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
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
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.