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 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 Martha Campos.
1. Happy New Year – and thank you for the amazing year-end support!
2. 2023 Washington State Legislative Session is off to fast and furious start!
3. American Fisheries Society 2023 statement re: Snake River salmon and dams
4. The Biden Administration hosts Tribal Nations Summit
5. Transition: a fond farewell and thank you, Doug Howell, organizer extraordinaire
6. 'Artists Against Extinction' essay: ‘On Freeing the Snake River of Four Dams’ by Claire Waichler
7. Thank you Flying Fish Co.!
8. Snake River and salmon media roundup
Happy New Year! We want to start off this issue with a very big 'THANK YOU' for the generosity of all of you who were able to make a year-end gift to support our work as we head into 2023. With the amazing advocacy of so many supporters and allies, we made truly historic progress last year on behalf of salmon and orcas and their Pacific Northwest lands and waters. Working with you, our sustained support and pressure have been critical to engage the leadership of important state and federal officials in the Northwest and in Washington D.C.
We could not have accomplished all we did without you – and, of course, we still have a lot of hard work ahead to support these emerging leaders, defend recent accomplishments, and continue to make urgently-needed progress for salmon and for communities. As we head into the new year, there is still great urgency for action - as well as great opportunity to realize it.
Thanks to many of you, our year-end fundraising campaign was a big success – and helps put SOS in a strong position to leverage and expand the momentum and progress we achieved last year.
We also need to give a special shout-out to Lyf Gildersleeve, owner of Flying Fish Company - a retail fish market, meat market, oyster bar and eatery in Portland, Oregon – for Flying Fish’s $5,000 match challenge (which - thanks to many of you - we met in full!) during the month of December. We are very grateful for leaders like Lyf who support their communities and place sustainability at the center of their business model.
Finally, we are excited to announce the six winners of the six books we featured as donor gifts. Below are the book titles and randomly-selected recipients. Our team at SOS thinks highly of these books – reflecting on the natural history, human history, and contemporary culture of the Pacific Northwest. Visit this page to learn more about them.
I. Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War (2017). By Daniel Sharfstein. (Winner: Tracey T., Hood River, OR)
II. ORCA: Shared Waters, Shared Home (2021). By Lynda Mapes. (Winner: Stan K., Richland)
III. Message from Franks Landing: A story of salmon, treaties, and the Indian way (2006). By Charles Wilkinson. (Winner: Carl K., Olympia, WA)
IV. Healing the Big River: Salmon Dreams and the Columbia River Treaty (2019). Signed by the author, Peter Marbach. (Winner: Steve F., Couer d’Alene, ID)
V. Dancing on the Rim of the World: An Anthology of Contemporary Northwest Native American Writing (1990). Edited by Andrea Werner. (Winner: Lindsey Z., Lonetree, CO)
VI. The Salmon Way: An Alaska State of Mind (2019). Signed by the author, Amy Gulick. (Winner: Jan C., Juneau, AK)
The 2023 Washington State Legislative session is off to a fast and furious start - and salmon protection and restoration is a high priority for Gov. Jay Inslee, many of the state's Native American Tribes, SOS and its partner organizations, and countless Washingtonians.
In December, Gov. Inslee announced his legislative priorities and proposed 2023–25 budget that would provide, among other priorities, important new actions and investments to protect and recover the state’s iconic and irreplaceable salmon populations. In his budget, the governor “proposed the strongest suite of budget and policy initiatives in Washington’s history to help protect and restore vital salmon,” including two significant budget requests to advance an urgently-needed comprehensive solution to protect and recover imperiled salmon populations and invest in our communities that includes restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River.
Conservation and fishing advocates appreciate Gov. Inslee's budget requests as they represent important follow-through on the historic commitments he made with Senator Patty Murray last summer when they released their final Lower Snake River: Benefits Replacement Report and associated Recommendations to secure critical salmon recovery investments and lower Snake River transition planning beginning in 2023.
