WWSSNild 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 salmon depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and fishable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Carrie Herrman.

1. Update: Sen. Murray / Gov. Inslee’s Snake River Salmon Initiative
2. NOAA-Fisheries: Southern Resident orcas remain at "high risk of extinction"
3. Take Action! #StopSalmonExtinction upcoming events!
4. A new creative collaboration: Northwest Artists Against Extinction
5. NW Energy Coalition releases new White Paper on replacing Snake River dams' power
6. And this just in from Indian Country… “Humble suckers” by Brian Oaster
7. Recreational anglers mobilize to stop salmon extinction – free the Snake River!

1. Update: Sen. Murray / Gov. Inslee’s Snake River Salmon Initiative

2022.M.I.website.imageNote: On March 1, just 145 days remain before July 31st - the deadline for the Murray/Inslee initiative and Columbia-Snake settlement talks with the Biden Administration.

Last year, Senator Murray and Governor Inslee explicitly acknowledged the extinction crisis facing Snake River salmon and steelhead and committed themselves to develop, by 7/31/2022, a long-term plan to protect and restore these imperiled populations. As a key step in the process to develop a comprehensive solution for Snake River salmon and Northwest communities, they are working closely with the region’s tribes and stakeholders and other experts to produce a report this spring that identifies how to replace the energy, irrigation and transportation services currently provided by the dams.

While Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee have not (yet!) committed to a plan that includes dam removal, they have put this option at the center of discussions today. Their report will be a crucial resource for understanding our options for replacing the dams' services and developing a plan that truly protects salmon from extinction, helps feed hungry orcas, and upholds our nation’s promises to our region's tribes in a manner that moves everyone forward together.

Earlier this month, Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee announced a new website - www.LSRDoptions.org - and shared some details about their process and key milestones and timelines, including:

  • Report identifying how to replace the dams' services – early May.
  • Public comment period – mid-May to mid-June.
  • Final report and an action plan – by or before July 31.

Visit the website to learn more.

While far less visible, confidential settlement talks are also under way on a similar timeline. With the approval of the court, the decades-long litigation has been temporarily paused to allow the parties – Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon, conservation/fishing plaintiffs and the Biden Administration to collaborate/negotiate to develop a long-term solution to resolve the lawsuit and protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead from the risk of extinction caused by the system of federal dams and reservoirs on the Snake and Columbia rivers. take action copyWe need your help while these two processes move forward! It is crucial that Northwest public officials and Biden Administration leaders hear strong support for an action plan that restores the lower Snake River as quickly as possible. At SOS, we’re working every day to help people understand the urgency and the opportunity in 2022! Please reach out to your networks, help raise public awareness and encourage your friends and family to write and call their elected officials - Northwest governors and Members of Congress and the Biden Administration!

2. NOAA-Fisheries: Southern Resident orcas remain at "high risk of extinction"

orca.aerialIn January of this year, NOAA released a five-year Review of the status of endangered Southern Resident orcas, as required by the ESA. Their conclusion: these whales continue to face a high risk of extinction and should remain listed as endangered... The completed 5-year review did not offer positive news about the SRKW population, which now totals 73 individuals. The Southern Residents have roamed the coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest for hundreds of thousands of years. They have been revered by tribal people since time immemorial and are beloved today by many non-tribal communities as well. These orcas also have an ancient relationship with chinook salmon – their primary prey. So it should not surprise anyone that the steep decline in the numbers of chinook salmon in recent decades has also taken a heartbreaking toll on this special population of whales. The Southern Residents were first listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2005. NOAA-Fisheries produced a recovery plan for the whales in 2008, and every five years, it is required to publish a ‘Status Review’ – to assess the health of the ESA-listed population. The latest ‘Status Review’ was published in January. It found that, with just 73 individual whales remaining today, the population is at high risk of extinction and its “endangered” status is still warranted. Back in 2015, NOAA-Fisheries issued its “Species in the Spotlight” series. At that time, the Southern Resident orcas were among the eight species highlighted by the agency as “most likely to go extinct” without immediate and meaningful conservation action. Lack of sufficient food – chinook salmon – is the primary cause of decline for these whales. Rebuilding significant populations of chinook salmon that can be available on a year-round basis for the whales must be an urgent priority. And restoring the lower Snake River and its chinook populations is widely recognized as the essential cornerstone of any effective orca recovery strategy. The Snake and Columbia rivers were historically the home of the greatest spring chinook populations anywhere on the West Coast. Not so long ago, millions of these fish would concentrate at the mouth of the Columbia River in the winter months when few other fish were available for orcas to eat. To this day, the orcas still gather there in winter and early spring in hopes of eating these large, fat-rich fish before they migrate upriver to their spawning grounds. Thanks largely to the system of federal dams and reservoirs of the lower Snake and Columbia rivers, spring chinook now return to the Columbia Basin in the "thousands" rather than "millions". Orca scientists are clear: restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River is essential to the survival of these orcas, as it would produce many hundreds of thousands of spring chinook annually in Northwest coastal waters – and rebuild an urgently needed food source for these hungry whales. Two critical processes underway today - the Murray-Inslee Initiative and the confidential litigation settlement talks (see story above) – hold the greatest hope for restoring the lower Snake River, its endangered fish populations – and the many benefits they bring to our region – including its hungry orcas. The two separate processes share a common deadline: July 31st, 2022. Please contact your federal public officials today and make sure that you speak up on behalf of Snake River salmon and Southern Resident orcas. "Stop salmon - and orca - extinction – Free the Snake River!"

