon production in coastal British Columbia streams. Known avian 
predators in the nearshore marine environment include herons, 
cormorants, and alcids (Allen, 1974). Cooper and Johnson (1992) and 
Botkin et al. (1995) reported that marine mammal and avian predation 
may occur on some local salmonid populations; however, they believed 
that it was a minor factor in the decline of coastwide salmonid 
populations. With the decrease in quality riverine and estuarine 
habitats, increased predation by freshwater, avian, and marine 
predators will occur. With the decrease in avoidance habitat (e.g., 
deep pools and estuaries, and undercut banks) and adequate migration 
and rearing flows, predation may play a role in the reduction of some 
localized coho salmon stocks.
    California sea lions and Pacific harbor seals (which occur in most 
estuaries and rivers where salmonid runs occur on the west coast) are 
known predators of salmonids and their populations are increasing. This 
raises concerns over the negative impacts of predation on small 
salmonid populations, particularly when the pinnipeds co-occur with 
depressed salmonid populations in estuaries and rivers during salmonid 
migrations (NMFS, 1997c). The observations of steelhead predation by 
California sea lions at the Ballard Locks in Seattle, WA, show that a 
significant proportion (65 percent) of an entire salmonid run can be 
consumed by sea lions (Scordino and Pfeifer, 1993) and this clearly 
demonstrates that the combination of high local predator abundance 
during salmonid migrations, restricted passage, and depressed fish 
stocks can result in significant impacts on local salmonid populations 
(NMFS, 1997c). Unfortunately, there are only a few areas on the west 
coast, other than the Ballard Locks, where studies have documented the 
influence of pinniped predation on local salmonid populations. In the 
Puntledge River estuary in British Columbia, Bigg et al. (1990) 
observed Pacific harbor seals surface feeding on salmonids and 
documented predation rates of up to 46 percent of the returning adult 
fall chinook. In the same river, observations of harbor seal predation 
on coho salmon smolts in 1995 indicated that the seals consumed 15 
percent of the total production. Predation on coho salmon has also been 
observed at the Ballard Locks with a single California sea lion 
documented to have consumed 136 coho salmon in 62 hours (2.1 coho 
salmon per hour) (NMFS, 1997c). Although there have been no specific 
studies in any coastal estuary on the west coast on impacts of pinniped 
predation, it is known that pinniped foraging on coho salmon can be 
extensive based on ancillary information from hatcheries that have 
documented pinniped scarring on 11-20 percent of the returning coho 
salmon (NMFS, 1997c).
    In many of the small coastal rivers and streams in southern Oregon 
and northern California, there is a situation that makes returning 
adult coho salmon and winter steelhead more vulnerable to pinniped 
predation than larger systems (NMFS, 1997c). In low rainfall years, or 
when rain arrives late in the winter season, small coastal rivers do 
not flow with sufficient volume to open the beach crest and flow into 
the sea. Low tide periods also create or compound this condition in 
low-flowing small rivers and streams. During such periods, adult fish 
arrive and accumulate in nearshore waters just offshore of the closed-
off river mouth. The adult salmonids are then exposed to days or weeks 
of pinniped predation at these sites until sufficient rainfall occurs 
or higher tides allow access to the river or stream. During successive 
years of drought, the situation is exacerbated because the river mouths 
are open only intermittently during the salmonid spawning season. 
Downstream migrating smolts also become more vulnerable to pinniped and 
bird predation in these conditions as they congregate in the lagoons 
formed near the river mouth until it opens up to the sea.
    It is unlikely that pinniped predation was a significant factor in 
the decline of coho salmon populations on the west coast; there have 
been no specific studies that demonstrate a cause-effect relationship 
between increases in pinniped numbers and declines in salmonid 
populations. However, with reduced salmonid populations and increased 
pinniped populations, pinniped predation can be a factor affecting the 
recovery of some salmonid populations. Pinniped predation on small 
salmonid populations, especially at areas of restricted fish passage, 
can have negative impacts on the recovery of depressed salmonids. 
Seasonal predation by pinnipeds on some salmonid populations has been 
observed, and a significant negative impact on at least one salmonid 
population has been documented (i.e., winter steelhead migrating 
through the Ballard Locks). Pinniped impacts on salmonids are more 
likely due to opportunistic behavior by certain individual pinnipeds 
that have learned to exploit situations where salmonids are 
concentrated and particularly vulnerable rather than being strictly 
related to pinniped population size. As the number of pinnipeds 
increases, however, the likelihood of more pinnipeds discovering these 
situations increases, as does the opportunity to pass on such learned 
behavior to other pinnipeds.
    All in all, the relative impacts of marine predation on anadromous 
salmonids are not well understood, but marine predation was not likely 
a major factor in the coho salmon decline, although it can be a factor 
in the recovery of some localized coho salmon stocks. Normally, 
predators play an important role in the ecosystem, culling out unfit 
individuals, thereby strengthening the species as a whole. The 
increased impact of certain predators has been, to a large degree, the 
result of ecosystem modification. Therefore, it would seem more likely 
that increased predation is but a symptom of a much larger problem,

[[Page 24596]]

namely, habitat modification and a decrease in water quantity and 

D. Inadequacy of Existing Regulatory Mechanisms

Habitat Management
    1. Northwest Forest Plan (NFP). The NFP is a Federal program with 
important benefits for coho salmon, as described below (see Federal 
Conservation Efforts). While the NFP covers a very large area, the 
overall effectiveness of the NFP in conserving Oregon and California 
coho salmon is limited by the extent of Federal lands and the fact that 
Federal land ownership is not uniformly distributed in watersheds 
within the affected ESUs. In some areas, Federal lands tend to be 
located in the upper reaches of watersheds or river basins, upstream of 
lower gradient river reaches that were historically important for coho 
salmon production. In other areas, particularly Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) ownership, Federal lands are distributed in a 
checkerboard fashion, resulting in fragmented landscapes. Both of these 
Federal land distribution factors place constraints on the ability of 
the NFP to achieve its aquatic habitat restoration objectives at 
watershed and river basin scales and highlight the importance of 
complementary salmon habitat conservation measures on non-Federal lands 
within the subject ESUs.
    2. State Forest Practices. The California Department of Forestry 
and Fire Protection (CDF) enforces the State of California's forest 
practice rules (CFPRs) which are promulgated through the Board of 
Forestry (BOF). The CFPRs contain provisions that can be protective of 
coho salmon if fully implemented. However, NMFS believes that the 
ability of the CFPRs to protect coho salmon can be improved, 
particularly in the area of developing properly functioning riparian 
habitat. For this reason, NMFS is attempting to improve the condition 
of riparian buffers in ongoing habitat conservation plan negotiations 
with private landowners. Specifically, the CFPRs do not adequately 
address large woody debris recruitment, streamside tree retention to 
maintain bank stability, and canopy retention standards that assure 
stream temperatures are properly functioning for all life stages of 
coho salmon. The current process for approving Timber Harvest Plans 
(THPs) under the CFPRs does not include monitoring of timber harvest 
operations to determine whether a particular operation damaged habitat 
and, if so, how it might be mitigated in future THPs. The CFPR rule 
that permits salvage logging is also an area where better environmental 
review and monitoring could provide NMFS with the information to 
determine whether this practice impacts coho salmon.
    There have been several reviews of the current CFPRs and 
particularly the rules associated with the Water/lake Protection Zones 
(WLPZs) for their adequacy in protecting aquatic dependent species such 
as coho salmon. Most reviews have shown that implementation and 
enforcement of the current rules are not adequate in protecting coho 
salmon or their habitats (CDFG, 1994; Murphy, 1995). NMFS' inability to 
assess the adequacy of the CFPRs is primarily due to the lack of 
published documentation that the CFPRs are functioning to protect coho 
salmon. NMFS is currently reviewing the CFPRs so that discussions can 
be opened with CDF to determine where improvements in the language and 
definition of the CFPRs would be beneficial.
    The CDF has recently proposed 15 amendments to the CFPRs that would 
become effective on January 1, 1998, if approved by the BOF. The 
proposed changes are a positive sign that CDF recognizes the need to 
provide a higher level of protection to stream side zones, provide for 
additional control of sediment inputs from road construction and 
harvest operations, and clarify conditions for exemptions in stream 
zones. However, the adoption of the proposed changes to the CFPRs is 
uncertain at this time.
    The BOF's Monitoring Study Group (MSG) has developed a Long-Term 
Monitoring Program (LTMP) for assessing the effectiveness of the CFPRs 
in protecting water quality. The MSG recently published a report on its 
Pilot Monitoring Program for the LTMP (January, 1997) which evaluated 
canopy retention in 50 randomly selected THPs in Mendocino and Humboldt 
Counties. The Pilot Study found that canopy retention was higher (70 
percent) in the THPs which were evaluated than the minimum required by 
the CFPRs (50 percent).
    The Oregon Forest Practices Act (OFPA), while modified in 1995 and 
improved over the previous OFPA, does not have implementing rules that 
adequately protect coho salmon habitat. In particular, the current OFPA 
does not provide adequate protection for the production and 
introduction of large woody debris (LWD) to medium, small and non-fish 
bearing streams. Small non-fish bearing streams are vitally important 
to the quality of downstream habitats. These streams carry water, 
sediment, nutrients, and LWD from upper portions of the watershed. The 
quality of downstream habitats is determined, in part, by the timing 
and amount of organic and inorganic materials provided by these small 
streams (Chamberlin et al. in Meehan, 1991). Given the existing 
depleted condition of most riparian forests on non-Federal lands, the 
time needed to attain mature forest conditions, the lack of adequate 
protection for non-riparian LWD sources in landslide-prone areas and 
small headwater streams (which account for about half the wood found 
naturally in stream channels) (Burnett and Reeves, 1997, citing Van 
Sickle and Gregory, 1990; McDade et al., 1990; and McGreary, 1994), and 
current rotation schedules (approximately 50 years), there is a low 
probability that adequate LWD recruitment could be achieved under the 
current requirements of the OFPA. Also, the OFPA does not adequately 
consider and manage timber harvest and road construction on sensitive, 
unstable slopes subject to mass wasting, nor does it address cumulative 
    3. Dredge, Fill, and Inwater Construction Programs. The Army Corps 
of Engineers (COE) regulates removal/fill activities under section 404 
of the CWA, which requires that the COE not permit a discharge that 
would ``cause or contribute to significant degradation of the waters of 
the United States.'' One of the factors that must be considered in this 
determination is cumulative effects. However, the COE guidelines do not 
specify a methodology to be used in assessing cumulative impacts or how 
much weight to assign them in decision-making. In 1996 the Portland 
District Office of the COE issued approximately 250 section 404 permits 
for removal/fill in Oregon. The COE does not have in place any process 
to address the additive effects of the continued development of 
waterfront, riverine, coastal, and wetland properties.
    The Oregon Division of State Lands (DSL) manages the state-
permitted portion of the removal fill laws. Oregon intends to halt 
habitat degradation through the development of standardized permit 
conditions incorporating best management practices for Removal-Fill 
activities and through strengthening interagency coordination in 
Removal-Fill permitting. The DSL also does not currently have methods 
to assess, analyze, or manage cumulative effects.
    4. Water Quality Programs. The Federal CWA is intended to provide 
for the protection of beneficial uses, including fishery resources. To 
date, implementation has not been effective