SOS supporters in Washington State should keep an eye out for SOS action alerts next week - offering an important opportunity to show support for salmon and orca and healthy habitats to your state legislators during the Legislative session and support Governor Inslee’s 2023 budget requests to secure critical community investments needed to replace the services of the lower Snake River dams on a timeline that will work for endangered salmon and steelhead.
This month, the American Fisheries Society (AFS), the highly respected professional organization representing more than 7,500 fisheries scientists and resource managers from around the world, released a new statement highlighting the need for lower Snake River dam removal in order to protect imperiled wild salmon and steelhead populations from extinction.
The key findings are as follows:
“When the body of scientific evidence is considered [...], it is clear that breaching the four lower Snake River dams is necessary to (1) substantially improve the probability of recovering these cultural and ecological keystone species to healthy and harvestable populations and (2) safeguard those fishes from extinction.”
The growing pile of scientific studies consistently underscores the importance - and necessity - of removing the four lower Snake River dams as the best and likely only option for recovering for endangered anadromous fish species in the Snake River Basin. In addition to the many studies, rivers like the Elwha, Kennebec and Penobscot, provide inspiring and irrefutable real-world evidence to the power of restoring healthy, resilient, freely-flowing rivers in order to protect native fish populations from extinction and to restore them to abundance!
In a significant and related development last fall, the Biden Administration's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its groundbreaking assessment based on an exhaustive review of the best available science, on what's required to protect/recover Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead populations. The NOAA report offered a comprehensive suite of actions paramount for rebuilding imperiled fish populations. It identified restoring the lower Snake River through dam removal as one of three 'centerpiece actions' that 'will provide the greatest potential to make progress towards healthy and harvestable abundances.'
The science today is clear and unequivocal: restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River is a cornerstone of any scientifically-credible salmon recovery strategy for the Pacific Northwest.
The AFS report states, “If Snake River basin salmon and steelhead are to be saved, then policymakers and stakeholders at all levels will need to implement appropriate processes and funding provisions to breach the four dams on the lower Snake River, as well as implement all necessary habitat rehabilitation.”
President Biden, Vice President Harris, Secretary Haaland, and members of the cabinet announced new commitments to “prioritize and respect nation-to-nation relationships” and support Tribal communities at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit on November 30, 2022. President Biden re-launched the White House Tribal Nations Summit to establish a “new era of advancing a way for the federal government to work with Tribal Nations.”
“Today, I’m announcing even more critical actions that are the result of a meaningful and deliberate consultation process with [Tribes]. Today, I signed a new presidential memorandum that improves consultation between the federal government and Tribal Nations based on key principles. Consultation has to be a two-way, nation-to-nation exchange of information,” stated President Biden.
The memorandum on uniform standards requires all federal agencies on how Tribal consultations are conducted. “These standards respond to input received from Tribal Nations regarding Tribal consultation and ensure more consistency in how agencies initiate, provide notice for, conduct, record, and report on Tribal consultations. The memorandum will require annual training regarding Tribal consultation for federal employees who work with Tribal Nations or on policies with Tribal implications.”
Other new actions included, “new best-practices report to integrate Tribal Treaty and Reserved Rights into agency decision-making process; implementing Tribal co-management and co-stewardship of Federal Lands and Waters with federal agencies;” and “ a new Indigenous Knowledge guidance for federal agencies to recognize and include Indigenous Knowledge in federal research, policy, and decision-making.”
President Biden also announced plans that will confront and adapt to the climate crisis in Native communities. Last summer, President Biden signed a law that would invest $700 million exclusively for Tribal Nations and to ensure these investments reach Native lands, the Biden administration established the Tribal Clean Energy Transition Initiative and Electric Vehicle Initiative to help Tribes “ transition to clean energy development and quickly.” This also includes the “federal government, as the largest single energy consumer in the world, [to buy] more carbon-free electricity from Tribal energy producers.” The new Electric Vehicle Initiative for Tribal Nations will “ensure that our nationwide electric vehicle network includes Native communities.”
