Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is published monthly by the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. Read on to learn about the Columbia-Snake River Basin’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead, the many benefits they deliver to people and ecosystems, and the extinction crisis they face today. Find out how SOS is helping lead efforts to restore health, connectivity, and resilience to the rivers and streams these fish depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and harvestable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Martha Campos.
1. Washington State Legislature: Restoring the lower Snake River together
2. Biden Administration Listening Session receives overwhelming support for a free-flowing lower Snake River
3. 'Honor: People and Salmon' exhibit: "Happiness is a room full of people celebrating salmon"
4. 'I Sing the Salmon Home' – a powerful new collection of poems from Washington State
5. 'Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty': U.S. State Department holds Listening Session as negotiations with Canada accelerate
6. Upcoming April Events - Join us!
7. It's not too early to GiveBIG!
8. Snake River and salmon media roundup
Our region is confronted with a defining choice right now - with enormous implications. We can choose to stick with a failing status quo (cost, uncertainty, litigation, conflict, extinction!) or we choose a new approach: collaboration, restoration, investment in communities and infrastructure, clean energy and salmon abundance. These are our options.
This quote below from the Murray/Inslee recommendations articulates the needed approach to restoring the Snake River, and what is clearly our only legal, viable, effective path forward.
"We can no longer afford to be pitted against one another because of an intractable and unproductive choice between species and dams. The consequences of doing so are simply too severe. We can, and must, adapt in ways that strengthen our energy system, forestall the extinction of iconic species, and protect the rights of treaty Tribes while providing economic opportunity for the entire region. A great deal of work remains to resolve the technical and financial questions that remain, and it is time to transition from endless debate and litigation to taking concrete steps now that ensure every option is available to policymakers."
This is not solely an opportunity for salmon, Tribes, and our ecosystem. This is an opportunity for our regional economy and culture - to secure significant infrastructure investments that will modernize our energy and transportation systems. Defenders of the status quo have a lot to gain - if they choose to engage constructively. We hope they choose to be a part of the solution, rather than continue to be part of the problem.
The solution is clear—to work with Pacific Northwest policymakers, Tribes and stakeholders— to take concrete next steps to recover endangered Snake River salmon and steelhead, invest in transportation, agriculture, and clean energy infrastructure, and ensure economic opportunities in every corner of our state – farmers, anglers and local communities.
In December 2022, Governor Inslee followed through on the commitments made to take concrete next steps, proposing legislation and funding to begin necessary planning to transition the transportation and energy services of the lower Snake River dams. An Irrigation Analysis was also introduced, with strong support by our coalition.
With significant advocacy, collaboration, and coordination among coalition members and Washington State legislators over the past 3+ months, all three of these measures are included in the proposed Senate and House budgets and will likely move forward this week in the final 2023-25 Washington State Budget.
These measures will ensure Washington State is prepared and ready when a decision is made by the federal government to remove the four lower Snake River dams—bringing more clean energy online, improving grid resilience, ensuring we have a plan for an uninterrupted supply of irrigation water, and determining options to modernize our transportation system in Southeast Washington.
These plans will enable us to strengthen and diversify our regional economy and create and sustain new jobs as we work urgently to stop the extinction of Snake River salmon and steelhead.
In addition to policymakers, Northwest advocates and organizations are joining together to save salmon and orcas, and invest in a comprehensive solution. As indicated by this recent Seattle Times ad, the engagement is unprecedented - and provides a significant opportunity to come together for the good and for the future of our region's economy, culture, environment, and justice.
Please join us in these next steps, as we work together to implement these important measures - soon to be approved by the legislature - to transition (replace) the services of the lower Snake River dams. We can save salmon and modernize our transportation, energy, and irrigation infrastructure, benefiting our ecosystems and our communities. We must not accept the misleading narrative that we cannot transition the services provided by the dams.
Of course, we can—and we must!
U.S. Government-sponsored “listening sessions” on March 31 and April 3 were dominated by testimony in support of removing the four dams on the lower Snake River to protect and recover endangered salmon, steelhead - and salmon-dependent and critically endangered Southern Resident orcas. Over the course of the two sessions, 104 speakers addressed representatives of the Council on Environmental Quality, the Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies. 85 of those 104 speakers explicitly supported the restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake.
