Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is funding your work?
A: For almost 8 years, from 2001 through the summer of 2008, all of my work was self-funded. I neither desired nor sought any outside funding. This ensured that I remained completely independent, with unequivocal control over the work, including timing of reports, modifications to protocols, and deletion of study elements, as needed. However, for the 2-5 years that I expect it to take to conclude this important survey work, I have associated with a non-profit environmental organization. This new relationship provides me the ability to accept large and small tax-deductible (to the contributor) donations from concerned individuals, groups, and agencies. To learn more about the need for such donations–or to make one right now–click on the Contribute Now! button at the bottom left of the home page.

Q: How long have you been observing the river?
A: My first visit to the river was as an angler in February 1972. So, I now have almost a 37-year perspective. I initiated my steelhead studies on the river in 2001.

Q: Why is your work important?
A: Because nobody else–individual, group or agency–is doing it. Furthermore, there has been no systematic, long-term monitoring of the river’s salmonid population for more than 30 years. Meanwhile, our tax dollars are being spent for various other investigations on the river and an array of band-aid-approaches to habitat improvement, without any systematic corresponding evaluation of the bottom line: What does it all mean to the river’s steelhead population? It is important that a current baseline period of population study be established for various future comparisons–10, 20 or even 50 years from today–because the threats to the river in the form of a cumulative, long-term decline of ecosystem functioning are real and serious.

Q: Why are you the right person for this endeavor?
A: Because steelhead “go with the flow” (see Secrets of Steelhead Biology Essential to Study Planning) and as a retired biologist with 37 years of professional experience, I now have unlimited availability to conduct surveys whenever optimal conditions arise. Being ready and able to survey at optimal times is an important advantage for work with this species. I also truly love working with steelhead and experiencing all of the unique adventures (see condensed snippets from the forthcoming book, Diaries of a Mad Biologist) related to the work. And I am motivated too by the knowledge that no other individual or agency will likely be stepping forward to conduct such population monitoring anytime soon.

Q: Are you seeking volunteers to assist you?
A: I am not seeking any casual (occasional) volunteers. The drain on my time and limited resources to train such people has, to date, proven to far exceed any payback in terms of the expansion of quality or quantity of my work. However, I am always on the lookout for one or two very special people–individuals with the time, energy, and enthusiasm to match my own–to assist me over the long-term, or to take this work over when I eventually leave the scene.

Q: Why such a long (10-year) time-frame for this work?
A: Steelhead populations naturally ebb and flow in response to annual variations in precipitation and stream runoff, and of course, ocean conditions. To begin to see trends and develop a solid basis for future comparisons (i.e., with the indexing approach I am taking versus more labor- and cost-intensive direct population estimates), necessitates that a representative multi-year period be examined. Little, if anything, would be gained from a brief 1- or 2-year study. The 10-year study period I am projecting is just an initial target–a time frame that may require adjustment in response to conditions and findings.

Q: Why and how do you believe the river to be so imperiled?
A: What is occurring is a classic example of incremental impacts having cumulatively significant adverse effects. Put another way: the river is being bombarded with dozens, if not hundreds, of small adverse effects (each of which alone is difficult, if not impossible, to analyze and measure) which add up to one large, continuing adverse effect–and downward trend–on river ecosystem functioning.

Q: What are some examples of these ‘incremental impacts?’
A: Three of the more numerous and pervasive examples are: (1) widespread individual timber harvests; (2) numerous permitted and un-permitted water diversions; and (3) a myriad of development-related landscape changes, including conversions to vineyards, which inextricably alter the watershed’s hydrodynamics. I will be elaborating here in the future on these and other adverse impacts.

Q: What evidence exists that these ‘cumulatively significant adverse impacts’ continue to degrade the river’s ecosystem health and functioning? After all, the river looks much as it has for the last few decades, doesn’t it?
A: As I said, I will be elaborating further in the future. But for now, consider three key facts: (1) the river’s coho salmon have been, for all practical purposes, extirpated and they have not, to date, reestablished any measurable, self-sustaining population; (2) numerous fourth- and fifth-order downstream reaches of the river, which just 3 short decades ago rarely, if ever, went dry, now routinely lack surface flows by late summer, during even moderately dry–or in some cases average–water years; and (3) what limited data exists, suggests that the river’s steelhead may be following the same downward path as its coho salmon.

Q: So, what is known of the river’s steelhead population history.
A: Nobody knows, of course, how many salmon and steelhead the river supported under pristine conditions, before the first era of modern development and logging began in the mid-1800s. However, based on findings to date, my educated guess is that it may have supported adult returns of at least 5,000-8,000 coho salmon and 20,000-25,000 steelhead. The only historical estimates of adult steelhead returns by CDFG (California Department of Fish and Game) were in the 1960s when about 16,000 fish were estimated and in the mid-1970s, when estimates were down to roughly 6,000-8,000 adults. Although my indexing approach is not designed to provide directly comparable results today, I will, in time, be making some best-professional-judgement-based comparative estimates using my data.

Q: What are the other individuals, groups and agencies involved with ownership, management and research in the watershed saying about your work?
A: Since initiating my work in 2001, I’ve gotten a steady stream of positive feedback and encouragement from various people, including a number of resource agency (i.e., National Marine Fisheries Service and CDFG) personnel. On the other hand, a few people have continued to demonstrate (in writing and otherwise; see What Others are Saying) that they are not enthralled with my efforts. Clearly, the conflicts have arisen mostly because of my: (1) insistence on complete study autonomy and independence; (2) asserting a right-to-river-access, based on the river’s navigable status; and (3) reporting of certain disturbing (and sometimes illegal) environmental activities I have observed on private lands during some of my surveys (see the individual File Memos). Nevertheless, for the sake of the resource, during my remaining time on the river I intend to strive to resolve such conflicts to the extent possible so as to achieve more positive, working relationships with more factions.


go to Related Links
go to Contact Author