Wild Salmon & Steelhead News is published 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 prosperous communities.To get involved, please contact Carrie Herrman.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
1. RE: January 6 Events in Washington D.C.
2. Thank you for your generous year-end support in 2020!
3. Idaho Governor’s Salmon Recovery Working Group - An update
4. Honoring Water Protector & Spokane Tribal Member Deb Abrahamson
5. Salmon Scientists to Policymakers: "Survival of Snake River's endangered native fish requires lower river dam removal"
6. 'The Aerial Perspective: Lower Snake River' - a short film by EcoFlight
7. Thank you ‘Sawyer Paddles and Oars’ for your partnership and support!
1. RE: JANUARY 6 EVENTS IN WASHINGTON D.C.
The recent attack on our nation’s Capitol was appalling and heart-wrenching to watch – and then to consider and reflect upon in the days that have followed. It was a direct assault on our democracy and on the civility and fairness upon which our families and our communities depend. In a country as big and diverse as ours, disagreements and differences are inevitable. Our Constitution protects many forms of expression, including the right to peaceful protest and assembly. The violence inflicted on the People’s House – including upon police officers who were defending it – is unacceptable and alarming in the extreme.
The board and staff of the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition (SOS) support and stand with the members of the House of Representatives, their staff and others who came under attack on January 6th.
At SOS, our work is driven by a desire to recover healthy, abundant, self-sustaining populations of wild salmon and steelhead and the great many benefits they bring to tribal and non-tribal communities, to other fish and wildlife populations and to ecosystems. SOS’ success depends in part upon changing how we have done things in the past. And change, it turns out, is often difficult.
At SOS, we’re committed to protecting, restoring, and reconnecting the rivers and streams that critically endangered wild salmon and steelhead require for their survival and recovery. And we are committed to working with others – including those with whom we may disagree – to develop and deliver comprehensive and creative solutions that better meet our collective needs, invest in our communities, enhance opportunities, and address injustice and inequity. We know that these types of outcomes are less challenging, easier to achieve, and more durable when developed in and supported by a healthy and well-functioning democracy.
Thank you for your confidence in our work at Save Our wild Salmon – and for your commitment to supporting – and strengthening – our democracy and its principles and practices as we move forward together from here.
2. THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROUS YEAR-END SUPPORT IN 2020!
On behalf of Save Our wild Salmon’s board and staff, we want to thank all of you who were able to make a gift before year-end to help position us for the hard work ahead in 2021. Your support means a lot to us and makes a huge difference in our work. Thanks to a number of generous donors, we had a fundraising match challenge in November and December totaling $19,000. Thanks to many of you, we were more than able to meet this match. Your gifts were doubled, we raised over $38,000 by December 31st - and we’re able to carry the momentum we developed in 2020 into the new year.
Our successes rely upon your advocacy and your financial support. Thank you for all that you do for SOS, for wild salmon and steelhead and the healthy, connected, and resilient rivers and streams they depend upon.
We’re excited about the work ahead and what we can accomplish together in 2021!
3. IDAHO GOVERNOR'S SALMON RECOVERY WORKING GROUP - AN UPDATE
Last month, Idaho Gov. Brad Little's Salmon Recovery Workgroup published its final report, after 18 months of work and discussion. The report includes about two dozen policy recommendations and states clearly that Idahoans want abundant and harvestable populations of salmon and steelhead.
Members of the collaborative group that finalized the document acknowledge their policy prescriptions, while beneficial, are likely insufficient. The report emphasizes the urgent need for additional work to be undertaken at the regional level if salmon and steelhead protection and recovery efforts are to be successful.
"If we are to enjoy abundant, sustainable and well-distributed populations of salmon and steelhead, more conversations are necessary. More collaboration will be needed. More work must be done," reads the introduction to the 25-page report. "We encourage a renewed evaluation of these policies over time to ensure that the goals of the workgroups are being accomplished."
While the diverse group of stakeholders from across Idaho were unable to reach a consensus on the importance of lower Snake River dam removal, the report represents an important step forward for salmon recovery efforts in Idaho.
Joseph Oatman, deputy program manager and harvest manager for the Nez Perce Tribe's Department of Fisheries Resource Management, backed the plan but urged Little to avoid simple endorsement of efforts that have proven insufficient to lead to recovery. He noted that the tribe believes in restoring the lower Snake River by removing its four dams while at the same time making investments in communities that could be harmed by the action.
"It is one of a very few actions left to try that will provide major, positive improvement for these fish. Therefore, restoring the lower Snake River and 'making people whole' remains a focal point for the nation and region to address," he said.
Overall this report is a step in the right direction to save Columbia River Basin salmon. Governor Little’s Workgroup brought diverse voices together to recognize the primary importance of salmon and steelhead to tribes of the Columbia Basin and the need to make the state's river dependent industries, communities and economies whole.
Follow these links to press coverage:
Idaho Press: Salmon workgroup makes its final report (Jan 10)
96.5 Jack: How Idaho And Washington, Together, Can Save Our Salmon (Jan 7)
4. HONORING WATER PROTECTOR, SPOKANE TRIBAL MEMBER DEB ABRAHAMSON
Deb Abrahamson, a tireless advocate for water, rivers, salmon, Native rights, and her Tribe, passed away on New Year's Day, 2021. Deb was instrumental in bringing attention to the extensive uranium pollution caused by the Dawn Mining Corporation's Midnite Mine and uranium process facility on the Spokane Reservation. She formed the SHAWL Society -- an acronym for Sovereign, Health, Air, Water Land -- to organize Tribal members to fight shipments of uranium waste to Tribal lands and advocate for cleaning up the abandoned mine site. She was active in River Warriors, a group of Tribal members throughout the region reconnecting Tribes to their canoe culture and home waters. Along with her daughter Twa-le, Deb attended the 'Free the Snake' Flotillas, paddling with Nimiipuu and other Tribes in support of salmon and healthy rivers. She fought a long battle with cancer -- a disease she attributed to the radioactive exposure from the Midnite Mine on her homeland -- while continuing to advocate for all she believed in. She traveled to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline and to Washington, D.C. to fight for clean water and Tribal Rights, and continued to work on behalf of her Tribe. Deb, her family, and the Spokane Tribe are in our thoughts. To learn more about Deb go here.
