The Methow Restoration Council serves as a venue for coordination of monitoring activities in the Methow River basin. Conducted by (local, state, and federal) agencies, tribal nations, and non-profit groups, these monitoring programs collect data on fish populations as well as the effectiveness of habitat restoration activities that have been on-going in the Methow for over a decade. Examples of monitoring programs include counting spawning and migrating fish, measuring the temperature of water, and assessing the abundance and condition of riparian vegetation. In total, there are over thirty monitoring programs in the Methow watershed.
Monitoring informs us on the condition of the Methow’s fish and their habitat. Data collected during monitoring can tell us the abundance of a fish population or the condition of a habitat attribute and how these change over time (status and trend monitoring). Monitoring can also indicate how successful a particular restoration project was at meeting its goals (effectiveness monitoring). Monitoring provides us the scientifically-based information that we need to make management decisions—decisions on how our restoration efforts can best help recover fish populations and their associated habitat.
Information from the various monitoring programs in the Methow inform the management agencies responsible for tracking the recovery of Endangered Species Act-listed fish populations in our watershed (such as the WA State Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bonneville Power Administration). This information is then used to determine how actions, such as dam operations, commercial fishing, and habitat restoration, may be affecting fish populations.
On a more local scale, monitoring of restoration projects to determine if target species are present within the project area tells us how effective the project was and if that type of project should be repeated elsewhere or modified to provide increased benefits to fish.
Monitoring results are also used to determine whether our fish populations are trending towards recovery thresholds set forth in the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook and Steelhead Recovery Plan.
These thresholds include:
- abundance (how many fish?),
- productivity (how many fish produced?),
- spatial structure (where are the fish located in the watershed?), and
- diversity (how genetically and morphologically diverse are the fish?).
Monitoring provides insight into the health of our fish and habitat and how this changes over time or in response to a habitat restoration project. Without scientifically-based monitoring we would not understand if our fish populations are moving towards a healthier and sustainable condition or not. We also wouldn’t know if our efforts to restore habitat are providing improved conditions for fish or not.
Monitoring results let us know if our restoration efforts are successful. Monitoring also helps us adapt our restoration efforts to best meet the needs of the fish and their habitat and to spend resources in the most effective manner—on the projects that our monitoring data show are most successful.
Monitoring has been on-going in the Methow for over a decade and will continue at least until our fish populations have recovered (because, without monitoring, there would be no way to know if they have recovered or not!).
Monitoring schedules of the various programs depend on the specific target of the monitoring. For example, steelhead spawning surveys occur annually during portions of April and May and at no other time of the year (because steelhead only spawn in April and May in the Methow watershed). On the other hand, water temperature monitoring occurs hourly for the entire year at multiple sites within the watershed because temperature changes, in some case quite dramatically, over the course of a day or season.
Overall, monitoring programs are designed to capture the variation inherent in the ecological systems they target as variations in weather, precipitation, and stream flow change from hour to hour and year to year. This variation has a profound effect on fish and fish habitat—just the sort of thing that monitoring strives to capture.
For monitoring information, contact John Crandall, Methow Monitoring Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 509-341-4341.