[[Page 24597]]

in adequately protecting fishery resources, particularly with respect 
to non-point sources of pollution. In Oregon, water quality standards 
are implemented by the DEQ pursuant to section 303(c) of the CWA. DEQ 
is required by section 303(d)(1) (C) and (D) of the CWA to prepare 
Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for all water bodies that do not meet 
State water quality standards.
    TMDLs are a method for quantitative assessment of environmental 
problems in a watershed and identifying pollution reductions needed to 
protect drinking water, aquatic life, recreation, and other use of 
rivers, lakes, and streams. TMDLs may address all pollution sources, 
including point sources such as sewage or industrial plant discharges, 
and non-point discharges such as runoff from roads, farm fields, and 
forests. The CWA gives state governments the primary responsibility for 
establishing TMDLs, however, EPA can also develop them.
    Oregon DEQ entered into a consent decree in 1987 to develop at 
least two TMDLs per year. The Healthy Streams Partnership describes a 
general approach to address non-point source water quality problems in 
Oregon, particularly with respect to agricultural activities. If 
Oregon's Healthy Streams Partnership is fully funded, DEQ expects to 
complete all TMDLs for all impaired coastal watersheds within 10 years. 
Oregon's guidance for non-point source TMDLs includes an implementation 
component that is lacking in prior non-point source TMDLs nationwide. 
Since the beneficial use of salmonid fishes is most often affected by 
the largely non-point source sediment and temperature impairments, this 
advance in non-point source TMDLs may be important. The development of 
strong TMDLs to cover all water quality impaired coastal waters could 
contribute substantially to coho salmon recovery.
    The CWA gives state governments the primary responsibility for 
establishing TMDLs. However, EPA is required to do so if a state does 
not meet this responsibility. In California, as a result of recent 
litigation, the EPA has made a legal commitment guaranteeing that 
either EPA or the State of California will establish TMDLs, which 
identify pollution reduction targets, for these 18 impaired river 
basins in northern California by the year 2007. The State of California 
has made a commitment to establish TMDLs for approximately half the 18 
river basins by 2007. The EPA will develop TMDLs for the remaining 
basins and has also agreed to complete all TMDLS if the state fails to 
meet its commitment within the agreed upon time frame.
    The ability of these TMDLs to protect coho salmon in Oregon and 
California is expected to be significant in the long-term; however, it 
will be difficult to develop them quickly in the short-term and their 
efficacy in protecting coho salmon habitat will be unknown for years to 
    5. State Agricultural Practices. Historically, the impacts to fish 
habitat from agricultural practices have not been closely regulated. 
The Oregon Department of Agriculture has recently completed guidance 
for development of agricultural water quality management plans (AWQMPs) 
(as enacted by State Senate Bill 1010). Plans that are consistent with 
this guidance are likely to achieve state water quality standards. It 
is open to question, however, whether they will adequately address 
salmonid habitat factors, such as properly functioning riparian 
conditions. Their ability to address all relevant factors will depend 
on the manner in which they are implemented. AWQMPs are anticipated to 
be developed at a basin scale, so the entirety of coastal Oregon may be 
covered. AWQMPs include regulatory authority and enforcement 
provisions. The Healthy Streams Partnership schedules adoption of 
AWQMPs for all impaired waters by 2001.
    6. State Urban Growth Management. On lands inside Oregon's urban 
growth boundaries, some upgraded riparian area protection will be 
afforded by the newly revised requirements for statewide planning Goal 
5. Local governments will amend their local comprehensive plans to 
implement these new requirements. Unfortunately, Goal 5 does not 
require establishment and protection of riparian vegetation to provide 
adequate large woody debris and allows limited road building in 
riparian areas.
Harvest Management
    Harvest of coho salmon in Federal waters off the west coast is 
managed by the PFMC and NMFS. Harvest of California and Oregon coastal 
coho salmon has been managed based on achieving adequate escapement of 
OCN coho salmon. Despite annual management and use of best available 
scientific information, spawning escapements have declined 
significantly over the past 20 years. Prior to 1994, harvest rates on 
OCN coho salmon were too high for the poor ocean conditions that are 
now realized to have been occurring. Further, declining numbers of 
natural spawning fish were masked by high stray rates of hatchery fish. 
Since 1994, the PFMC has recommended harvest rates of 10-13 percent 
even though regulations allowed up to a 20 percent harvest rate during 
the same time period. Since 1994, the PFMC also has recommended 
prohibiting the retention of coho salmon south of Cape Falcon, OR, 
which has resulted in relatively low levels of incidental mortality. 
Oregon also has begun marking all hatchery fish so that natural 
escapements can be more accurately quantified. Oregon has proposed that 
the PFMC amend its ocean fisheries regulations to adopt the OCSRI 
harvest framework.
    Fisheries management of coho salmon in Oregon state waters inside 
the 3-mile (5 km) limit historically had similar problems and 
contributed to the overall decline. In more recent years, however, 
state angling regulations have required the release of all naturally-
produced coho salmon in the Oregon portion of the Southern Oregon/
Northern California Coast ESU. The harvest measures and associated 
monitoring plan in the OCSRI will provide a significantly better 
framework from which PFMC and Oregon will manage their coho salmon 
    Oregon currently manages several populations of non-indigenous fish 
species (e.g., striped, largemouth, and smallmouth bass) for optimal 
recreational fisheries. These fish were in many cases introduced into 
Oregon waters in violation of Oregon law. Scientists have documented 
that at least in some circumstances, the presence of these non-
indigenous species has reduced or eliminated coho salmon populations 
(OCSRI 1997). The ongoing management applied to these exotic fish 
species, in certain locales, may not be consistent with the goals of 
the ESA. The OCSRI contains provisions to review the science and 
management direction pertinent to the interaction of non-indigenous 
fish species and coastal coho salmon. Results of this review will guide 
NMFS and Oregon in the future management or actions addressing 
interactions of these species with coho salmon.
    The State of California has jurisdiction over ocean salmon fishing 
within 3 miles (5 km) of the coast offshore California. Subsequent to 
NMFS's implementation of ocean salmon harvest regulations for the 
Exclusive Economic Zone, the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) 
and CDFG, respectively, conform the State's ocean salmon regulations 
for commercial and sportfishing within the 3-mile (5 km) limit to those 
adopted by NMFS. In most years the CFGC and CDFG issue

[[Page 24598]]

regulations that conform fully with Federal ocean salmon regulation.
    The CFGC is also responsible for issuing in-river sportfishing 
regulations in California. At present, the state's sportfishing 
regulations continue to allow fishing for coho salmon in the inland 
waters of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU, and the 
Commission has not proposed to take action in the event the ESU is 
listed under the Federal ESA.
    The contribution of coho salmon to the in-river sport catch is 
unknown for most California watersheds, as are losses due to injury and 
mortality from incidental capture in other state-authorized fisheries 
such as steelhead. However, the CDFG has conducted limited in-river 
monitoring of coho salmon harvest by anglers in the Trinity River above 
Willow Creek since 1977, and estimates that in-river angler harvest for 
coho salmon in this reach of the Trinity River has averaged 598 coho 
salmon harvested per year. Current state funding and personnel 
resources are not available to implement comprehensive monitoring 
programs to evaluate the magnitude of in-river harvest impacts in 
Hatchery Management
    Oregon has adopted a Wild Fish Policy that guides many aspects of 
hatchery use, their broodstock protocols, and the degree of interaction 
between hatchery and wild fish. This policy has improved many hatchery 
operations throughout Oregon with respect to the protection of wild 
fish populations and their genetic diversity. However, full and prompt 
implementation of the policy has not occurred and Oregon continues to 
make program adjustments to achieve fish management consistent with the 
purposes of the policy and the Federal ESA.
    One provision of the Wild Fish Policy is that hatcheries using 
local broodstock and managed according to specific protocols can 
contribute up to 50 percent of the number of fish spawning in the 
natural habitat. NMFS believes this 50 percent guideline can be 
appropriate when the hatchery fish are part of a recovery program 
needed to boost an at-risk population. However, current scientific 
information indicates that it is not appropriate in hatchery programs 
intended to enhance populations for the purposes of increased harvest. 
Consequently discussions between NMFS and ODFW have resulted in the 
OCSRI including a measure to manage coho salmon hatchery and harvest 
programs so that natural spawning populations contain no more than 10 
percent hatchery strays.
    In California, the CDFG directly operates artificial propagation 
programs for coho salmon at three hatcheries in the Southern Oregon/
Northern California Coast ESU. These include Iron Gate Hatchery, 
Trinity River Hatchery, and the Mad River Hatchery. The CDFG has 
recently developed production goals and constraints for both the Iron 
Gate and Trinity River Hatchery programs (CDFG, 1997a). Both hatcheries 
now operate under goals and constraints which specify use of adults 
returning to the hatcheries and prohibits use of stocks from other 
drainages for spawning and rearing. Transfer of production to outside 
drainages is generally prohibited, but can occur under some 
circumstances. Additional privately-owned and operated hatchery 
programs for coho salmon are conducted in Rowdy Creek (Rowdy Creek 
Hatchery), the Eel River (Hollow Tree Creek Hatchery), and in the 
Mattole River. Other smaller programs that are not currently 
propagating coho salmon are in Freshwater Creek and Prairie Creek.
    In the past, non-native coho salmon stocks have been introduced as 
broodstock in hatcheries and widely transplanted in many coastal rivers 
and streams in the California portion of the Southern Oregon/Northern 
California Coast ESU (Weitkamp et al., 1995). Because of problems 
associated with this practice, CDFG developed its Salmon and Steelhead 
Stock Management Policy. This policy recognizes that such stock mixing 
is detrimental and seeks to maintain the genetic integrity of all 
identifiable stocks of salmon and steelhead in California, as well as 
minimize interactions between hatchery and natural populations. To 
protect the genetic integrity of salmon and steelhead stocks, this 
policy directs CDFG to evaluate each salmon and steelhead stream and 
classify it according to its probable genetic source and degree of 
integrity. However, this has not yet been accomplished by the state.
    Although non-native coho salmon stocks have been introduced in the 
Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU, most hatchery programs 
are now being conducted without the import of broodstock from other 
ESUs in accordance with CDFG's policy. With the exception of the Mad 
River Hatchery, hatchery programs in this ESU are being operated as 
supplementation hatcheries rather than production hatcheries. They are 
taking eggs from the rivers in which they operate and returning fish to 
the river from which they were taken. Release of hatchery fish occurs 
in streams with stocks similar to the native runs. Efforts are made to 
return hatchery fish to their natal streams, and they are held for an 
acclimation period to increase the probability of imprinting. In 
contrast, the Mad River Hatchery has used numerous out-of-basin and 
out-of-state coho salmon stocks. A review of CDFG hatchery production 
and planting records indicates that coho salmon smolts still continue 
to be planted in streams other than that where the hatchery is located. 
These out-of-stream plants have occurred both in other coho salmon ESUs 
and in other basins within individual ESUs. In addition, there are 
inadequate CDFG resources to tag enough hatchery coho salmon to monitor 
return rates and rates of straying (CDFG 1995).
    The CFGC has also developed specific policies for Private Non-
profit Hatcheries (section 1170-1175 of the Fish and Game Code) and 
Cooperative Salmon and Steelhead Rearing Facilities (sections 1200-1206 
of the Fish and Game Code) that have been incorporated into the Fish 
and Game Code. These policies are intended to ensure that the bulk of 
the state's salmon and steelhead resources are produced naturally and 
that the state's goals of maintaining and increasing natural production 
take precedence over the goals of cooperatively operated rearing 
programs. Privately owned rearing and hatchery programs for coho salmon 
in the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU are operated in 
accordance with these policies.
    In its comments on the proposed rule (CDFG, 1995), CDFG stated that 
its coho salmon hatchery programs can be integrated into recovery plans 
for each ESU within California through re-evaluation of each hatchery's 
goals and constraints with program modifications where appropriate. In 
a letter dated March 7, 1997 (CDFG, 1997b), CDFG reiterated its view 
that its coho salmon hatchery programs are compatible with the recovery 
of coho salmon and other at-risk salmon and steelhead populations in 

