State governments have never been organized to actually protect wild salmonids and the habitats that sustain them. What passes for protection are carefully chosen words in plans and policies that are never expected to actually be carried out on the river. That way the public is pacified, the agency looks good, and the salmon continue to swim into the toilet. The following letter from an ex- ODFW employee shows the frustration of those in the field that would like to solve problems if their jobs did not depend on them holding their silence.
To: Oregon Department of Forestry
Sent: Friday, January 29, 2010 1:26 PM
Subject: Observations of spawning surveyor- ODF proposed changes
ODF must change its course in logging practices on state lands. It’s essential for the health and survival of our coastal salmon and steelhead.
I performed fish and redd surveys on Oregon coastal streams for ODFW in the mid- 2000s. Logging practices have destroyed the fish habitat we were all trying to help preserve.
We had to get the permission of logging companies and private landowners to even do surveys on their land, giving them the power over us in any information that was posted. There was always a feeling in the district offices I was at that you don't talk bad about the loggers or the companies because we needed them to get our jobs done. How messed up was that, that the very people destroying the resource we are trying to protect, we had to bow down to so that we could monitor that same species. To me, that is a serious gap in public relations and policy governing monitoring of streams. And how frustrating it was as a young biologist, bowing down and cow- towing to these companies that you just knew were destroying the habitat.
Meanwhile, things don't get better, every year you go back and observe a new logging operation right next to a spawning stream, and you think, "what the hell are we doing out here. Nothing is changing." And you watch these amazing fish, the last of their kind, giving all they got to pass on their DNA, scouring redds (many of which will perish), struggling upstream, and you look up and hear the whistle of a yarder while another tree is being dragged up the hill. It really makes one wonder what the hell is the point. What is really going on here? Why are we the ones without power here, and they can still do business as usual, after all these years. Nothing has changed, and it’s a shame. Yet we would be the bad guys if we speak out against it.
Often times I can remember looking over at my partner after a survey and asking, "is this ever going to stop? These fish are screwed." And back at the office I can recall a few times telling my boss about a new operation near a spawning stream and expressing my frustration. Mostly the reaction would be "yeah, I (we) know. Nothing we can do about it."
And so, everyone goes home. Nothing changes. The next day, its business as usual. Nothing changes. How long can we wait?
What could we say? Say anything negative about the coastal logging practices, you no longer have the survey, then your outfit no longer has a job for you, and then you no longer have any friends in the community. Just keep your mouth shut, I guess.
Former Employee, ODFW
Spawning Surveyor, 2002-2006