Teaming up to Conserve Steelhead through Improved Forest Management

Monitoring Water Temperatures and Flows for Steelhead in Relation to Forest Management Practices


Why this project matters
Steelhead are an endangered species in many parts of North America and they are at risk of becoming endangered in the Fraser Basin in British Columbia. Steelhead trout (aka steelhead salmon) are an iconic symbol of the Thompson River and region in British Columbia. Having long sustained Indigenous people, steelhead are also central to the region’s world-class recreational fishery. Unfortunately, this species is in decline, and today Thompson steelhead are classified a species of extreme conservation concern by the provincial government.
How the project helps steelhead conservation
In order to build understanding of the relationship between steelhead and forest management practices, the project will monitor water temperature in portions of the Thompson watershed, where steelhead spawn and rear. This will ultimately help identify areas of groundwater influence, allowing researchers to compare and contrast the relative need for different forest management retention practices around small, upper elevation streams. These findings will complement work underway in the Deadman and Nicola watershed. Outcomes will help forest managers adjust activities in locations that may provide the greatest aid to steelhead habitat, and to manage flows and temperatures for steelhead.
This work will also address climate change adaptation through the identification of habitat enhancement or restoration opportunities in small, lower-order, upper-elevation streams, which could improve habitat for fish and other aquatic life experiencing changes to water temperatures. These ecosystems now receive less precipitation as snow and more as rain, increasing the need for sustained water flows during longer lasting summer droughts.
SFI’s contribution
This project represents a continuation of SFI engagement in steelhead conservation, building on a past grant from the SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program in support of the Thompson Steelhead Working Group. This multi-governmental collaborative initiative formed in 2014 to bring together representatives of the Nlaka’pamux and Secwepemc First Nations, the Province of BC and the Government of Canada to develop a recovery and management plan for Thompson steelhead. The working group also hopes to gain wider community commitments for steelhead recovery, and to return wild steelhead populations to levels that produce sustainable ecological, social, and economic benefits for all.
How the project helps forest managers
The project will quantify the impact of SFI Program Participant activities relative to improving stream habitat and water quality by comparing water temperatures between areas of greater and less retention, and between areas with and without underground flows. The project will evaluate the hypothesis that more regular flows and cooler water temperatures may be expected in forests with a diversity of age classes, structure and, most importantly, retention around wetlands. Because steelhead are an indicator of the biodiversity values within a watershed, analysis of these metrics will help build understanding regarding the contribution of sustainable forest management to conserving species at risk.
This partnership includes academics, conservationists, researchers, Indigenous peoples and SFI Program Participants.
Project lead: Fraser Basin Council Society
Sustainable Forestry Initiative
West Fraser (SFI Program Participant)
British Columbia Timber Sales (SFI Program Participant)
Secwepemc Fisheries Commission
Simon Fraser University
BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development
Related information
SFI Is Bringing Indigenous Peoples, Sport Fishing Enthusiasts and Forest Managers Together to Help Thompson Steelhead: The Thompson Steelhead Community Collaboration Initiative.
There’s something fishy going on in the Fraser Basin (TreeHugger article).
The Thompson Steelhead Working Group (TSWG).
About the Fraser Basin Council Society
The Fraser Basin Council is a charitable non-profit society that brings people together to advance sustainability in the Fraser Basin and across British Columbia. Established in 1997, the council is a collaboration of four orders of government (federal, provincial, local and First Nations), along with representatives from the private sector and civil society.
The council helps people learn about sustainability, resolve conflicts, and roll out partnership initiatives with a focus on climate change and air quality, watersheds and water resources, and local sustainability and resilience. It supports leaders in government, business and community organizations in finding collaborative solutions to tough issues and promising opportunities.