5. SALMON SCIENTISTS TO POLICYMAKERS: "SURVIVAL OF SNAKE RIVER ENDANGERED NATIVE FISH REQUIRES DAM REMOVAL"
This month, ten highly regarded salmon scientists signed an open letter to the governors of Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Idaho calling on those states to remove the lower four dams on the Snake River, stating that "abundant, healthy and harvestable wild Snake River salmon and steelhead cannot be restored and sustained with the four lower Snake River dams in place."
The good news, according to the scientists, is that the Snake River basin "remains exceptional in its recovery potential" but the letter warns that fisheries managers find themselves at a pivotal moment. "[E]very Snake River salmon and steelhead population is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), with recent returns consistently below the threshold needed to avoid extinction." If the dams are not removed "the basin’s salmon and steelhead are highly likely to become extinct."
"It is our collective opinion, based on overwhelming scientific evidence, that restoration of a free-flowing lower Snake River is essential to recovering wild Pacific salmon and steelhead in the basin. We base our opinion on our deep expertise in the science of salmon and steelhead conservation including decades of collaborative research that has withstood rigorous scientific review. Continued hatchery reform, habitat restoration and other actions are needed, but dam breaching is the essential cornerstone of a comprehensive, effective recovery strategy," the letter states.
Defenders of the lower Snake River dams have recently cited 'poor ocean conditions' as the main problem facing Snake River salmon and steelhead - conveniently ignoring the well-documented and deadly effects of the federal dams and reservoirs in the Columbia Basin and extensive loss and degradation of high quality freshwater habitats. The scientists dismiss this flawed argument as "it ignores the tremendous body of scientific analysis that clearly demonstrates the importance of the freshwater phase of the salmon and steelhead life-cycle — from eggs in gravel, to migration to the ocean as smolts, and to migration from river entry to spawning grounds as adults." The letter acknowledges that "ocean conditions fluctuate. Recent conditions in the north Pacific have been tough on the fish. But a key to ensuring that salmon and steelhead can persist through poor ocean cycles and thrive during good ocean cycles is access to high quality freshwater habitat that produces abundant, healthy, diverse salmon and steelhead."
In their letter, the scientists also "recognize that removal of the lower four Snake River dams will involve major change in the region, necessitating investment in industries and local communities to adapt to a free-flowing lower Snake River. We believe that there are affordable, cost-effective alternatives that can provide the economic benefits currently provided by the dams. We strongly support taking such measures. The weight of scientific evidence demonstrates there is no chance of restoring abundant, healthy and harvestable Snake River salmon and steelhead with the lower Snake River dams in place."
You can read the scientists' full letter here.
And follow this press link for additional information:
6. 'THE AERIAL PERSPECTIVE: LOWER SNAKE RIVER' - A SHORT FILM BY ECOFLIGHT
An EcoFlight film - “The Aerial Perspective: Lower Snake River” - directed by Michael CB Stevens, features retired salmon biologist Steve Pettit and lots of aerial footage. The five-minute film describes the historically low population levels of salmon and steelhead in the Snake River watershed and how restoring the river is essential for bringing these endangered fish populations back to abundance. The four dams on the lower Snake River include the Lower Granite, Little Goose, Lower Monumental, and Ice Harbor. The dams and their reservoirs harm salmon by slowing the flow of water, which results in warmer water temperatures, increased predation, and longer migration times.
In the film, Steve Pettit, retired Idaho Fish and Game fish passage specialist, explains that restoring the lower Snake River is our best and last chance to save Snake River salmon and steelhead from extinction. Restoring the lower Snake River requires the removal of the earthen portions of the dams while leaving the concrete structures intact. This will allow the river to return to its free-flowing state, recover lost habitat, improve aquatic conditions, and significantly increase survival for Snake River salmon and steelhead.
In order to restore the lower Snake River, SOS and its supporters and partners today are talking and working with elected officials, tribal communities, and affected stakeholders in an effort to develop a comprehensive approach that will (1) bring salmon, steelhead, and orca populations back to abundance, (2) uphold our nation’s responsibilities to Native American tribes (3) maintain our region’s legacy of affordable clean energy and (4) invest in our region's fishing and farming communities.
Save Our wild Salmon would like to give a huge shout-out to our friends at Sawyer Paddles and Oars who have partnered with us in recent years to support our work to protect and restore Pacific Northwest’s wild salmon and steelhead - and the rivers and streams that they depend upon. In the last several years, Sawyer has featured a series of handcrafted “conservation oars” designed with beautiful artists’ renditions of salmon and steelhead. Sawyer’s partnership with SOS has helped raise our profile with boaters and anglers and raise funds to support our program work - for which we are very grateful.
Sawyer has been producing high-quality, performance-driven paddles and oars in Oregon’s Rogue River Valley for over 50 years. Save Our wild Salmon is extremely grateful for Sawyer’s partnership and support and we encourage you to support this conservation leader by purchasing their gear on their website or in any of their outdoor retail partners across the country. Thank you, Team Sawyer!