90-12 Integrating Lamprey Conservation Into Salmonid-Based Restoration Planning: A Case Study from the Methow River

John Crandall , Wild Fish Conservancy, Winthop, WA
The widespread decline of Pacific lamprey in the Pacific Northwest has sparked recent interest in the conservation, protection and restoration of lamprey populations and their habitat. The decline of Pacific lamprey in the Columbia River Basin has been especially precipitous, yet compared to salmonids, relatively little is known about lamprey in this region or how effective habitat restoration actions will be at improving the distribution, productivity and population viability of Pacific lamprey.

The Methow River Subbasin lies near the upstream extent of Pacific lamprey distribution in the Columbia River Basin. Downstream of the Methow, nine mainstem Columbia River dams and their impoundments pose significant passage challenges for anadromous lamprey and, as such, lamprey returning to and inhabiting the Methow may be among the most regionally imperiled. Habitat alteration and diminished water quality and quantity in the Methow have been identified as limiting factors for salmonids and numerous restoration projects have been implemented throughout the Columbia Basin in recent years to address these limiting factors to improve the production and viability of salmonid populations. While it is likely that habitat modifications have also negatively affected lamprey, the knowledge of how these projects may impact the adult and juvenile lamprey that occupy the same stream reaches as the salmonid target species is largely unknown.

The Methow Lamprey Inventory and Restoration Program was initiated in 2008 to develop a Pacific lamprey distribution, habitat use and genetic baseline in order to integrate the habitat needs of lamprey into a regionally coordinated salmonid-based habitat restoration effort in the Methow Subbasin. Baseline data were used to develop a prioritized list of stream reaches where on-going and future salmonid restoration may impact lamprey. The inclusion of the habitat needs of lamprey into the planning and implementation of these salmonid-based projects provides an immediate opportunity to restore habitat for lamprey. Without this linkage, effective lamprey habitat restoration may not occur in timeframe suitable to achieve effective conservation of these ancient fish.