In 1999 when the steelhead were listed as a threatened species, the SWCD worked to gain recognition of local conservation efforts and the proven conservation planning methodology employed by NRCS and the Districts.
This effort, partnered by Sherman, Gilliam and Wasco County SWCDs, USFWS, NRCS, NOAA, and others, was launched to provide a safe haven to farmers actively engaged in conservation. On April 22, 2004, NOAA Fisheries signed a biological opinion covering conservation on non-irrigated cropland, range, pasture, and associated riparian areas.
What this means is that farmers in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wasco Counties, following an approved NRCS conservation plan are protected from incidental steelhead “takes” during farming operations. The next step, currently underway, is to achieve the same result for irrigated cropland.