Public Release: 

Scientists to examine wildfire effects on fish habitat

Fire science workshop looks to restore habitat resilient to wildfire and climate change

NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region

Fire and aquatic scientists will gather in Portland, Ore., on the brink of an anticipated severe wildfire season to discuss how wildfires may help or hurt habitat for salmon, trout and other aquatic life and how restoration of fish habitat can improve its resiliency to fire and other influences such as climate change.

The May 13 Fire Science Workshop, "Understanding the Effects of Fire on Aquatic Ecosystems," will include expert presentations and panel discussions on how fish respond to the effects of wildfire, how fires affect salmon streams and what kinds of restoration can best help fish and their habitat withstand wildfires that are a fact of life across the Columbia Basin.

The workshop is sponsored by the Federal Caucus, an organization of 10 federal agencies with management responsibilities in the Columbia Basin, as well as Ecotrust and Ecotrust Forest Management. The workshop will be held at the Natural Capital Center (the Ecotrust building) at 721 NW 9th Ave., Portland, and fosters the Federal Caucus goals of improving coordination and information sharing throughout the Columbia Basin.

"Fires and fish span many boundaries and we all need to understand how one affects the other," said Mary Lou Soscia, Columbia River Coordinator for the Environmental Protection Agency and chair of the Federal Caucus. "All of us in the Columbia Basin have an interest in using limited restoration resources to not only improve fish habitat but make it as resilient as we can for the long term."

Scientists from the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Idaho State University and conservation groups will speak at the conference on subjects such as how fires influence the delivery of logs and other wood materials that often improve fish habitat and how to plan habitat restoration in the context of wildfires. State and tribal natural resources managers are also expected to participate.

"Habitat restoration programs across the basin must take fire science into account if those programs are going to successfully help recover threatened and endangered fishes ," said Linda Ulmer, the U.S. Forest Service representative for the Federal Caucus. "Many agency and university scientists will continue to study how wildland fires influence river and stream habitat. At the workshop they will share their findings and ideas with restoration practitioners and policy-makers to support conservation on a changing landscape."

For more information on the workshop, see the attached agenda and flyer. Media are welcome to attend. The Fire Science Workshop follows a similar workshop last year on the effects on cold water fisheries from higher stream temperatures and climate change.

The Columbia River Basin Federal Caucus is a group of ten federal agencies operating in the Columbia River Basin that have natural resource responsibilities and promote recovery of native fish and wildlife listed under the Endangered Species Act.

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