The listening sessions are an adjunct to ongoing confidential settlement talks between the Biden Administration and plaintiffs (Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon and conservation and fishing NGOs represented by Earthjustice) challenging the federal salmon recovery plan for the Columbia-Snake Basin adopted in the waning days of the Trump Administration.
During the listening sessions, Tribal members, fishermen, energy experts, rural businesses and families, salmon and orca advocates, and youth leaders all called on the federal government to urgently develop a plan to remove the four lower Snake River dams and replace the services they provide before Northwest salmon go extinct. Last July, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report confirmed that removing the dams is essential to stop the decline in Snake River salmon populations, echoing decades of prior research that have said the same. Replacing the services provided by the dams is a necessary step to ensure the region continues to have affordable renewable energy and reliable agricultural transportation and irrigation systems.
Helen Neville, a senior scientist with Trout Unlimited, reminded the federal audience that “… salmon and steelhead populations on the John Day and Yakima Rivers must cross three and four dams, respectively. These populations are returning at sustainable rates, nearly four times as high as salmon and steelhead in the Snake basin, which must cross 8 dams and are reaching critical thresholds of risk.”
Aaron Lieberman, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, told listeners that, “The importance of these fish and the outfitting & guiding industry to these rural Idaho communities cannot be overstated. Yet fishing outfitters and guides and their communities continue to helplessly watch the downward arc of Idaho’s anadromous fish. Their hardship is not hypothetical; it is real and immediate and long-endured.”
Owen Begley-Collier, a 17-year-old orca advocate, lamented that “I’ve gone to the San Juan Islands every year to look for the Southern Resident [orcas] and I used to see them every summer without fail, but now these sightings have become few and far between as the orcas become dispersed in search of dwindling chinook salmon.”
A final listening session will be held on May 25. Details on how to sign up to speak are not yet available. Concerned advocates, who can’t speak at the listening sessions, can still share their concerns with the Biden Administration; see this action alert: Tell the Biden Administration we need a plan to stop salmon extinction - before it's too late!
“Happiness is a room full of people celebrating salmon through visual art, poetry, and activism. Big thanks to…Save Our Wild Salmon’s Northwest Artists Against Extinction, and to Holly J. Hughes of Empty Bowl Press, Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest, and the Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound. [At the closing] reception for Honor: People and Salmon proves once again that salmon bring people together.
It's The Salmon Way.”
- Amy Gulick, photographer, author, poet
“The exhibit featured so many talented and amazing artists, scientists, writers, and poets, all who shared a similar drive and passion in using their artwork and writing to raise awareness on the beauty and life of salmon. So very happy and grateful to have made it to the event, and see new and old faces.”
- Rosemary Connelli, artist
The 'Honor: People and Salmon' exhibit closed on Saturday, April 15, after a celebratory, creative-coming-together of visual artists and poets. The gallery was at full capacity, standing room only, for the closing reception and poetry reading from the recently published anthology, I Sing the Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State–edited by outgoing Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest and published by Empty Bowl Press. While the room was abundant with artists of many genres, unfortunately, Rena Priest was not able to attend. Holly J. Hughes of Empty Bowl Press ended the telling of that sentence, and began the next by revealing that Washington’s incoming Poet Laureate - Arianne True - announced three days before, was in attendance and would be reading her poem about returning home. Arianne was joined by Kathryn True (no relation), Ann Spiers, Amy Gulick, and Sasha LaPointe, who left many in the crowd in tears, while Linera Lucas served-up salivation, salvation and laughter. Holly J. Hughes recited additional poetry from the collection that instilled the audience with hope and optimism. Emotions were brought to light by the poetry and elevated by the artwork throughout the gallery space. The wide array of mediums, colors, and approaches illustrated the diverse ways in which we interact with and interpret our relationships with salmon. The combination of spoken word and vibrant colors encapsulating honoring salmon made for a powerful evening.