Read NOAA’s new ‘Status Review' for the Southern Resident orcas.

3. Take Action! #StopSalmonExtinction upcoming events!

HOM CollageFor those of you who are able to get more involved and take advantage of this current moment of urgency and opportunity in 2022, we are working with partners and allies on a series of events and actions across the region in the weeks and months ahead! Below you will find some events coming up quickly in March. There's more in the works - we'll keep you posted! March 3, Seattle: Join our partners in Seattle in their efforts to create a human orca mural for World Wildlife Day. Go here for more details and to sign up! Amy Gulick InstagramMarch 10, Spokane: Join us for a book signing and presentation by acclaimed nature photographer and writer, Amy Gulick. In her award-winning book, The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind, Amy blends adventure, science, and heartfelt storytelling to illustrate how integral salmon are to the lives of people and the risk our salmon face if we don't ACT NOW to protect this iconic species. Register here or go to our Facebook Page for more details! March 14, across the PNW: Join our campaign’s effort to organize creative action squads all over the region to host dynamic visual displays for World Rivers Day. For more information and to join an action squad go here! March 26, Tacoma: Join SOS and our partners in Tacoma for a rally featuring local leaders and a visit to the offices of Representative Derek Kilmer and Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Register here or go to our Facebook Page for details! March 31, Spokane: Join us as part of our #StopSalmonExtinction film series for a partial showing of DamNation and a lively presentation and discussion with Rocky Barker. Rocky is the author of four books about fish, wildlife, and public lands and a retired environmental reporter that has dedicated much of his groundbreaking research and journalism calling for restoring the Lower Snake River and saving salmon. Details coming soon on SOS FB page.

April 2, Olympia: Save the date for our Olympia rally featuring local leaders and a march. More details to come, please reach out to doug@wildsalmon.org if you want to get involved!

Questions about any of the other events listed above? Reach out to carrie@wildsalmon.org

4. A new creative collaboration: 'Northwest Artists Against Extinction'

mtn.worshippers.arreguinSave Our wild Salmon is excited to announce a new project – Northwest Artists Against Extinction. This is a creative collaboration between artists and advocates based in the Pacific Northwest. The project is being spearheaded for SOS by Britt Freda – an accomplished painter, educator and activist. NWAAE is still in its infancy. You can visit our website - http://www.nwaae.org - to better understand this project, its goals and some of the participating artists to date. This project will continue to evolve in the coming weeks and months – with new artists, events, public displays of art, and youth art activities that combine education, artwork and advocacy. The Pacific Northwest is home to amazing artists – many of whom are inspired by our region’s rich lands and waters and fish and wildlife. We are excited to partner with them - and highlight their artwork - to reach new people and connect our policymakers in creative and compelling ways. Art, like salmon and orcas, is an essential part of the fabric and identity of the Pacific Northwest. So it makes sense that artists would team up with advocates and reach out to others to speak up on behalf of these species and communities that are struggling today to survive. Keep an eye on the website for the addition of new artists and new developments.