E. Other Natural or Human-Made Factors Affecting Its Continued 

Natural Factors
    Long-term trends in rainfall and marine productivity associated 
with atmospheric conditions in the North Pacific Ocean likely have a 
major influence on coho salmon production. Numerous comments received 

[[Page 24599]]

underscored both the importance and uncertainties surrounding natural 
environmental fluctuations, but few provided substantive new 
information. Some commenters thought that recent coho salmon declines 
were merely reflective of a natural production cycle while others 
believed that declines had been exacerbated by human influences, 
especially on freshwater habitats.
    Populations that are fragmented or reduced in size and range are 
more vulnerable to extinction by natural events. Whether recent 
climatic conditions represent a long-term change that will continue to 
affect salmonid stocks in the future or whether these changes are 
short-term environmental fluctuations that can be expected to reverse 
in the near future remains unclear. Many of the coho salmon population 
declines began prior to these recent drought conditions.
    1. Drought. Many areas of the Pacific coast have experienced 
drought conditions during much of the past decade, a situation that has 
undoubtedly contributed to the decline of many salmonid populations. 
Drought conditions reduce the amount of water available, resulting in 
reductions (or elimination) of flows needed for adult coho salmon 
passage, egg incubation, and juvenile rearing and migration. There are 
indications in tree ring records that droughts more severe than the 
drought that California recently experienced occurred in the past 
(Stine 1994). Aside from the critical role that habitat complexity 
plays in providing fish with instream refugia during drought 
conditions, the key to survival in this type of variable and rapidly 
changing environment is the evolution of behaviors and life history 
traits that allow coho salmon to cope with a variety of environmental 
    2. Floods. With high inherent erosion risk, urban encroachment, and 
intensive timber management, flood events can cause major soil loss 
(Hagans et al., 1986; Nawa et al., 1991; Higgins et al., 1992). As 
previously mentioned, sedimentation of stream beds has been implicated 
as a principal cause of declining salmonid populations throughout their 
range. Floods can result in mass wasting of erodible hillslopes and 
failure of roads on unstable slopes causing catastrophic erosion. In 
addition, flooding can cause scour and redeposition of spawning gravels 
in typically inaccessible areas.
    During flood events, land disturbances resulting from logging, road 
construction, mining, urbanization, livestock grazing, agriculture, 
fire, and other uses may contribute sediment directly to streams or 
exacerbate sedimentation from natural erosive processes (California 
Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout, 1988; CSLC, 1993; 
FEMAT, 1993). Judsen and Ritter (1964), the California Department of 
Water Resources (CDWR, 1982), and the California State Lands Commission 
(CSLC, 1993) have stated that northwestern and central coastal 
California have some of the most erodible terrain in the world. Several 
studies have indicated that, in this region, catastrophic erosion and 
subsequent stream sedimentation (such as during the 1955 and 1964 
floods) resulted from areas which had been clearcut or which had roads 
constructed on unstable soils (Janda et al., 1975; Wahrhaftig, 1976; 
Kelsey, 1980; Lisle, 1982; Hagans et al., 1986).
    As streams and pools fill in with sediment, flood flow capacity is 
reduced. Such changes cause decreased stream stability and increased 
bank erosion, and, subsequently, exacerbate existing sedimentation 
problems (Lisle, 1982), including sedimentation of spawning gravels and 
filling of pools and estuaries. Channel widening and loss of pool-
riffle sequence due to sedimentation has damaged spawning and rearing 
habitat of all salmonids. By 1980, the pool-riffle sequence and pool 
quality in some California streams still had not fully recovered from 
the 1964 regional flood. In fact, Lisle (1982) and Weaver and Hagans 
(1996) found that many Pacific coast streams continue to show signs of 
harboring debris flow from the 1964 flood. Such streams have remained 
shallow, wide, warm, and unstable.
    More recently, between November 1995 and April 1996, the Pacific 
Northwest experienced a rare series of storm and flood events. High 
winds, heavy rainfall, rapid snowmelt, numerous landslides and debris 
torrents, mobilization of large woody debris and high runoff occurred 
over portions of Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana (USFS and BLM, 
1996). These storms, which resulted in 100-year floods in some Oregon 
coastal basins, also had a potentially large effect on the survival of 
Oregon coast coho salmon and the freshwater habitats upon which they 
depend. Aerial surveys from a study by Pacific Watershed Associates 
(PWA undated) in the middle Coast Range of Oregon noted that areas with 
the greatest impact were typically watersheds with a combination of 
steep slopes, unstable bedrock geology, recent timber harvesting, high 
road densities, and within the altitude range where precipitation 
intensities were probably the greatest. This study also stressed that 
landslides were highly correlated with management activities and 
originated from recent clear-cuts and forest roads at much higher 
frequencies than from wilderness or unmanaged areas. In addition to 
these observations, Pacific Watershed Associates concluded that the 
floods may have had long-term effects on watershed habitats. For 
example, they suggested that materials destabilized but not mobilized 
by the flood may remain unstable and therefore be susceptible to future 
flood events for some time, materials deposited in streams and rivers 
may persist for decades, and the impact to larger streams and rivers 
may actually increase over a period of several years as sediment is 
moved downstream.
    With regard to impacts to in-stream coho salmon habitat, changes 
due to flooding were both positive and negative, depending on the area. 
For example, ODFW surveys (Moore and Jones, 1997) identified some areas 
with many new channels cut, which could provide off-channel habitat for 
coho salmon. In the Tillamook Bay basin, the Wilson River received 
major negative impacts, while the Tillamook and Trask Rivers received 
little impact. Siuslaw National Forest (SNF, 1996) reported that the 
February 1996 flooding actually increased positive habitat changes 
(increased pool area and quality, increased cover complexity, and shift 
from bedrock, boulder and cobble substrates to gravel and sand) in many 
smaller streams in areas undergoing habitat improvement projects but 
not in adjacent, untreated reaches, nor in habitat improvement projects 
in large streams. Bush et al. (1997) noted that decreases in pool area 
ranged from 10-50 percent, and largely resulted from a 60-percent loss 
of beaver pond habitat (which provide critical overwinter coho salmon 
habitat). Large woody debris decreased by approximately 25 percent from 
the initial surveys, although much of the lost wood had been pushed up 
onto the floodplain or out of the active channel. Overall, large 
amounts of gravel were added to most streams, and new gravel bars were 
    Recent stream production studies conducted by ODFW (Solazzi and 
Johnson, 1997) indicate that 1996 smolt production in four central 
Oregon coast study streams were lower than recent averages, with 
overwinter survival the lowest or second lowest on record for the two 
streams for which estimates were made, and that age zero fish 
production was also low. They concluded that the most significant 
impact of the flooding was on juveniles and coho salmon eggs that were 
in the

[[Page 24600]]

gravel at the time of the flood. While these results are based on a 
small sample of streams and may not reflect average effects of the 
floods, it suggests that 1997 and 1998 adult returns to some coastal 
basins will be reduced by the floods. Longer-term effects of the floods 
can also be expected to vary among basins, but most reports available 
to us suggest that long-term effects should generally be neutral or 
slightly beneficial (e.g., from sediment removal and increased off-
channel habitat) to coho salmon.
    3. Ocean Conditions and El Nino. Large fluctuations in Pacific 
salmon catch have occurred during the past century. Annual world 
harvest of Pacific salmon has varied from 772 million kg in the 1930s 
to about 409 million kg in 1977 and back to 818 million kg by 1989 
(Hare and Francis, 1993). Mechanisms linking atmospheric and oceanic 
physics and fish populations have been suggested for Pacific salmon 
(Rogers, 1984; Nickelson, 1986; Johnson, 1988; Brodeur and Ware, 1992; 
Francis et al., 1992; Francis, 1993; Hare and Francis, 1993; Ward, 
1993). Many studies have tried to correlate the production or marine 
survival of salmon with environmental factors (Pearcy, 1992; Neeley, 
1994). Vernon (1958), Holtby and Scrivener (1989), and Holtby et al. 
(1990) have reported associations between salmon survival and sea 
surface temperature and salinity, especially during the first few 
months that salmonids are at sea. Francis and Sibley (1991), Rogers 
(1984), and Cooney et al. (1993) also found relationships between 
salmon production and sea surface temperature. Some studies have tried 
to link salmon production to oceanic and atmospheric climate change. 
For example, Beamish and Bouillon (1993) and Ward (1993) found that 
trends in Pacific salmon catches were similar to trends in winter 
atmospheric circulation in the North Pacific.
    Francis and Sibley (1991) and Francis et al. (1992) have developed 
a model linking decadal-scale atmospheric variability and salmon 
production that incorporates hypotheses developed by Hollowed and 
Wooster (1991) and Wickett (1967), as well as evidence presented in 
many other studies. The model developed by Francis et al. (1992) 
describes a time series of biological and physical variables from the 
Northeast Pacific that appear to share decadal-scale patterns. 
Biological and physical variables that appear to have undergone shifts 
during the late 1970s include the following: Abundance of salmon 
(Rogers, 1984 and 1987; Hare and Francis, 1993) and other pelagic fish, 
cephalopods, and zooplankton (Brodeur and Ware, 1992); oceanographic 
properties such as current transport (Royer, 1989), sea surface 
temperature and upwelling (Holowed and Wooster, 1991); and atmospheric 
phenomena such as atmospheric circulation patterns, sea-surface 
pressure patterns, and sea-surface wind-stress (Trenberth, 1990; 
Trenberth et al., 1993).
    Finally, Scarnecchia (1981) reported that near-shore conditions 
during the spring and summer months along the California coast may 
dramatically affect year-class strength of salmonids. Bottom et al. 
(1986) believed that coho salmon along the Oregon and California coast 
may be especially sensitive to upwelling patterns because these regions 
lack extensive bays, straits, and estuaries, such as those found along 
the Washington, British Columbia, and Alaskan coast, which could buffer 
adverse oceanographic effects. They speculate that the paucity of high 
quality near-shore habitat, coupled with variable ocean conditions, 
makes freshwater rearing habitat more crucial for the survival and 
persistence of many coho salmon populations.
    An environmental condition often cited as a cause for the decline 
of west coast salmonids is the condition known as ``El Nino.'' El Nino 
is a warming of the Pacific Ocean off South America and is caused by 
atmospheric changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean. During an El Nino 
event, a plume of warm sea water flows from west to east toward South 
America, eventually reaching the coast where it is deflected south and 
north along the continents.
    El Nino ocean conditions are characterized by anomalously warm sea 
surface temperature and changes in thermal structure, coastal currents, 
and upwelling. Principal ecosystem alterations include decreases in 
primary and secondary productivity and changes in prey and predator 
species distributions. Several El Nino events have been recorded during 
the last several decades, including those of 1940-41, 1957-58, 1982-83, 
1986-87, 1991-92, and 1993-94. The degree to which adverse ocean 
conditions can influence coho salmon production was demonstrated during 
the El Nino event of 1982-83, which resulted in a 24 to 27 percent 
reduction in fecundity and a 58 percent reduction (based on pre-return 
predictions) in survival of adult coho salmon stocks originating from 
the Oregon Production Index area (Johnson, 1988).
Manmade Factors--Artificial Propagation
    Potential problems associated with hatchery programs include 
genetic impacts on indigenous, naturally-reproducing populations, 
disease transmission, predation of wild fish, difficulty in determining 
wild stock status due to incomplete marking of hatchery fish, depletion 
of wild stock to increase brood stock, and replacement rather than 
supplementation of wild stocks through competition and continued annual 
introduction of hatchery fish (Waples, 1991; Hindar et al., 1991; 
Stewart and Bjornn, 1990). All things being equal, the more hatchery 
fish that are released, the more likely natural populations are to be 
impacted by hatchery fish. Similarly, the more genetically similar 
hatchery fish are to natural populations they spawn with, the less 
change there will be in the genetic makeup of future generations in the 
natural population. Non-native coho salmon stocks have been introduced 
as broodstock in hatcheries and widely transplanted in many coastal 
rivers and streams in Oregon and California (Bryant, 1994; Weitkamp et 
al., 1995; NMFS, 1997a).
    Advancement and compression of run timing have been common 
phenomena in hatchery populations, and these changes can affect future 
generations of naturally-reproducing fish. Fry of early-spawning adults 
generally hatch earlier and grow faster and can thus displace fry of 
later-spawning natural fish (Chapman, 1962). Conversely, early-spawning 
coho salmon redds are more prone to being destroyed by early fall 
floods. Consequently, early-spawning individuals may be unable to 
establish permanent, self-sustaining populations but may nevertheless 
adversely affect existing natural populations (Solazzi et al., 1990). A 
recent study found that over a period of 13 years, the range of 
spawning timing of coho salmon at five Washington hatcheries decreased 
from 10 weeks to 3 weeks, causing the range of the period of return to 
the hatcheries to decrease by one-half (Flagg et al., 1995).
    Another common hatchery practice with coho salmon is release of 
``excess'' hatchery production into natural habitat as fry or parr. 
Outplanting large numbers of large hatchery juveniles into streams 
already occupied by naturally-produced juveniles may place the resident 
fish at a competitive disadvantage and may force them into marginal 
habitats that have low survival potential (Chapman, 1962; Solazzi et 
al., 1990).

