In our history of the Hoh River, we’ve watched the transfer of ownership from the Native Americans, to warring European nations and eventually to the United States, whose state and federal bureaucracies, biologists and bull trout have managed the legendary fisheries of this last best river in America into a threatened and/or endangered species status.
In the beginning, the Hoh River was famous for legendary runs of salmon and steelhead.
There were three distinct runs of Chinook salmon in the spring, summer and fall.
Of these, only the fall run has survived in any significant numbers.
There were summer and fall coho, summer and winter steelhead and sea-run cutthroat and Dolly Varden/bull trout.
Of all of these species, only the threatened and/or endangered bull trout continues to thrive.
On any given day, the bull trout is the most prolific fish in the Hoh River, causing fishers to ask, “If the bull trout is endangered or threatened, how come that’s all we catch?”
The threatened/endangered bull trout is neither threatened nor endangered nor a trout.
It is a char, a voracious predator that feeds on the spawn and juvenile salmon and steelhead.
Despite the fact that the abundance of bull trout endangers the remaining fish populations, it is a tool used by the so-called salmon restoration industry to open the floodgates of endangered-species funding to the tune of millions of dollars.
For example, when Canyon Creek, a tributary of the Hoh River, was found to contain bull trout, the Federal Highway Administration decided to build a new bridge on the Upper Hoh Road to make it easier for the bull trout to swim under it.
An associated multi-million-dollar project will build 25 log jams to protect the Upper Hoh Road. Another 29 log jams will be built to mitigate the damage to fish from these log jams and to channel the river, with a goal of slowing it down and stopping it from wandering across the valley as it has for the last 14,000 years.
This will require 2,500 logs from 30 acres of clear-cut.
Not to mention the tons of concrete to make the newfangled log jams.
The Hoh River has so many log jams in it now, we can barely make it down the river. In fact, the last two fatalities on the Hoh were in log jams.
They are going to build more. All in a vain attempt to domesticate a wild river.
Then there is the proposed “conifer release.”
Because the alder, willow, maple and cottonwood growing along the river are the wrong species, they intend to replace them with fir, cedar and pine trees because the biologists think these species will grow large enough to stop the river.
Although in the history of this land of big trees, there has never been one big enough to withstand the Hoh River.
The Hoh River now belongs to the salmon restoration industry. This is an alternative universe filled with confusing acronyms and weaponized semantics designed to defuse, deflect and deny any criticism of the master plan.
Throughout history, the Hoh River has been a source of high-quality protein for people to feed their families.
The Hoh’s been transformed through the best-available science into a dying thing where bureaucrats, biologists, consultants and nonprofits circle overhead like vultures over a dying ecosystem, padding their resumes to inflate their budgets with a modern version of the medieval divine right of kings.
Salmon restoration can never be questioned or held accountable for their destructive practices that are destroying the resource they are paid to protect.
They own the Hoh River.
Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.
He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via [email protected].