5. NW Energy Coalition releases new White Paper on replacing Snake River dams' power
By Chris Connolly, Communications & Events Coordinator with the NW Energy Coalition

2020.solar.saves.salmonThe Murray-Inslee Initiative to develop an action plan to protect and restore salmon in the PNW is well underway. As part of that process, they are analyzing the energy services of the lower Snake River dams. This month, the NW Energy Coalition released a new White Paper addressing the replacement of energy services from the lower Snake River dams. The paper examines the power system planning that utilities do regularly - and applies that process to the discussion of lower Snake River dams power replacement. Utilities are an integral part of the Pacific Northwest power system. They are almost always in planning mode: preparing for certain generating resources going offline on the one hand, and exploring and replacing them with new, clean and affordable resources. Furthermore, the Northwest has an abundance of proposed clean energy projects waiting to be built and connected. The paper finds that with effective, timely planning, as utilities routinely do, the Federal Columbia River Power System can continue to serve the Northwest with affordable, emissions-free energy without the four lower Snake River dams. In the event that Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee announce a regional plan this summer that includes the removal of the lower Snake River dams, the region can move ahead quickly to develop a clean resource plan with a mix of renewable resources, energy efficiency, and storage to replace the power and services of these dams while maintaining flexibility and affordability. A new, clean resource mix will better meet the needs of individual utilities and the people of the region. The full white paper, as well as a one-pager, can be found here.

6. And this just in from Indian Country… “Humble suckers” by Brian Oaster

7129321887 4f1b6c54b6 cThis year we’re in our monthly newsletter we're highlighting articles and links to help elevate the voices and perspectives of Native American leaders and communities. This month, we've included an article by Brian Oaster, published recently in the High Country News.

Humble suckers: Pacific lamprey have survived 5 mass extinctions but are now under threat

Pacific Lamprey, living in the Columbia-Snake River Basin across the West Coast, were once the most abundant species in the river. Returns numbered in the millions. They are ancient animals that have survived five mass extinctions! However, “dams, habitat degradation, extirpation and other colonial factors” have severely reduced lamprey numbers in recent decades.

“This might be their extinction. Our impact is more than 400 million years of impact combined. It’s a wake-up call for us.” stated Ralph Lampman, a lamprey research biologist at Yakama Fisheries.

Tribes have long been leaders working to protect and restore healthy Pacific Lamprey populations. Conservation efforts include “artificial propagation, habitat restoration and translocation” (trucking lamprey past dams and releasing them on tribal lands). Tribes have also spent years petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service to list Pacific Lamprey as endangered but these efforts to date have been unsuccessful. However, the Pacific Lamprey are under federal protection as a “tribal trust species.”

Pacific Lamprey has “ecological, ceremonial, mythological, culinary and medicinal importance” to Tribes and by removing the four lower Snake River, we can help stop Pacific Lamprey extinction in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and honor the commitments promised to Northwest Tribes.

You can read the full story about tribal-led efforts to restore Pacific Lamprey written by Brian Oaster (they/them). Brian Oaster is a staff writer at High Country News and a member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and an award-winning investigative journalist living in the Pacific Northwest.

Find out more about the Tribal Pacific lamprey Restoration Plan developed by the Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce Tribes and their collective body the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

7. Recreational anglers mobilize to stop salmon extinction – free the Snake River!

22 pss showguide nsia v4 1Save Our wild Salmon has been working closely with its partners in the recreational fishing community to raise awareness around the urgency facing the Snake River and its imperiled fish – and the emerging political leadership in the Northwest states to finally address. Northwest people – including of course recreational anglers and the businesses they support – have an essential role to play educating friends and families and encouraging them to contact their public officials in support of lower Snake River dam removal. Restoring the lower Snake River is one of our nation’s greatest salmon and steelhead recovery opportunity on the table today. Dam removal will reconnect struggling salmon and steelhead populations to more than 5,000 miles of pristine, protected and historically highly-productive rivers and streams in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. Scientists predict that it will generate annual returns of spring/summer chinook (just one of the imperiled populations in the Snake River Basin) between 250,000 and 1,000,000 fish annually, depending on other environmental factors like ocean conditions, snowpack, etc. A restored river will deliver a huge boost to wild and hatchery stocks and help support longer, more robust fishing seasons. Click on the photo above to view the full-page ad we helped publish in the anglers’ guide for this month’s Northwest Sportman’s Show in Portland. Held annually, this is one of the largest recreational fishing and hunting shows in the country.

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