Northwest Artists Against Extinction is a project of Save Our wild Salmon Coalition. We acknowledge that it is with the dedication and passion of the artists involved (follow this link to see a slideshow of artists’ artwork and see a complete list of exhibiting artists below) that creativity can become a convener for hope, action and change. The sculptures, paintings, prints and photographs may have come off of the walls and the books of poetry have been boxed up for the next gathering, but the act of honoring people and salmon lives on through each of you who attended the exhibit and who are reading this newsletter. It lives on through you who have written to your representatives, or donated to support environmental education and advocacy, and those who continue to invest in the act of learning and listening. It lives on in those who are supporting Indigenous people in uplifting and upholding Tribal sovereignty and self-determination. It lives on in those who show-up to be a part of the contemporary conversation, carrying forward the words of Billy Frank Jr. – “those who learn to listen to the world that sustains them can hear the message brought forth by salmon.” A healthy future for salmon is a healthy future for people.
- Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber: 'Honor: People & Salmon,' an art show, hosts closing reception (April 6, 2023)
- The Puget Sound Trail: Honoring People and Salmon at Kittredge Gallery (April 4, 2023)
Photo 1: Photograph and Artwork left to right by: Peter Marbach, Elise Richman, Tom Gross, Lee Musgrave, Taelyn Baiza, Mary Jo Mann, Karen Hackenberg, Jen McLuen, and Elisabeth Winnen. Front on pedestal: Steve Nagode.
Photo 2: Left photo - Exhibiting artists, who attended the April 15th closing reception for Honor: People and Salmon. Right photo - Honor: People and Salmon Interdisciplinary Panelist featuring Paige Pettibon, Archie Cantrell, Joseph Bogaard, Britt Freda, Peter Wimberger, and moderator, Elise Richman.
We’re excited to share news from Empty Bowl Press about the release of a new poetry anthology, I Sing the Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State, edited by Washington State Poet Laureate Rena Priest. (Rena's two-year term just ended - 3/31/2023; the state’s new Poet Laureate is Arianne True.)
For this unique collection celebrating salmon, Washington State Poet Laureate and Lummi Tribal member Rena Priest gathered poems from more than 150 Washington poets ranging from first graders to Tribal Elders, all inspired by the Northwest’s beloved, iconic salmon. A diverse chorus of voices, they join together in poems that praise salmon’s heroic journey, beauty, courage, and generosity and witness the threats salmon face from dams, habitat destruction, and a changing climate.
From Timothy Egan, author of The Good Rain: "At long last—the soul of the Pacific Northwest—have been given words to match the ongoing miracle of their existence. With this anthology, some of the better poets from our corner of the world show us dimensions of life, legacy, and culture that we might otherwise overlook in our rushed tumble through the years. It's a book to grow old with—and a book to share with those just learning the power of verse to change hearts and minds."
As Priest writes in her preface: “It is my hope that the poems in this collection will carry into the hearts of readers a wish to preserve and protect the gifts of salmon bestowed by a beautiful living earth; that they will provide the spark of life to carry us into a new cycle. May their good work continue to sing the salmon home.”
Rena Priest is a member of the Lhaq’temish (Lummi) Nation. She is the Washington State Poet Laureate (2021-2023) and a Maxine Cushing Gray Distinguished Writing Fellow.
Priest is also the recipient of an Allied Arts Foundation Professional Poets Award and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, Indigenous Nations Poets, and the Vadon Foundation. Her debut collection, "Patriarchy Blues", received an American Book Award. Her second collection, "Sublime Subliminal", was published as the finalist for the Floating Bridge Press Chapbook Award. Priest’s nonfiction has appeared in High Country News, YES! Magazine, Seattle Met, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College.
SOS is also deeply honored to have been invited to be a partner in this project. Thanks to Rena Priest and Holly J. Hughes and John Pierce from Empty Bowl Press, a portion of the anthology’s sales will be donated to support our work at SOS. And SOS will be working hard over the next few months to help share this book widely with people, community leaders and policymakers across the Pacific Northwest and in Washington D.C.
Empty Bowl, founded in 1976 as a cooperative letterpress publisher, has produced periodicals, literary anthologies, collections of poetry and books of Chinese translation, as well as The Madrona Project series. It is Empty Bowl’s mission to publish the work of writers who share it’s founding purpose: the love and preservation of human communities in wild places.
You can buy this new anthology here.
“The Columbia River Treaty between the United States and Canada has been a hybrid of fears and profits since its ratification in 1964…” So wrote Paul Lumley, Yakama Nation citizen and then Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, in the Oregonian almost exactly ten years ago.