[[Page 24601]]

    Stock transfers of coho salmon were common throughout the Oregon 
and California coast; the nature and magnitude of these transfers 
varied by area and basin. Compared to areas farther north, hatcheries 
in central California and southern Oregon/northern California are 
relatively small and widely dispersed, given the size of both areas. 
Northern California hatcheries have received fairly large transplants 
of coho salmon from hatcheries in Washington and Oregon, which have 
spread to central California through stock transfers. Because of the 
predominance of hatchery stocks in the Klamath River basin, stock 
transfers into Trinity and Iron Gate Hatcheries may have had a 
substantial impact on natural populations in the basin and raises 
serious concerns about their sustainability. Available information 
indicates that virtually all of the naturally spawning fish in the 
Trinity River are first generation hatchery fish. In contrast, Cole 
Rivers Hatchery (on the Rogue River) appears to have relied exclusively 
on native stocks.
    In recent years, large hatcheries in southern Oregon/northern 
California (e.g., Mad and Trinity River Hatcheries) have produced 
400,000 to 500,000 juveniles annually, while smaller hatcheries, and 
most hatcheries in central California, produce no more than 100,000 to 
200,000 juveniles each year. Most Oregon coastal hatcheries recently 
produced approximately 400,000 to 1,400,000 juveniles annually, 
although private hatcheries (no longer in operation) recently produced 
2 to 5 million juvenile coho salmon annually. Most historic transfers 
of coho salmon into Oregon coastal hatcheries used other Oregon coastal 
stocks. However, some coastal hatchery programs (notably private 
hatcheries no longer in existence) made extensive use of Puget Sound 
coho salmon stocks. Some transfers of Columbia River coho salmon into 
Oregon coastal hatcheries have occurred, but these were relatively 
infrequent and minor. Similarly, most outplants of coho salmon into 
Oregon coastal rivers have used Oregon coastal stocks, with outplants 
of stocks from other areas being relatively small and infrequent.
    NMFS received a number of comments regarding the impacts of 
hatchery fish on wild coho salmon populations. Some commenters 
(including a peer reviewer) contended that NMFS overstated the 
significance of impacts from hatchery fish on wild coho salmon. NMFS 
has worked with the state agency comanagers to resolve uncertainties 
regarding these impacts, and has documented these findings in a status 
review update (NMFS 1997a). These findings note that widespread 
spawning by hatchery fish continues to be a major concern for both the 
Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESUs. Scale 
analyses to determine hatchery-wild ratios of naturally spawning fish 
indicate moderate to high levels of hatchery fish spawning naturally in 
many basins on the Oregon coast, and at least a few hatchery fish were 
identified in almost every basin examined. Although it is possible that 
these data do not provide a representative picture of the extent of 
this problem, they represent the best information available at the 
present time. In addition to concerns for genetic and ecological 
interactions with wild fish, these data also suggest that the natural 
portion (i.e., fish born in the gravel) of the natural spawner 
abundance may be overestimated by ODFW and that the declines in 
recruits per spawner in many areas may have been even more severe than 
current estimates indicate (NMFS, 1997a). However, Oregon has made some 
significant changes in its hatchery practices, such as substantially 
reducing production levels in some basins, switching to on-station 
smolt releases, and decreasing fry releases, and proposes additional 
changes (discussed below), to address this and other concerns about the 
impacts of hatchery fish on natural populations.
    While there are obvious concerns over the negative effects of 
hatchery fish on wild coho salmon stocks, it is important to note that 
artificial propagation could play an important role in coho salmon 
recovery and that some hatchery populations of coho salmon may be 
deemed essential for the recovery of threatened or endangered ESUs 
(e.g., if the associated natural population(s) were already extinct or 
at high risk of extinction). Under these circumstances, NMFS would 
consider taking the administrative action of listing the hatchery fish.

Efforts To Protect Oregon and California Coho Salmon

    Under section 4 of the ESA, a determination to propose a species 
for listing as threatened or endangered requires considering the 
biological status of the species, as well as efforts being made to 
protect the species. Since the early 1990s Federal agencies, state and 
local governments and private parties have taken substantial measures 
to protect coho salmon in Oregon and California. These measures affect 
habitat, harvest, and hatchery activities. In the agency's decision to 
invoke a statutory extension for the listing determination (October 31, 
1996, 61 FR 56211), it was noted that the State of Oregon was planning 
to submit a peer-reviewed salmon restoration initiative (i.e., the 
Oregon Coastal Salmon Restoration Initiative) for NMFS' consideration 
in the spring of 1997. California was undertaking a similar effort, but 
it was less certain when its plan would be completed. These plans were 
expected to contain detailed summaries and assessments of conservation 
measures which benefit coho salmon in the respective states, and hence 
aid NMFS in making a listing determination. The following sections 
summarize these Federal and state conservation efforts.
    I. Federal Conservation Efforts. 1. NFP. The NFP is a Federal 
interagency cooperative program, the Record of Decision for Amendments 
to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and BLM Planning Documents Within the 
Range of the Spotted Owl, which was signed and implemented in April 
1994. The NFP represents a coordinated ecosystem management strategy 
for Federal lands administered by the USFS and BLM within the range of 
the Northern spotted owl (which overlaps considerably with the 
freshwater range of coho salmon). The NFP region-wide management 
direction either amended or was incorporated into approximately 26 USFS 
land and resource management plans (LRMPs) and two regional guides.
    The most significant element of the NFP for anadromous fish is its 
Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS), a regional-scale aquatic ecosystem 
conservation strategy that includes: (1) Special land allocations, such 
as key watersheds, riparian reserves, and late-successional reserves, 
to provide aquatic habitat refugia; (2) special requirements for 
project planning and design in the form of standards and guidelines; 
and (3) new watershed analysis, watershed restoration, and monitoring 
processes. These ACS components collectively ensure that Federal land 
management actions achieve a set of nine Aquatic Conservation Strategy 
objectives, which include salmon habitat conservation. In recognition 
of over 300 ``at-risk'' Pacific salmonid stocks within the NFP area 
(Nehlsen et al., 1991), the ACS was developed by aquatic scientists, 
with NMFS participation, to restore and maintain the ecological health 
of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems on public lands. The ACS strives 
to maintain and restore ecosystem health at watershed and landscape 
scales to protect habitat for fish and other riparian-dependent species 
and resources and to restore currently degraded habitats. The approach 

[[Page 24602]]

