Human Population Impacts on Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife

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The impact of human settlement in the Columbia River Basin is rarely incorporated into fish and wildlife planning. The Fish and Wildlife Program implicitly assumes a level base case of human development as do most fish and wildlife planning processes, including the Biological Opinion for the Federal Columbia River Power System. Demographic issues are only infrequently addressed in subbasin plans through acknowledgement that population growth is a factor limiting quality habitat.

However, several dimensions of human development are changing in ways that make it an important consideration. Regional population is increasing, settling the landscape in new patterns, and converting land to new economic uses. These trends have unevenly distributed impacts throughout the basin with direct implications for fish and wildlife conservation, mitigation, and recovery.

The completion of the first round of subbasin planning, the increasing emphasis on ecosystem-based management, and the uncertainty introduced by climate change all make human population growth a relevant consideration to fish and wildlife recovery planning in the Columbia River Basin. The incorporation of population issues into fish and wildlife planning will help the region frame recovery actions in a broader and more relevant context. It will also assist in the identification of the types, location, and intensity of potential human impacts on fish and wildlife.

For these reasons, this report addresses the issue of human population and its impact on fish and wildlife restoration in the Columbia River Basin. Section II presents historical population trends and future projections at global, national, and regional levels. Section III addresses the mechanisms of population impact on the natural environment. Section IV describes specific population impacts in the Columbia River Basin on the biophysical environment, water, forests, agriculture, mining, electric power, fisheries and aquatic resources, and wildlife. Section V discusses population-driven outside-basin influences on fish and wildlife habitat. These influences include international trade, shipping, aquatic invasive species, dredging, airborne pollution and transport of hazardous materials. Section VI provides examples of processes and tools for incorporating human population into fish and wildlife planning. Section VII presents key findings on the nature of population growth, the impact of population growth on fish and wildlife, and protections for fish and wildlife. Section VII also contains recommendations for planning processes and tools that account for population effects on fish and wildlife restoration.

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