Fast forward to today and Lumley’s words are still relevant, only they are more pressing now that the U.S. and Canada are both signaling that they may reach an agreement-in-principle later this after sixteen rounds of formal negotiations over the past five years.
Before Treaty negotiations get any closer to a final deal, the U.S. State Department will host a 'Columbia River Treaty Listening Session' on April 19, 5pm - 6:30pm PT, to hear from Northwest people about regional priorities for this important agreement. We must ensure that decision makers hear diverse voices speaking on behalf of salmon recovery, resilient ecosystems, and justice! Register here.
TAKE ACTION: After the Listening Session, please send a message to the Biden Administration - urging it to modernize the Columbia River Treaty! Policymakers in the Northwest and in Washington D.C. need to understand that there is strong public support for a modernized Treaty that will protect the river and its inhabitants. Take action here.
The current Treaty is damagingly narrow and unprepared for climate change, with only two purposes - (i) engineered flood risk management and (ii) hydropower production - and only two voices included in the Treaty’s current governance system - Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps. This must change!
As Paul Lumley said in his visionary 2013 article, “A modernized treaty should provide equally for ecosystem requirements, hydropower operations and flood-risk management… the region must look beyond the narrow approach employed 50 years ago [now, 60 years ago] and take a broad look at what the river needs. Equal consideration of improved spring migration of salmon, seasonal flushing of the estuary, resident fish requirements and salmon passage at all historic locations are all needs of the Columbia River basin to include in a new treaty.”
For over ten years, Save Our wild Salmon Coalition and allied organizations have been working hard to advocate for this modern vision of a modernized Treaty. We’ve provided feedback and input, educated and engaged Obama, Trump, and now Biden Administration officials, Members of Congress, supporters and the public, coordinating and communicating whenever possible with Columbia Basin Tribes and with allies in Canada who share our vision for a modernized Treaty, resilient ecosystems, and more just and prosperous communities.
In September 2022, 31 organizations joined SOS on a letter to officials in the Biden Administration, urging progress on negotiations to modernize the Treaty with 'Ecosystem Function' - the health of the river - as a new primary and co-equal purpose (with power production and flood management).
Just last month, 30 organizations sent a follow up letter to the Biden Administration asking that the President add new member(s) with appropriate ecosystem expertise to the ‘U.S. Entity’ - the body that implements the Treaty for the U.S.
This step, which President Biden can take by simply revising an existing two page long Executive Order, will help to address the inadequate leadership currently provided by the Bonneville Power Administration and the U.S. Army Corps (the two current members of the U.S. Entity). In addition to this domestic decision, the U.S. and Canada must also revise the Treaty’s international governance mechanisms to support Ecosystem Function.
As Lumley urged when the Treaty review process was just getting started: “Let's make sure that the next Columbia River Treaty is a treaty of our time and our values.” Now that negotiations seem to be accelerating, it’s everyone's job to turn this vision into a reality!
Learn more, and take action, at www.ColumbiaRiverTreaty.org - a website hosted by the NGO Caucus to Modernize the Columbia River Treaty!
This month, we invite you to upcoming events across the region as we educate, advocate, inspire - and build momentum for restoring the Snake River and its salmon. Check out the details below to find an event near you!
April 22nd, 8:30 AM - 6 PM | Spokane, WA
Hope for Creation Conference: Care for the Water
Hosted by St. John’s Cathedral, in partnership with the Whitworth Office of Church Engagement and Fig Tree, the Hope for Creation Conference is designed to share a vision of hope for creation; spotlight local caretakers of land, water, and air; and renew Spokane's leadership on environmental care.
Tanya Riordan, SOS Policy and Advocacy Director, will speak at the conference on restoring the lower Snake River and its salmon and steelhead.
Click here for more information on the conference, speakers, and event schedule.
All are welcome at this free event. No registration is required.
April 22nd, 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM | Bellingham, WA
Pickford Film Screening: From Tree to Sea: Fighting for Salmon & Forests on Earth Day
“From Tree to Sea” is a special Earth Day screening of films highlighting the ways in which the fates of the Northwest’s iconic salmon, rivers, forests, and communities are inextricably linked. Together, these three films highlight the immense cultural and ecological significance of salmon, and how the values we share and decisions we make regarding endangered species and mature forests today are critical to building resilience in the face of a changing climate.
