Salmon 2100: The Future of Wild Pacific Salmon

Climate and Development: Salmon Caught in the Squeeze

James T. Martin


It seems highly likely that the pincers of development and climate change will cause the severe depletion or localized extinction of anadromous salmonids in low-elevation streams in the Pacific Northwest and California. The remaining populations will be fragmented and well separated from other potential rearing areas, increasing the chances that depletions caused by extreme climatic events will become extinctions. The fact is that very little can be done with hatchery technology or modified fishing practices that could compensate for the anticipated impacts of development and climate change on low-elevation anadromous salmon populations.

The future of salmon conservation and restoration in western North America depends on transforming our current approach: we need to become profoundly more strategic in our decision making. By trying to restore salmon everywhere, we risk not achieving sustainability anywhere. By spreading our tactics thinly, we fail to identify true strategic opportunities while there is still time. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight what I see as the most significant challenges to the future of salmon and to suggest a number of more difficult but more strategic approaches.

In Chapter 3, Lackey et al. (2006, this volume) have outlined the current projections for human population growth in the Pacific Northwest (Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and British Columbia). Their projections are for the current population of approximately 15 million people to swell to 40 or 50 million by 2100.