For more information about Biden Administration’s new commitments, view the ‘Factsheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces New Actions to Support Indian Country and Native Communities Ahead of the Administration’s Second Tribal Nations Summit.’
On the agenda: the plight of endangered Northwest salmon: More than 300 Tribal leaders and representatives attended the Tribal Nations Summit and welcomed President Biden’s new commitments, including Northwest Tribal leaders: Gary Aitken Jr., vice-chairman of the Kootenai Tribal Council; Jarred-Michael Erickson, chairman of the Colville Business Council; Leonard Forsman, chairman of the Suquamish Tribal Council; Samuel Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe; and Jeremy Takala, a councilman for the Yakama Nation.
According to the Spokesman-Review, Councilman Jeremy Takala called Biden’s announcements “very promising,” and said meaningful involvement for tribes is especially important for salmon recovery efforts and the development of energy projects, and hopefully will help avoid a repeat of the federal hydropower projects in the Columbia Basin that largely excluded the Yakama Nation and other Tribes.
Nez Perce Chairman Samuel Penney had a brief face-to-face meeting with Biden and told the president his Tribe needs the administration’s help to preserve their ability to fish in their “usual and accustomed places,” guaranteed in the 1855 Treaty of Walla Walla. “My main message was that Pacific Northwest salmon is at the point of extinction. We don’t have time to do more and more studies. We need action now. So we’re hoping that the administration will hold true to that and make sure that those treaty-reserved resources are protected, for not only today but for future generations,” stated Chairman Samuel Penney.
Chairman Samuel Penney also hopes the Biden administration’s legislative agenda, including a bipartisan infrastructure law, could help to invest in new infrastructure and replace the lower Snake dams and their services and transition the lower Snake River dam services as soon as possible.
President Biden ended the Tribal Nation Summit with a promise to uphold “respect for Indigenous knowledge and Tribal consultations as a key part of the federal agency decision-making, respect means we’ll defend Tribal sovereignty and self-government and self-determination", and promised to make official presidential visits to Native communities, saying, “I will do so in the enduring spirit of our nation-to-nation relationship, the spirit of friendship, stewardship, and respect.”
We want to wish Doug Howell - SOS' grassroots organizing coordinator during 2022 - a fond farewell - and our deep gratitude for a job well done. Doug's year-long contract with SOS concluded in December and he now jumping into his next adventure. Over the past 12 months, Doug was all over the Northwest - providing strategic advice, educating and inspiring his colleagues and SOS allies and supporters alike, creating new alliances and friendships. Doug worked closely with countless coalition partners and campaign allies to plan and execute rallies, marches, banner displays, presentations, coordinated action alerts, and much, much more. Doug is the very definition of indefatigable optimism. He has endless energy, a wonderful sense of curiosity, a great warmth, and a deep commitment to the people and salmon and lands and waters of the Pacific Northwest.
Throughout his time at SOS, Doug was critical in the grassroots team - planning and executing multiple sign-on letters and coordinated action alerts that delivered many tens of thousands of messages into the in-boxes of targeted state and federal elected officials.
If you’ve had the privilege of meeting and/or working with Doug, you know his energy is contagious. He will be sorely missed. It has been an honor to work with Doug and we hope that our paths will continue to cross on the campaign in 2023.
Thank you so very much Doug for sharing your many talents with us. Good luck and see you soon! - the SOS team
To start the new year with a moving reflection and call-to-action on saving wild salmon, we are excited to share ‘On Freeing the Snake River of Four Dams’ essay by Claire (Cal) Waichler, a Northwest Artists Against Extinction collaborating artist. Claire speaks about her work and why the removal of lower Snake River dams is critical to salmon recovery, in the following essay:
The Columbia River Basin was once the most astounding salmon and steelhead watershed in the world. Before the 1840s, this river ran silver with 16 million spawning fish every year. Now, just 400,000 wild fish find their way home in the entire basin - that’s most of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, as well as parts of Montana, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and British Columbia.
