LETTER: Forest and Fish


I appreciated Don Brunell’s opinion piece in the 25 May Vidette pointing out forestland owners recognition by State resource agencies for their accomplishments in improving water quality and fish habitat which has been occurring over the past four decades — more significantly during the last 20 years.

Mr. Brunell noted the collective investment of $300 million in rebuilding 25,000 miles of road, removing 6,000 migrating fish barriers and opening 3,500 miles of block spawning habitat, demonstrating the dedicated commitment of forest landowners to our clean water and fish resources.

Although the recognition was focused on 43 large forestland owners, it should be noted that the cumulative efforts of many of the several thousand small forest landowners statewide have replicated those efforts and contributions to improving water quality and fish habitat in many ways.

Brunell pointed out the leadership invoked by tribal fisheries leader, Billy Frank, and industrial forestland owners association director, Stu Bledsoe, in developing and implementing the framework for a cooperative tribal/fore landowner relationship in the early 1980s to deal with forest and fish issues. Although the foundation of the tribal/forestland owner relationship has survived the test of time, “cracks” occasionally occur. I agree with Brunell’s assessment that it would be wise to periodically revisit the wisdom demonstrated by those two leaders.

Having been an active participant as a logger representative in the first 15 years of the Frank/Bledsoe forest and fish initiative and as a small forestland owner for 40 years, forest and fish issues have and continue to absorb a lot of my time and interest.

That takes me to the $14 million state Highway 8 “fish barrier” project in McCleary.

Recognizing that the tribes have held the state in litigation for several years over fish passage barriers on state roads and that the court recently ordered the state to “get with it” in fixing those barriers, if the Wildcat Creek culverts represent fish passage barriers, I can understand why the state has been fighting this litigation for 8-9 years.

A recent visit to the project site to view the culverts indicates to me that the project, suggestively advertised as a fish barrier correction project, is not. The conditions for passing fish appear very good and not an issue of function but of cosmetics — the 200 feet of stream under the highway do not represent “natural” stream conditions. Like the forestland owners noted above, the state and any other jurisdiction managing stream crossings, are subject to the stream crossing design protocols developed over the past 15 years from up the administrative and political chain of command, federal most likely, when salmon are involved. These protocols call for “natural” conditions in stream crossing whether a culvert or bridge. This is reasonable for newly established crossing or ones that may need to be replaced for structural reasons. Whether there were other considerations in implementing this project, such as structural, they were not identified in the public notice. If not, it appears cost/benefit considerations were set aside in this project.

Harold Brunstad