to prevent further degradation and to restore habitat on Federal lands 
over broad landscapes.
    In the final rule listing Umpqua River cutthroat trout as 
endangered (August 9, 1996, 61 FR 41514), NMFS acknowledged that NFP 
amendments to Federal LRMPs were ``intended to ultimately reverse the 
trend of aquatic ecosystem degradation and contribute toward recovery 
of fish habitat,'' however, it was noted at the time that the results 
of the NFP ACS were ``yet to be demonstrated.'' Following 3 years of 
NFP implementation, NMFS subsequently reviewed the adequacy of 14 
individual LRMPs, as modified by the NFP and its ACS, for conserving 
Oregon Coast and Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho salmon. 
The results of these reviews are described in two conference opinions 
(NMFS, 1995 and 1997d) that document NMFS'' determinations that the 
programmatic direction for Federal land management actions embodied in 
the 14 LRMPs would not be likely to jeopardize the continued existence 
of Oregon Coast or Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho 
salmon. Moreover, the opinions concluded that implementation of 
management direction in the LRMPs and RMPs will result in substantially 
improved habitat conditions for these ESUs over the next few decades 
and into the future. Improved habitat conditions will result in 
increased survival of the freshwater life stages of these fish. 
Implementation of actions consistent with the ACS objectives and 
components--including watershed analysis, watershed restoration, 
reserve and refugia land allocations, and associated standards and 
guidelines--will provide high levels of aquatic ecosystem 
understanding, protection, and restoration for aquatic habitat-
dependent species.
    Federal lands managed under the NFP comprise about 35 percent of 
the total area of the Oregon Coast coho salmon ESU. This includes all 
or part of the Siskiyou, Siuslaw, and Umpqua National Forests (NF); and 
the Coos Bay, Eugene, Medford, Roseburg and Salem BLM Districts. 
Federal land ownership in the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast 
coho salmon ESU represents approximately 53 percent of the total area 
of the ESU and includes Federal land managed by the USFS, BLM, and 
National Park Service (NPS). The USFS lands, for example, include all 
or substantial portions of four National Forests (Klamath NF, Six 
Rivers NF, Shasta-Trinity NF, and Mendocino NF). The vast majority of 
the USFS land is concentrated in the northernmost California 
watersheds, including significant portions of the Smith River basin 
(including the Smith River National Recreational Area, which is part of 
Six Rivers NF), the mid-to upper Klamath basin (with the exception of 
Scott and Shasta Rivers), and the Trinity River basin.
    2. Other Federal Programs. Other significant federally funded and/
or managed conservation programs or activities in the California 
portion of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU include 
the Klamath Basin Restoration Program, the Trinity River Basin Fish and 
Wildlife Restoration Program, the Action Plan for the Restoration of 
the South Fork Trinity River Watershed and Fisheries, and Redwood 
National Park efforts to restore anadromous salmonid habitat in the 
Redwood Creek basin.
    In addition to these major efforts, NMFS is also engaged in 
significant ESA section 7 consultation actions on several Federal 
projects or activities in the California portion of this ESU. These 
efforts include: (1) Consultation with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) 
concerning operations management of the Klamath Project in the upper 
Klamath River basin to provide adequate flows for anadromous salmonids 
in the mainstem Klamath River, (2) consultation with the FWS and BOR to 
provide adequate flows and temperatures for anadromous salmonids in the 
mainstem Trinity River, (3) consultation with the COE to address gravel 
mining and other instream activities, and (4) consultation with the 
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) concerning inter-basin 
water transfers from the Eel River to the Russian River (between the 
Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU and Central California 
ESU) via Pacific Gas & Electric's Potter Valley Project. These 
consultation efforts are expected to contribute significantly to the 
long-term conservation of coho salmon and its habitat. Other Federal 
efforts in Oregon include the South Slough National Estuarine Research 
Reserve located in Coos Bay, an upcoming consultation on a hydropower 
facility on the Umpqua River, continued road retirement and 
obliteration on Federal forest lands, and ongoing review of Elk Creek 
Dam and Savage Rapids Dam on the Rogue River and the proposed Milltown 
Hill Dam on the Umpqua River.
    The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) assists 
agriculture in addressing impacts to anadromous fish. The NRCS is 
currently engaged with the NMFS in discussions about updating their 
Field Office Technical Guides (FOTGs) to better assist landowners in 
California and Oregon desiring to implement voluntary conservation 
measures protective of, or benefitting, salmonids. A subset of the 
FOTGs are the guidance that local field offices follow when engaging in 
actions that may affect anadromous fish or their habitats.
    3. Habitat Conservation Plans. NMFS and the FWS are engaged in an 
ongoing effort to assist in the development of multiple species Habitat 
Conservation Plans (HCPs) for state and privately owned lands in both 
California and Oregon. While section 7 of the ESA addresses species 
protection on Federal lands, Habitat Conservation Planning under 
section 10 of the ESA addresses species protection on private (non-
Federal) lands. HCPs are particularly important since approximately 65 
percent of the habitat in the range of these ESUs is in non-federal 
ownership. The intent of the HCP process is to reduce conflicts between 
listed species and economic development activities, and to provide a 
framework that would encourage ``creative partnerships'' between the 
public and private sectors and state, municipal, and Federal agencies 
in the interests of endangered and threatened species and habitat 
conservation (NRC, 1995).
    II. Oregon's Coastal Salmon Restoration Initiative (OCSRI). 
Beginnings of the OCSRI. In October 1995, Oregon's Governor John 
Kitzhaber launched the OCSRI. One of the Governor's first steps was to 
establish a team approach for developing an action plan to restore the 
health of coastal salmon and trout populations. The following key teams 
were formed early in the process: (1) A Salmon Strategy Team in which 
the directors of key state agencies met with the Governor on a biweekly 
basis; (2) an Outreach and Education Team that was directed to work 
with key agency stakeholders, ask for their advice, and present ideas 
for their comment; (3) a Science Team to work on technical issues; and 
(4) an Agency Planning & Implementation Team to coordinate many aspects 
of the development of the conservation plan. Senior NMFS staff members 
participated as members of the Salmon Strategy Team, the Science Team, 
and the Agency Planning & Implementation Team.
    This effort focussed each of the major state agencies on developing 
a plan, removing institutional barriers, and working through difficult 
issues with their state and Federal colleagues, stakeholders, and the 
public. Meanwhile, the science team was

[[Page 24603]]

working on the biological underpinnings of the OCSRI.

Essential Tenets of the OCSRI

    1. The plan comprehensively addresses all factors for decline of 
the coho salmon, most notably, those factors relating to harvest, 
habitat, and hatchery activities.
    2. Under this plan, all State agencies whose activities affect 
salmon are held accountable for coordinating their programs in a manner 
that conserves and restores the species and their habitat. This is 
essential because coastal salmon have been affected by the actions of 
many different state agencies.
    3. The Plan includes a framework for prioritizing conservation and 
restoration efforts. Draft coho salmon ``core areas'' are identified in 
order to focus measures on retaining current salmon strongholds while 
rebuilding other areas.
    4. The Plan includes a comprehensive monitoring plan that 
coordinates Federal, state, and local efforts to improve our 
understanding of freshwater and marine conditions, determine 
populations trends, evaluate the effects of artificial propagation, and 
rate the OCSRI's success in restoring the salmon.
    5. The Plan recognizes that actions to conserve and restore salmon 
must be worked out by communities and landowners--those who possess 
local knowledge of problems and who have a genuine stake in the 
outcome. Watershed councils, soil and water conservation districts, and 
other grassroots efforts are the vehicles for getting this work done.
    6. The Plan is based upon the principles of adaptive management. 
Through this process, there is an explicit mechanism for learning from 
experience, evaluating alternative approaches, and making needed 
changes in the programs and measures.
    7. The Plan includes an Independent Multidisciplinary Science Team 
(IMST). The IMST's purpose is to provide an independent audit of the 
OCSRI's strengths and weaknesses. They will aid the adaptive management 
process by compiling new information into a yearly review of goals, 
objectives, and strategies, and by recommending changes.
    8. The Plan requires that a yearly report be made to the Governor, 
the legislature, and the public. This will help the agencies make the 
adjustments described for the adaptive management process (above).

Development of the OCSRI

    The state distributed a draft OCSRI to interested parties in August 
1996. Shortly thereafter, county commissioners sponsored a series of 
public information meetings to involve key groups and interested 
individuals in the following locations: Astoria, Tillamook, Newport, 
Coos Bay, Grants Pass, Gold Beach, Roseburg, and Portland. The 
Governor's staff presented the draft OCSRI and explained the 
opportunities for public comment. More than 550 people attended these 
public meetings. The August 1996 OCSRI draft was critically reviewed 
and over 600 pages of comments, suggestions, and questions on the draft 
Plan were received. Those comments were used by Oregon to revise the 
    In September 1996, NMFS published and distributed Coastal Salmon 
Conservation: Working Guidance For Comprehensive Salmon Restoration 
Initiatives On the Pacific Coast (NMFS, 1996d). The intent of the 
document was to help guide restoration initiatives such as the OCSRI. 
The OCSRI was revised and supplemented in many areas in response to 
that guidance. In early November 1996, William Stelle, Jr., NMFS' 
Northwest Regional Administrator, sent Governor Kitzhaber a package of 
substantive comments on the August OCSRI draft.
    A second draft of the OCSRI was issued on February 24, 1997. 
Although time was short, Legislators, constituents, and NMFS technical 
staff reviewed this draft and provided additional suggestions for 
improving the Plan. Many of these were incorporated into the final 
document. As part of the Oregon Legislature's consideration of the 
OCSRI, several more public hearings were held and testimony was taken. 
In March 1997, NMFS received the final OCSRI for consideration in this 
coho salmon listing decision.

Addressing Coho Salmon Factors for Decline

    The protective measures contained in the OCSRI represent 
commitments by various state agencies (and their stakeholders), 
watershed councils, the forest industry, and the Federal government to 
address coho salmon ``factors for decline.'' Factors for decline 
identified in the OCSRI include: Loss/degradation of riparian areas, 
changes in channel morphology, changes in stream substrate, loss of 
instream roughness (structure), fish passage impediments, loss of 
estuarine rearing habitat, loss of wetlands, water quality degradation/
sedimentation, changes in flow, elimination of habitat, harvest impacts 
on spawner escapement, illegal salmon catch, salmon bycatch, low ocean 
productivity, loss of genetic adaptation through interbreeding with 
genetically dissimilar hatchery fish, competition with hatchery fish, 
predation by pinnipeds and sea birds, and interaction with exotic 
fishes. The OCSRI incorporates measures presented by state agencies and 
their stakeholders as well as Federal agencies to address these factors 
for decline.

OCSRI Habitat Measures

    The OCSRI organized its habitat measures by the 17 habitat-related 
factors for decline listed above. This organization enables an 
evaluation of the extent to which the OSCRI's measures influence or 
reverse each of the factors for decline. Typically, more than one 
management sector (forestry, agriculture, urban, etc.) contributed to 
each of the factors for decline. For example, forestry and agricultural 
measures both address several factors for decline, including loss of 
riparian areas, channel morphology, substrate changes, instream 
roughness, water quality and sedimentation (NMFS, 1997b).
    On state lands, the Oregon Department of Forestry is preparing a 
Northwest Oregon State Forest Management Plan. The State of Oregon has 
indicated interest in working with NMFS and FWS on a multiple-species 
HCP for approximately 600,000 acres in the Clatsop, Tillamook, and 
possibly Elliott State Forests. These HCPs would contain aquatic 
conservation strategies that meet the standards of section 10 of the 
ESA. Additional HCPs with private landowners may increase the total 
acreage managed under protective HCPs within this timeframe.
    On private forested lands, the State of Oregon developed new forest 
practices regulations (effective July 1995) that represent an 
improvement over past forest practices. The OCSRI also provides some 
additional voluntary measures on the part of industrial forest 
landowners and small woodland owners that focus on OCSRI core areas, 
including increased conifer retention in riparian management areas and 
in-unit leave tree placement for some fish and non-fish bearing 
streams. Another voluntary measure with significant promise is a road 
erosion and risk reduction measure that could reduce road-related 
sediment inputs, road related mass failures, and culvert problems.
    On agricultural lands, the State of Oregon addresses coho salmon 
habitat protection and restoration through the 1993 Senate Bill (SB) 
1010 (ORS 568.900-933) and its extension, the Healthy Streams 
Partnership (HSP). The purpose of SB1010 is to meet the requirements of 
the Federal CWA on

[[Page 24604]]

agricultural lands. Complete and successful implementation of the CWA, 
and the State's water quality programs, could substantially benefit 
coho salmon.
    The OCSRI's greatest contribution is that it provides a 
comprehensive framework for integrating habitat protection and 
restoration efforts by all entities, public and private. An important 
innovation is the emphasis upon voluntary citizen action, utilizing the 
industry and resource management expertise of local private property 
owners. Critical components of the OCSRI that should contribute to 
habitat restoration include watershed council programs, monitoring, and 
adaptive management described below.