Treaties that guarantee a healthy and harvestable salmon population to the Columbia River tribes go back to 1855, when lands were ceded to non-native hands. Our promises to retain tribal members rights to fish at “all usual and accustomed fishing places…in common with citizens” have been shattered. Instead of fish, we are all left wondering how we got to this dying river replete with dams, development, and ESA listings. So much is broken here. We are experiencing the extinction of the most iconic and important animal in the Pacific Northwest.
This is the story that salmon tell me, a lifelong resident of the Columbia River Basin, also a white settler, also a commercial salmon fisherwoman, and a lover of these lands, rivers, and people. I am awed by salmon. In high icy creeks that feed the Methow River, I’ve found spawned-out salmon rotting into the riverbanks. From the decks of fishing boats in Alaska, I’ve watched momentous runs from sustainably managed populations fill boats and bears and seals and eagles. Those salmon runs I’ve worked to catch in Alaska could have been Columbia River salmon runs, if we hadn’t dammed this stunning watershed to endangerment. A frenzy of dams built in the 1940s and 50s to provide electricity enabled the development of the Columbia.
For decades, fish have faced long stretches of stagnant reservoirs, increased exposure to predators, toxic pollution and heat exhaustion. Following the instinct to return home, these fish have time after time rammed their sea-silvered noses into concrete barriers, some of which have no constructed fish passage. Turbines have cut these fish off from returning to their headwaters. They are stopped before they can nourish a web of 130 species.
The extinction of salmon is a central plight in the Pacific Northwest. We have alternatives.
The four dams on the Snake River tributary of the Columbia are under review for removal this year (although the fight to take them out is 40 years old). These impoundments (Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite) stand in the way of the best remaining wild salmon habitat in the Columbia basin. Looking just a couple of years into the warm and murky future, these dams stand in the way of salmon survival.
Studies and plans are underway. We can engineer solutions for power production, grain transportation and irrigation that will replace the services of the four Snake River Dams. We can fund these energy and infrastructure alternatives. But salmon cannot wait another decade. This must happen now.
As residents of the Columbia River, it is our duty to read the reports, comment, and share the facts that this dam removal is both urgent and feasible. As Columbia River residents and communities, we should all build pressure to enact dam removal as part of stewarding our special corners of this watershed.
We cannot accept the extinction of wild salmon
We cannot take our eyes off the river
Remember what used to be here
Remember what was promised
And enact what is still possible.
Do you love Claire Waichler’s "Free The Snake" artwork? Check our NWAAE’s online storefront to buy your favorite “Free The Snake” items!
We would love to see photos of you sporting your new NWAAE merchandise! Tag us on Instagram: @nwartistsagainstextinction, or email Abby Dalke at firstname.lastname@example.org with your photos for a chance to be featured on our social media and newsletter!
SOS is very grateful for the end-of-year fundraising match opportunity this past December - thanks to Flying Fish Company! Flying Fish Co. is a fish market and restaurant in Portland, Oregon dedicated to promoting a fresh, sustainable catch and supporting local communities and the healthy waters and lands that sustain us all. Thanks to a $5,000 pledge from Lyf Gildersleeve and Flying Fish Co., many SOS supporters were able to double their year-end gift to to support our work at SOS.
SOS looks forward to continuing our partnership with Flying Fish Co. - and work together to restore salmon abundance in our rivers and salmon 'delicious-ness' on our plates. For our friends and supporters in the Portland area, you really need to make a visit to Flying Fish Co.’s market and restaurant!
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Northwest salmon recovery:
- Crosscut: How one Yakama Nation fisherman inherited the fight for salmon (Jan. 5, 2023)
- Public News Service: New Columbia River Protections Under EPA Permits (Jan. 5, 2023)
- High Country News: Can dam removal save the Snake River? (Jan. 1, 2023)
- OPB: Salmon People: A tribal fishing family’s fight to preserve a way of life (Dec. 21, 2022)