After the films will be a facilitated Q&A with Alexander Harris, RE Sources Land & Water Policy Manager and producer of both short films and John Rosapepe, Pacific Northwest Representative with Endangered Species Coalition and advocate for all things salmon and orca!
April 24th 7:30 PM | Missoula, Montana
'Covenant of the Salmon People' film screening at the 46th annual International Wildlife Film Festival
Watch the premier of Covenant of the Salmon People at the 46th annual International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF) on April 24th! Covenant of the Salmon People, directed by Shane Anderson, is a new documentary portrait of the Nez Perce Tribe’s ancient covenant with salmon. Today, the Tribe is at a pivotal point in their fight to protect and restore several species of salmon that are near extinction; read more about the film here.
The film follows their efforts to uphold this ancient relationship as dams and climate impacts threaten one of the cornerstones of their culture. The film will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers!
Buy your tickets here!
April 25th, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM PT | Virtual via Zoom
Dr. Deborah Giles, "What Feces Can Tell Us About the Health of the Endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales"
The Southern Resident killer whales are one of the most studied and well-known endangered species on the planet, yet efforts to protect and recover them remains elusive. In the acclaimed PBS 2022 documentary, The Lost Salmon, Dr. Deborah Giles, Research Director for Wild Orca, underscored the close relationship between the health of salmon populations and the Southern Resident killer whale population.
Click here to register and for more information on this event. This free event is open to the public. Registration is required. Event presented by American Cetacean Society - San Francisco Bay Chapter.
April 26th, 12:00 PM PT | Virtual via Zoom
Tribal Voices Matter: Debunking Dam Myths Pt. 2
Join Salmon Orca Project’s 'Tribal Voices Matter' speaker series on April 26th! Nez Perce Vice Chairman Shannon Wheeler and Nez Perce Fisheries Biologist Jay Hesse will debunk the misleading myths that opponents of dam breaching are putting forward. Register here!
Missed the Tribal Voices Matter: Debunking Dam Myths Pt. 1? Watch the recording of the webinar featuring Nez Perce Fisheries Biologist Jay Hesse and Harvest Director Joe Oatman on Salmon Orca Project’s Facebook page here.
May 3-4, is GiveBIG 2023!
April 18 marks the start of early giving for the 2023 'GiveBIG' campaign. We would LOVE your generous support to help us reach our goal of $15,000 over the next two weeks! This year, GiveBIG runs until May 3rd.
And - thanks to a very generous supporter - SOS has a $10,000 matching challenge on the table for GiveBIG. Every dollar you give will be matched 1:1 (up to $10,000)! We have set an overall goal to raise $15,000 total this (not counting the $10K match!). We hope that you'll give what you can to support our urgent program work at this critical time.
GiveBIG is an annual spring fundraising drive to encourage people to support their favorite nonprofits. It's one of the biggest online giving events of the year. We hope you’ll make a generous gift to help advance Save Our wild Salmon’s innovative, impactful conservation advocacy protecting and recovering Northwest salmon and steelhead populations - and the fish and wildlife and human communities that rely on them.
Gifts can be made online - or via mail. Both will qualify for the match above, as long as they are received / post-marked by or before 11:59 pm on May 3!
Here's our mailing address: Save Our wild Salmon, 811 First Ave., Suite 305, Seattle, WA 98104.
If you have any questions about GiveBIG or our program work, please contact Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org // 206-300-1003.
Thank you, as ever, for your amazing support and advocacy. Working together, we can seize this once-in-a-generation opportunity to restore the Snake River, recover abundant salmon populations, and invest in the Pacific Northwest's communities, clean energy and other infrastructure - and its lands, waters and wildlife.
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Northwest salmon recovery:
- Everett Herald Guest Opinion: Snake River dams’ benefits replaceable; salmon aren’t (April 08, 2023)
- Spokesman-Review Guest Opinion: Miles Johnson: Lies and fear mongering won’t solve our problems (April 08, 2023)
- Lewiston Tribune: Anti-dam overtakes listening session (April 03, 2023)
- Everett Herald Letters to the Editor: What dams provide is replaceable; salmon are not (March 30, 2023)
- Spokesman-Review: Washington expected to have a limited spring chinook season (March 27, 2023)