The watersheds of the Pacific Northwest provide clean water for communities and support some of the last wild runs of salmon and steelhead in the world. In 1994, with the adoption of the Northwest Forest Plan (NWFP), many key salmon watersheds received much-needed protection from historic and ongoing logging activities — the very same activities that led to the decline and eventual listing of salmon, steelhead, and other native fishes under the Endangered Species Act. The NWFP, covering 24 million acres of public lands, is arguably the most ecologically sound multiple use forest management plan in the world. The Aquatic Conservation Strategy (ACS), a crucial component of the NWFP, is a science-based strategy that aims to maintain and restore and the ecological functions and processes of watersheds and aquatic ecosystems.
Monitoring efforts have demonstrated that the ACS is benefiting aquatic ecosystems. Nevertheless, in 2004, the Bush Administration significantly weakened the ACS through changes it referred to as simple “clarifications.” In fact, the changes went to the heart of the strategy and ignored an extensive body of science supporting the former protections.
As lead proponents of the ACS, Pacific Rivers took a principal role in coordinating efforts to defend the Plan.
We joined a coalition of conservation organizations in a legal challenge to the ACS rollbacks. The court agreed that the changes were illegal and as a result of our lawsuit, the original ACS was reinstated, a success! The ACS protections continue to limit damaging activities such as logging and road-building, to protect our watersheds.