Low gradient reaches are usually the most biologically productive and sensitive areas within a stream system. They're limited in number and area and where most salmon and steelhead spawning takes place.
|Salmon hen digging a redd (nest) with her tail, while the male hangs around ready to fertilize the nest.|
Miners and agency officials claim that in-water work periods address concerns that salmon and steelhead eggs, developing embryos and tiny hatchling fish could still be in streambed gravels. This can be argued, because emergence is dependent on water temperatures and other variables.
Even if true, using this logic, it would be OK to tear up incubators and nurseries in a hospital maternity ward when no babies are present. And while it’s less likely that salmon eggs and yolk-sac fry will be in the gravel during the in-water work periods, the tiny juvenile fish still inhabit these areas, where their ability to grow, gain strength and escape predators is critical in their struggle to survive and reproduce—and they’re not the only inhabitants of the biologically important streambed. Read more about science and impacts of suction dredge mining.
|Life cycle of native naturally reproducing anadromous fish,|
Stream ecosystems are more complex than we think
In the 1990s a famous forest ecologist told the President of the United States that:
“Not only are forest ecosystems more complex than we think; they are more complex than we can think."He was paraphrasing pioneering plant ecologist Frank Egler, who assisted Rachel Carson with her seminal book, “Silent Spring.” Stream ecosystems are no less complex than forest ecosystems. Yet streambeds—where life itself begins for the wild salmon and trout we prize—are treated as if they’re little more than assortments of rock by miners—and unfortunately by many land and resource managers.
|Salmon egg and tiny hatchling.|
Read "Effects of Suction Dredging on Streams" in Fisheries, the journal of the American Fisheries Society.
There are stresses on our rivers and the priceless wild salmon and trout that inhabit them we can do little to control. In-stream mining is not one of them. Both Federal and State agencies have the authority to regulate mining. It’s being done in neighboring Idaho. It's being done in California. And the land managing agencies have the authority to require miners to demonstrate they have an actual right to mine under the Mining Law. However, right now in Oregon mining is treated as the highest and best use of our streams and rivers, even congressionally protected National Wild and Scenic Rivers.
|Low gradient high value spawning habitat mined over a year before this photograph was taken.|
See also The Science post.
|This tiny fragile yolk-sac fry could grow into a 40 lb. salmon.|