Jacob Katz, director of Central Valley operations for the conservation nonprofit California Trout, looks out on the Sacramento River, near the Rough and Ready Pumping Station. Credit: Liza Gross It’s easy to see how biologists studying the fate of California’s native fish might fall into despair. That’s how Jacob Katz felt when he and his colleagues reported in 2011 that more than three-quarters of the state’s native freshwater fish, including its iconic Chinook salmon, were in sharp decline. But Katz, a fly-fishing ecologist who directs Central Valley operations for the conservation nonprofit California Trout, isn’t the despairing type. His eyes lit up as he recalled the moment he realized the same forces leading California’s fish to the brink of extinction could be harnessed to reel them back. That epiphany now drives his work. Restoration isn’t about removing any one dam or returning to some mythical pristine condition but about helping salmon recognize the rivers they evolved with, said Katz, walking along a flood-protection levee that cuts off the Sacramento River, California’s longest, from the thousands of farms and towns that occupy its historic floodplains. When you realize “farms or fish” is a false choice, he said, “suddenly you see […]

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