OCSRI Harvest Measures

    Overfishing has greatly depleted the coastal coho salmon; it is a 
primary factor for the species' decline. Harvest rates on coho salmon 
have at times exceeded 80 percent, but have recently been reduced to an 
average of less than 15 percent. Ocean harvest of coho salmon stocks is 
managed by NMFS in conjunction with the Pacific Fishery Management 
Council, the states, and certain tribes. Coho salmon ocean harvest is 
managed by setting escapement goals for OCN coho salmon. Due to 
concerns over declining population status, directed harvest of coho 
salmon has been eliminated since 1994.
    The OCSRI establishes a comprehensive, weak-stock management 
framework for ensuring that fishing-related mortalities remain at low 
levels. The harvest levels may increase in the future, but only 
moderately, and only based on (1) substantiated increases in coho 
salmon escapement beyond targeted levels, and (2) greater marine 
survival that will ensure continued growth of the natural spawning 
    More specifically, the OCSRI establishes new, disaggregated 
escapement objectives for four component stocks of the existing OCN 
coho salmon stock. Harvest rates on each of these four stock components 
will be allowed to increase from current levels of 10-13 percent (to a 
maximum of 35 percent) only if significant increases are attained in 
escapement and productivity. In mixed-stock areas, such as most ocean 
waters, harvest rates will be limited by the weakest stock component. 
Within any given stock component, terminal and in-river harvest will be 
regulated to achieve escapement limits for that component. In addition, 
if any individual basin has a severe conservation problem, harvest 
within that basin and in mixed-stock areas may be further restricted.
    In the near term, Oregon proposes to limit ocean coho salmon 
harvest impacts (mostly incidental to the harvest of chinook salmon) to 
low levels. As populations achieve abundance and productivity targets, 
fisheries may be established to target marked, unlisted hatchery coho 
salmon. Ultimately, after high escapement levels have been achieved and 
evaluated, specific fisheries may be allowed that take some unmarked, 
naturally-produced coho salmon from healthy populations, as other 
weaker populations continue to recover. Any downturn in either the 
marine survival or escapement targets will result in further 
    As described in OCSRI's monitoring program, harvest impacts will be 
regulated through established, public forums that evaluate the most 
recent data on natural escapements, population abundance, direct and 
indirect fishing mortalities, and measurements of wild and hatchery 
fish survival rates in ocean waters.

OCSRI Hatchery Measures

    Hatchery production of coho salmon has been identified as a factor 
in the decline of natural coho salmon populations. Past increases in 
hatchery programs to enhance sport and commercial fisheries are now 
believed to have adversely affected natural populations: Hatchery fish 
competed with wild coho salmon for limited food and habitat; stray 
hatchery adults spawned, often in excessive numbers, with wild fish, 
likely reducing the fitness and productivity of the wild populations. 
This problem of genetic introgression was, at times, compounded by the 
use of non-local hatchery broodstocks.
    Under the OCSRI, coho salmon smolt releases that numbered 6.4 
million in 1990 (and were subsequently reduced to 3.5 million in 1996) 
will be reduced 64 percent by 1998, thus decreasing adverse competitive 
interactions. Hatchery releases will be further reduced or modified, if 
necessary, to keep adult stray rates to less than 10 percent, thus 
minimizing the effects of genetic introgression. As deemed appropriate 
to meet wild fish management needs, hatchery broodstocks will receive 
infusion of wild fish to minimize genetic divergence of the 
    Oregon has already begun marking all hatchery coho salmon to 
differentiate them from naturally-produced fish. This will allow more 
accurate assessment of stray rates and allow for any future selective 
fisheries on hatchery coho salmon when conditions permit. Artificial 
propagation may be used to boost natural coho salmon populations or 
reintroduce coho salmon into vacant habitats, but only after specific 
management plans are developed and reviewed.

Watershed Councils

    Watershed councils are voluntary groups established to improve the 
condition of the state's watersheds. Oregon laid the foundation for its 
statewide local watershed council program in 1993. That year, House 
Bill 2215 set up the program and established two pilot project areas. 
Due to the success of the program pilots, in 1995 the legislature 
passed House Bill 3441. This law delegates to the Governor's Watershed 
Enhancement Board (GWEB) the responsibility to work with local councils 
and to coordinate project funding. The GWEB approves funding for only 
those projects based on sound principles of watershed management and 
encourages the use of nonstructural methods to enhance riparian areas 
and associated uplands. The GWEB uses the expertise of state agencies 
according to the type of enhancement project in development, and 
cooperates with the Federal agencies to ensure integrated efforts.
    The premise of the OCSRI is that factors for decline are, and will 
continue to be, identified in individual watersheds, and that one of 
the primary means to address those factors will be action plans 
implemented on a local level involving watershed councils, soil and 
water conservation districts (SWCDs), the Oregon State University 
Cooperative Extension Service, landowners, local governments, 
conservation groups and other grassroots stakeholders. Since 1993, over 
60 watershed Councils have been formed in Oregon. The entire Oregon 
coast is now represented by local watershed Councils. Three of these 
watersheds will be used as model integration projects for the OCSRI. 
Two of these, the Applegate and the Coquille Councils, already have 
strong programs that will act as a templates for other Councils on the 
    Watershed Councils are currently in different stages in their 
development of watershed action plans. The action plan is a working 
document that characterizes the conditions on the watershed, identifies 
priority areas (based on watershed analysis) for restoration and 
protection, sets out public involvement strategies, and identifies 
funding sources. Currently, Councils in the Rogue and South Coast

[[Page 24605]]

watersheds are participating in an effort to develop a guidance 
document that will address the decline of salmon in those basins. A key 
to this process is identification of current conditions and trends and 
developing an understanding of their causes. The guidance document, 
once fully developed, will allow the watershed Councils to update their 
action plans and assessments.
    Councils generally request participation from local, state, 
Federal, and private resource professionals to participate in a 
Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). A TAC is a voluntary, scientific, 
interdisciplinary, nonpolitical group whose purpose is to provide 
advice and guidance on technical issues. A TAC advises Councils on how 
to complete a watershed assessment, develop strategic plans, set 
priorities, and design and implement projects and monitoring programs.
    Since 1994, coastal watershed Council TACs have helped review, 
design, and implement over 250 projects (including one riparian 
restoration project that involved over 200 private land owners). TACs 
have also been heavily involved in developing 11 watershed assessments 
and action plans for watershed Councils. The process is continuing. 
TACs are being created for new Councils, helping OCSRI, updating 
watershed Council action plans and assessments, developing new 
watershed Council action plans and assessments, and continuing to 
develop, design, and implement on-the-ground projects.
    The future success of watershed Councils depends on many factors--
including strong TACs. State agencies have made providing scientific 
and technical support for watershed Councils a priority. Under the 
OCSRI, state agencies and the Governor have requested new budget 
packages that will enable agencies to better meet the increased Council 
demands by adding field staff and increasing communication.

Monitoring Results and Adaptive Management

    The OCSRI describes a comprehensive, aggressive, and coordinated 
monitoring program. Full implementation of the monitoring program is a 
crucial tool for adaptive management and the success of the OSCRI. 
State and Federal agencies and other groups have made major commitments 
to developing and supporting this effort. The objectives of the 
monitoring program are to develop accurate information on the status of 
salmon populations and their habitats, detect trends in abundance, 
determine the effectiveness of measures designed to improve conditions 
for salmon, and provide the analysis needed to help develop adaptive 
management strategies for agencies, private landowners, watershed 
Councils, and individuals. More specifically, monitoring and reporting 
at the regional, basin, or subbasin scale will include: (1) Stream 
biotic condition and ambient water quality assessments, (2) juvenile 
salmon abundance surveys, (3) stream channel and habitat assessments, 
(4) spawner abundance surveys, (5) genetic and life history monitoring, 
(6) fish propagation monitoring, (7) harvest monitoring, (8) ``core 
area'' and ``index area'' population and habitat monitoring, (9) ocean 
condition monitoring, (10) estuary and riverine wetland population and 
habitat monitoring, (11) Oregon Forest Practices and Northwest Forest 
Plan conservation strategy monitoring, and (12) cumulative effects/
watershed assessment for mixed ownership.
    For more localized decision making, the key monitoring and 
assessment data will be provided on an ongoing basis to agency 
managers, watershed Councils and initiative groups, and other 
interested participants. Regional interagency groups have been 
organized around state agency administrative boundaries. Participants 
in the regional groups are lead agency decision-makers for field 
operational programs. Relevant watershed assessment efforts and data 
will be routinely reported to this group for coordination and 
application purposes. The participants of this group are expected to 
coordinate with the watershed Councils and SWCDs to ensure they all 
receive the same information in a timely manner.
    Watershed Councils, SWCDs, and other partners will report the 
results of their watershed assessment efforts to the Monitoring Program 
coordinator as each module is completed. These results will also be 
given to the involved state and Federal agencies to support their day-
to-day decision making.
    The interagency monitoring group will convene an annual monitoring 
conference at which agencies and other partners will be required to 
present the results of their monitoring efforts. This conference will 
be used to adjust monitoring efforts and protocols and describe the 
habitat and population trends. Annual progress of the OCSRI will be 
assessed by comparing these monitoring results and trends with the 
OCSRI's published biological objectives. The report (and results of the 
conference) will be sent to the IMST established by the Oregon 
Legislature (SB 924-B) for its use in auditing the program.
    A bipartisan Joint Legislative Committee on Salmon and Stream 
Enhancement will receive reports from the IMST including 
recommendations for changes to the OCSRI. On the basis of these 
reports, and reports of Oregon's Salmon Restoration and Production Task 
Force, the Committee may recommend changes to the OSCRI. The annual 
Governor's report on the ``State of the Salmon'' will also include 
discussion and recommendations based upon the monitoring results. This 
report will describe how the monitoring results will be used to adjust 
the OSCRI's best management practices (BMPs) and program measures.

Funding for the OCSRI

    The Natural Resource Investment Budget (authorized by the 69th 
Oregon Legislative Assembly [House Bill 5042 and 5044] for the biennium 
beginning July 1, 1997) provides $20 million in new grant funding to 
support watershed Council coordinators and other local organizations. 
The existing Governor's Watershed Enhancement Board will administer the 
grant program. The budget also provides approximately $10 million to 
add new technical staff to the Department of Agriculture (19 
positions), the Department of Environmental Quality (19 positions), the 
Department of Fish and Wildlife (14 positions), the Department of 
Forestry (6 positions), the Water Resources Department (4 positions), 
and the Department of Land Conservation and Development (1 position). 
In addition, Oregon State Police reprogrammed 13 officers for public 
education and enforcement of the OCSRI.

Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between NMFS and Governor of Oregon

    NMFS welcomed adoption of the OCSRI by Oregon and believed it would 
provide significant protections for Oregon Coast ESU in a number of 
areas. In particular, the harvest and hatchery measures will continue 
to contribute to improved spawning escapement and the near-term 
population stability of the ESU. NMFS was concerned, however, that the 
habitat measures contained in the OCSRI will not secure adequate high 
quality habitat over the long term to ensure coho survival under a 
range of environmental conditions. To address this concern, NMFS 
entered into a MOA in April 1997 with the Governor of Oregon (MOA 
1997). Under the MOA, NMFS will provide the state of Oregon guidance on 
those specific measures it considers adquate and necessary for habitat 
protection. If these or equivalent measures are not adopted by Oregon 
within 2 years, NMFS will promptly

[[Page 24606]]

change the ESA status of this ESU to the extent warranted. The MOA 
further commits the parties to full implementation of all elements of 
the OCSRI, including harvest and hatchery measures and provisions for 
monitoring and scientific review.
    III. California Efforts. In 1995, the California Resources Agency 
initiated its Coastal Salmon Initiative (CSI), a community-oriented 
planning effort designed to produce a conservation program based on 
voluntary measures and incentives to protect fish and wildlife habitat 
in a manner that would protect the economic interests of communities 
within the range of coho salmon. The CSI planning process progressed 
slowly and was suspended in late 1996, before a comprehensive state 
conservation plan for coho salmon in California was developed.
    Recently, however, the State of California has proposed instead to 
develop and implement a state conservation plan known as the California 
Watersheds Protection Program based on the State's Natural Communities 
Conservation Planning (NCCP) Act. This conservation program is intended 
to provide for the long-term protection and conservation of coho salmon 
and other anadromous salmonids on non-Federal lands in California's 
coastal watersheds, as well as a means for incidental take 
authorization for activities on non-Federal lands. As part of this 
conservation effort, the State would convene a Scientific Review Panel 
to develop conservation guidelines for the implementation of the 
Watershed Protection Program. These guidelines would include 
conservation strategies and monitoring protocols necessary to protect 
salmonid habitat in coastal watersheds. The State would subsequently 
adopt these conservation guidelines under the California Fish and Game 
Code and then begin the development of individual watershed protection 
    The Governor of California has proposed a $3.8 million Watershed 
Initiative to assist in the development and implementation of the 
California Watersheds Protection Program. The Governor's Budget 
specifically proposes: (1) $1.5 million for CDFG to participate on 
inter-agency watershed management team, lead wildlife standard teams, 
provide guidance and technical assistance to community-based watershed 
groups, and make grants for habitat restoration, (2) $1.0 million for 
the state Water Resources Control Board and Regional Boards, for 
watershed coordinators who will facilitate prioritization of regulatory 
functions on a watershed basis, integrate resources in priority 
watersheds, and maximize community involvement in the development and 
implementation of water quality control plans, (3) $900,000 for the 
Department of Conservation for inter-agency watershed management teams 
and for grants to Resource Conservation Districts, and (4) $400,000 for 
the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to lead inter-agency 
watershed teams, conduct watershed assessments, and provide geographic 
information data base support.
    In California, the Range Management Advisory Committee has 
developed a Rangeland Water Quality Management Plan for inclusion in 
the State's Nonpoint Source Management Plan. Its purpose is to maintain 
and improve the quality and associated beneficial uses of surface water 
as it passes through and out of rangeland resources in the State. The 
programmatic emphasis is on a voluntary, cooperative approach to water 
quality management. This includes appropriate technical assistance, 
planning mechanisms, program incentives, and regulatory authorities. 
This Plan has been favorably received by the State Water Resources 
Control Board, EPA, and the BOF.
    The state agencies identified in the Governor's Watershed 
Initiative have developed budget plans, but the likelihood of funding 
and implementation are unknown at this time. Implementation of the 
Watershed Initiative will depend on the State Legislature's approval of 
the budget request. Specific deficiencies of the Watershed Initiative 
are that no funding past the current fiscal cycle is proposed, and 
landowner participation in the program is voluntary. NMFS believes that 
stakeholder-based solutions at the watershed level are essential to 
recovering coho salmon but that adequate long-term funding and full 
participation by all stakeholder groups will be necessary for the 
state's program to succeed.
    Local and private efforts are also underway in California. At least 
eight industrial timber landowners are in the process of developing 
HCPs that cover approximately 1.2 million acres of privately owned land 
in Del Norte, Humboldt, Siskiyou, Trinity, and Mendocino counties. This 
acreage includes ownership in the river basins: Smith River, Klamath 
River, Redwood Creek, Little River, Mad River, Eel River, and several 
smaller coastal streams. NMFS anticipates these landowners will be 
submitting applications for ESA section 10 incidental take permits 
within the next 6-12 months. These efforts are critical to the 
conservation of coho salmon in the Southern Oregon/Northern California 
Coast ESU because nearly 50 percent of the land is privately owned.
    Long-term sustained gravel mining plans have been, or are being, 
developed by three northern California counties (Del Norte, Humboldt, 
and Mendocino) which comprise a substantial portion of the Southern 
Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU's range in California. The 
approach that is being used is to evaluate the impacts of all gravel 
extraction projects within a watershed as part of a long-term gravel 
mining plan, and then obtain a Letter of Permission (LOP) from the COE 
to approve graveling mining projects at the county level. The LOPs 
would be issued for a period of 3 years and would require annual 
monitoring reports on gravel recruitment, river geomorphology, and 
fisheries. Humboldt County currently has an LOP in-place and Del Norte 
and Mendocino Counties are in the process of obtaining their LOPs. NMFS 
will be working with the counties and the COE to ensure that any LOPs 
issued for gravel mining are protective of coho salmon.
    Timber, farming, and fishing interests formed the Fish, Forests, 
and Farms Community (FFFC) organization in California in an effort to 
address land management and fisheries issues related to salmon and 
steelhead listings in California. The FFFC has focused its efforts in: 
(1) Promoting research projects to improve the scientific knowledge 
regarding salmonid life histories and habitat requirements in coastal 
watersheds, and (2) developing standardized protocols for biological 
and physical assessment and monitoring of anadromous fish habitat and 
populations in coastal watersheds. The FFFC has made important progress 
to date, and it should be recognized for its efforts to bring together 
multiple and diverse interests. More importantly, FFFC is attempting to 
fill a void for standardizing data collection and to quantify technical 
processes that should eventually lead to a better scientific 
understanding of coho salmon.
    In 1996, the California Forestry Association established the Forest 
Science Project (FSP) at Humboldt State University. The purpose of the 
industry-sponsored FSP is to acquire, compile, and disseminate baseline 
biological and habitat information being developed by private timber 
companies operating within the California portion of the Southern 
Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU. The timber industry expects to 
continue this on-going effort to compile and synthesize biological,

[[Page 24607]]

habitat, and other types of data, and has expressed interest in 
developing a process with NMFS that would assure that such data are 
available for future decision making.
    Local habitat restoration and planning efforts are also currently 
ongoing in several watersheds that should contribute to the 
conservation of coho salmon in the Southern Oregon/Northern California 
Coast ESU. These include efforts by the Scott River Watershed Committee 
and French Creek Watershed Advisory Group in the Scott River watershed, 
the Shasta River Project (Shasta River watershed), the South Fork 
Trinity River (South Fork Trinity River), and the Mattole Restoration 
Council (Mattole River). In several counties within the range of the 
Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU, there are county-based 
Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) that are providing the focus for 
agricultural and local conservation groups to use Federal grants to 
develop and prioritize restoration plans.
    An extensive network of RCDs exists within the range of coho salmon 
in the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU. These RCDs 
represent an important vehicle through which the agricultural community 
can voluntarily address and correct management practices that impact 
coho salmon and its habitat, and their potential is significant. 
Working with individual landowners or through organizations such as the 
California Farm Bureau, these RCDs can assist landowners in developing 
and implementing best management practices that are protective of 
salmonids, including coho salmon. NMFS believes that the conservation 
and recovery of coho salmon in California will require the active 
participation of the agriculture community.

Finding and Withdrawal

    Based on its assessment of the best available information, NMFS has 
determined that the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast and the 
Oregon Coast coho salmon ESUs constitute distinct ``species'' under the 
ESA. NMFS has further determined that the Oregon Coast ESU does not 
warrant listing at this time, and that the Southern Oregon/Northern 
California Coast ESU does warrant listing as a threatened species. 
Accordingly, NMFS is listing the Southern Oregon/Northern California 
Coast coho salmon ESU as threatened. NMFS will consider the Oregon 
Coast coho salmon ESU to be a candidate species and will review its 
listing status in 3 years (or earlier if warranted by new information). 
NMFS will publish shortly in the Federal Register protective 
regulations, pursuant to ESA section 4(d), which will apply the ESA 
section 9(a) prohibitions to the listed ESU, with certain exceptions. 
NMFS does not expect those regulations to become effective before July 
1, 1997.
Oregon Coast Coho Salmon ESU
    Section 4(b)(1)(A) of the ESA provides that the Secretary shall 
make a listing determination solely on the basis of the best scientific 
and commercial data available, after conducting a review of the 
species' status and ``after taking into account those efforts * * * 
being made by any state or foreign nation * * * to protect such 
species, whether by predator control, protection of habitat and food 
supply, or other conservation practices, within an area under its 
jurisdiction.'' NMFS has carefully considered the conclusions of the 
scientists on NMFS' Biological Review Team (BRT) regarding the species' 
status and has taken into account the OCSRI, the NFP and other actions 
that protect coho in this ESU.
    The scientists on the BRT generally agreed that implementation of 
the harvest and hatchery measures of the OCSRI would have a positive 
effect on the status of the ESU. Previous harvest rate reductions on 
Oregon coastal coho, as refined and continued in the OCSRI, will 
continue to contribute to improved spawning escapement and near-term 
population stability of the Oregon coast ESU. The BRT expressed the 
view that these harvest and hatchery reforms may substantially reduce 
the short-term risk of extinction. The BRT was about evenly split as to 
whether the effects of these reforms would be substantial enough to 
move the ESU out of the ``likely to become endangered'' category. Some 
members felt that, in addition to the extinction buffer provided by the 
estimated 80,000 naturally produced spawners in 1996, the reforms would 
promote higher escapements and alleviate genetic concerns enough that 
the ESU would not be at significant risk of extinction or endangerment 
in the foreseeable future. Other members were not convinced that the 
hatchery and harvest reforms by themselves would be sufficient to 
alleviate risk due to declining productivity and habitat degradation.
    Habitat degradation was one of the primary concerns of the BRT in 
evaluating long-term risks to this ESU. The BRT concluded that while 
the harvest and hatchery improvements may substantially reduce the 
short-term risk of extinction, habitat protection and restoration are 
key to ensuring the long-term survival of the ESU, especially under 
variable and unpredictable future climate conditions. There were two 
primary concerns with respect to habitat: First, that the habitat 
capacity for coho salmon within the range of the ESU has significantly 
decreased from historical levels; and, second, that preliminary results 
of the Nickelson-Lawson model predicted that, during poor ocean 
survival periods, only high quality habitat is capable of sustaining 
coho populations, and subpopulations dependent on medium and low 
quality habitats would be likely to go extinct. Both of these concerns 
caused the BRT to consider risks from habitat loss and degradation to 
be relatively high for this ESU.
    The previous section of this document describes the Federal NFP and 
the OCSRI adopted by Oregon to protect and restore Oregon coastal coho 
salmon stocks. The NFP, which covers 35 percent of the geographic range 
of this ESU, will provide a high level of protection for coho habitat 
into the future. The OCSRI also contains many programs that will 
improve habitat conditions. The forest practices regulations adopted by 
Oregon in 1995 provide improvements over past practices, and the 
measures regarding agricultural practices should result in improvements 
in water quality. Overall, however, the habitat measures of the OCSRI 
do not currently provide the protections NMFS considers essential to 
creating and maintaining the high quality habitat needed to sustain 
Oregon Coast coho over the long term across a range of environmental 
    The OCSRI contains the tools necessary to ensure that adequate 
habitat measures are ultimately adopted and implemented: a 
comprehensive monitoring program, scientific review, and an adaptive 
management program. Natural escapement has been increasing markedly in 
recent years and reached 80,000 fish in 1996. On the basis of the 
harvest and hatchery improvements together with the habitat protections 
in the NFP and given the improving trends in escapement, the Oregon 
Coast coho is not likely to become endangered in the interval between 
this decision and the adoption of improved habitat measures by the 
State of Oregon. Under the April 1997 MOA between NMFS and the Governor 
of Oregon (MOA, 1997), described in the previous section, NMFS will 
propose to Oregon additional forest practices modifications necessary 
to provide adequate habitat conditions for coho. If these or other 
comparable protections are not adopted within 2 years, NMFS will act 

[[Page 24608]]

to change the ESA status of this ESU to whatever extent may be 
    Because the determination not to list the Oregon Coast ESU relies 
heavily on continued implementation of the OCSRI (in accordance with 
the MOA), including the enactment of improved habitat protective 
measures, NMFS intends to review this listing determination no later 
than the conclusion of 3 years (which represents one full life cycle 
and 3 year classes of coho salmon) or at any time sooner if substantive 
new information warrants consideration. During the interim, NMFS is 
designating the Oregon Coast ESU as a candidate species under the ESA 
and will continue to monitor the ESU's status as well as the efficacy 
of the OCSRI and other conservation measures.
Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast Coho Salmon ESU
    Coho salmon populations are very depressed in this ESU, currently 
numbering fewer than 10,000 naturally-produced adults. The threats to 
this ESU are numerous and varied as described elsewhere in this 
document. Several human-caused factors, including habitat degradation, 
harvest, and artificial propagation, exacerbate the adverse effects of 
natural environmental variability brought about by drought, floods, and 
poor ocean conditions. NMFS has determined that existing regulatory 
mechanisms over the ESU as a whole are either inadequate or not 
implemented well enough to conserve this ESU. While conservation 
efforts are underway for some populations in this ESU, particularly in 
the Oregon portion of the ESU, they are not considered sufficient to 
reduce the risk that the ESU as a whole will become endangered in the 
foreseeable future. Accordingly, NMFS concludes that this ESU warrants 
listing as threatened. NMFS will issue shortly protective regulations 
that will apply the section 9(a) prohibitions to this ESU, with certain 
    As described in the BRT status reviews (Weitkamp et al., 1995; 
NMFS, 1997a) and the proposed listing determination for west coast coho 
salmon (July 25, 1995, 60 FR 38011), NMFS defines the Southern Oregon/
Northern California Coast coho salmon ESU to include all naturally 
spawned populations of coho salmon (and their progeny) that are part of 
the biological ESU and reside below long-term, naturally impassible 
barriers in streams between Punta Gorda (CA) and Cape Blanco (OR). NMFS 
has also evaluated the status of seven hatchery stocks of coho salmon 
presently reared and released within the range of this ESU (NMFS, 
1997a). Two of these hatchery stocks from California are either not 
considered part of the ESU (Mad River Hatchery) or are of uncertain 
relationship to the ESU (Iron Gate Hatchery). In contrast, NMFS has 
concluded that fish from four California hatchery populations (Mattole 
River, Eel River, Trinity River, and Rowdy Creek) and Oregon's Rogue 
River hatchery stock should be included in the definition of this ESU. 
None of these five hatchery stocks considered part of this ESU are 
presently deemed ``essential'' for its recovery, hence these hatchery 
fish are not being listed at this time. However, NMFS has determined 
that two of the hatchery populations may play an important role in 
recovery efforts: Mattole River, because the natural population is very 
depressed, and the Trinity River, because there appears to be 
essentially no natural production in the basin. It is important to note 
that the determination that a hatchery stock is not ``essential'' for 
recovery does not preclude it from playing a role in recovery. Any 
hatchery population that is part of the ESU is available for use in 
recovery if conditions warrant. In this context, an ``essential'' 
hatchery population is one that is vital to fully incorporate into 
recovery efforts (for example, if the associated natural population(s) 
were extinct or at high risk of extinction). Under these circumstances, 
NMFS would consider taking the administrative action of listing the 
existing hatchery fish.
    NMFS' ``Interim Policy on Artificial Propagation of Pacific Salmon 
Under the Endangered Species Act'' (58 FR 17573, April 5, 1993) 
provides guidance on the treatment of hatchery stocks in the event of a 
listing. Under this policy, ``progeny of fish from the listed species 
that are propagated artificially are considered part of the listed 
species and are protected under the ESA.'' In the case of Oregon's 
Rogue River hatchery (Cole Rivers), the protective regulations that 
NMFS will issue shortly will exempt take of naturally spawned listed 
fish for use as broodstock as part of an overall conservation program. 
According to the interim policy, the progeny of these hatchery-wild 
crosses would also be listed. NMFS has determined in this case, 
however, not to consider hatchery-reared progeny of intentional 
hatchery-wild crosses as listed. The Rogue River natural population is 
relatively abundant, the take of naturally spawned fish for broodstock 
purposes is specifically limited, and the BRT concluded that this 
hatchery population was not essential for recovery, nor does it have an 
important role to play in recovery. NMFS therefore concludes that it is 
not inconsistent with NMFS' interim policy, nor with the policy and 
purposes of the ESA, to consider these progeny as part of the ESU but 
not listed.

Critical Habitat

    Section 4(a)(3)(A) of the ESA requires that, to the extent prudent 
and determinable, critical habitat be designated concurrently with the 
listing of a species. NMFS has completed its analysis of the biological 
status of the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU but has not 
completed the analysis necessary for the designation of critical 
habitat. NMFS has decided to proceed with the final listing 
determination now and to proceed with the designation of critical 
habitat in a separate rulemaking. Section 4(b)(6)(C)(ii) provides that, 
where critical habitat is not determinable at the time of final 
listing, NMFS may extend the period for designating critical habitat by 
not more than 1 additional year. Congress further stated in the 1982 
amendments to the ESA, ``where the biology relating to the status of 
the species is clear, it should not be denied the protection of the Act 
because of the inability of the Secretary to complete the work 
necessary to designate critical habitat.'' (H. Rep. No. 567, 97th 
Cong., 2d Sess. 19, 1982). NMFS believes that proceeding with this 
final listing determination, even though critical habitat has not been 
designated, is appropriate and necessary to protect this ESU and is 
consistent with congressional direction.
    NMFS further concludes that critical habitat is not determinable at 
this time, because information sufficient to perform the required 
analysis of the impacts of the designation is lacking. NMFS has 
solicited information necessary to designate critical habitat in its 
proposed rule (60 FR 38011, July 25, 1995) and will consider such 
information in the proposed designation. Specifically, designation 
requires a determination of those physical and biological features that 
are essential to the conservation of the species and that may require 
special management considerations or protection. It further requires 
the consideration of an economic analysis of the impacts of the 
designation. These analyses have not yet been completed, and, 
therefore, critical habitat is not determinable at this time. NMFS is 
extending the period for the designation of critical habitat by not 
more than 1 additional year.

[[Page 24609]]

Available Conservation Measures

    Conservation measures provided to species listed as endangered or 
threatened under the ESA include recognition, recovery actions, Federal 
agency consultation requirements, and prohibitions on taking. 
Recognition through listing promotes public awareness and conservation 
actions by Federal, state, and local agencies, private organizations, 
and individuals.
    With respect to the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho 
salmon ESU, several efforts are underway (described previously) that 
may slow or reverse the decline of coho salmon in this ESU. The NMFS 
intends to move rapidly during the next year to work with Federal, 
state, and tribal entities to develop and implement a comprehensive 
strategy to halt the decline and begin the recovery of coho salmon 
populations within this ESU. Because a substantial portion of land in 
this ESU is in private ownership (approximately 46 percent), 
conservation measures on private lands will be key to protecting and 
recovering coho salmon in this ESU.
    Section 4(d) of the ESA directs the Secretary to implement 
regulations ``to provide for the conservation of [threatened] 
species,'' that may include extending any or all of the prohibitions of 
section 9 to threatened species. Section 9(a)(1)(g) also prohibits 
violations of protective regulations for threatened species implemented 
under section 4(d). NMFS will issue shortly protective regulations 
pursuant to section 4(d) for the conservation of the species.
    For listed species, section 7(a)(2) of the ESA requires Federal 
agencies to ensure that activities they authorize, fund, or conduct are 
not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of a listed species or 
to destroy or adversely modify its critical habitat. If a Federal 
action may affect a listed species or its critical habitat, the 
responsible Federal agency must enter into consultation with NMFS.
    Examples of Federal actions most likely to be affected by listing 
this ESU include COE section 404 permitting activities under the CWA, 
COE section 10 permitting activities under the River and Harbors Act, 
FERC licensing and relicensing for non-Federal development and 
operation of hydropower, EPA implementation of TMDLs and 303(c) water 
quality standards, and NRCS funded activities. These actions will 
likely be subject to ESA section 7 consultation requirements that may 
result in conditions designed to achieve the intended purpose of the 
project and avoid or reduce impacts to coho salmon and its habitat 
within the range of the listed ESU.
    There are likely to be Federal actions ongoing in the range of the 
Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU at the time that this 
listing becomes effective. Therefore, NMFS will review all on-going 
actions that may affect the listed species with the Federal agencies 
and will complete formal or informal consultations, where requested or 
necessary, for such actions as appropriate, pursuant to ESA section 
    Sections 10(a)(1)(A) and 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA provide NMFS with 
authority to grant exceptions to the ESA's ``taking'' prohibitions (see 
regulations at 50 CFR 222.22 through 222.24). Section 10(a)(1)(A) 
scientific research and enhancement permits may be issued to entities 
(Federal and non-Federal) conducting research that involves directed 
take of listed species.
    NMFS has issued section 10(a)(1)(A) research or enhancement permits 
for other listed species (e.g., Snake River chinook salmon, Sacramento 
River winter-run chinook salmon) for a number of activities, including 
trapping and tagging to determine population distribution and 
abundance, and collection of adult fish for artificial propagation 
programs. NMFS is aware of several sampling efforts for coho salmon in 
the Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast ESU, including efforts by 
Federal and state fisheries agencies, and private landowners. These and 
other research efforts could provide critical information regarding 
coho salmon distribution and population abundance.
    Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permits may be issued to non-
Federal entities to authorize take of listed species incidental to 
otherwise lawful activities. The types of activities potentially 
requiring a section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit include the 
operation and funding of hatcheries and release of artificially 
propagated fish by the state, state or university research not 
receiving Federal authorization or funding, the implementation of state 
fishing regulations, and timber harvest activities on non-Federal 


    The 1982 amendments to the ESA, in section 4(b)(1)(A), restrict the 
information that may be considered when assessing species for listing. 
Based on this limitation of criteria for a listing decision and the 
opinion in Pacific Legal Foundation v. Andrus, 675 F. 2d 825 (6th Cir., 
1981), NMFS has categorically excluded all ESA listing actions from the 
environmental assessment requirements of NEPA (48 FR 4413, February 6, 
    As noted in the Conference Report on the 1982 amendments to the 
ESA, economic considerations have no relevance to determinations 
regarding the status of the species. Therefore, the economic analysis 
requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act are not applicable to 
the listing process. Similarly, this final rule is exempt from review 
under E.O. 12866.


    The complete citations for the references used in this document can 
be obtained by contacting Garth Griffin or Craig Wingert, NMFS (see 

List of Subjects in 50 CFR Part 227

    Endangered and threatened species, Exports, Imports, Marine 
mammals, Transportation.

    Dated: April 25, 1997.
Rolland A. Schmitten,
Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, National Marine Fisheries 
    For the reasons set out in the preamble, 50 CFR part 227 is amended 
as follows:


    1. The authority citation for part 227 continues to read as 

    Authority: 16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.

    2. In Sec. 227.4, paragraph (i) is added to read as follows:

Sec. 227.4  Enumeration of threatened species.

* * * * *
    (i) Southern Oregon/Northern California Coast coho salmon 
(Oncorhynchus kisutch). Includes all coho salmon naturally reproduced 
in streams between Cape Blanco in Curry County, OR, and Punta Gorda in 
Humboldt County, CA.

[FR Doc. 97-11571 Filed 5-5-97; 8:45 am]