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. U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee commit to address Snake River salmon crisis by July 2022
2. The Biden Administration hits "pause", chooses settlement talks rather than defending the 2020 Trump Salmon Plan
3. Senator Cantwell secures big dollars in the bi-partisan infrastructure bill - an important down-payment on Northwest salmon recovery.
4. Snake River salmon vigils are held around the region on 11/20 to highlight 30 years of 'endangered' salmon and steelhead
5. Salmon Mean Business! A big year-end  'Thank You' to ORVIS!

1. U.S. Senator Patty Murray and Washington State Governor Jay Inslee commit to address Snake River salmon crisis by July 2022

murray.insleeIn October, Sen. Patty Murray and Gov. Jay Inslee announced the next step in the federal-state process they initiated last May: “to determine whether there are reasonable means for replacing the benefits provided by the Lower Snake River Dams.”

This is a significant step forward and we applaud this important leadership. This is the first time senior elected officials in Washington State have so clearly acknowledged the extreme harm to salmon caused by the four lower Snake River dams and their reservoirs – and the need to urgently address it. Restoring this historic river and protecting its endangered fish from extinction will require committed, creative leadership. The senator and governor, of course, cannot solve this alone. We’ll need others in and out of Washington State as well (see article below), but we welcome their engagement; it's an essential ingredient.

We stand at a crossroads today. Snake River salmon and steelhead are running out of time. The people of the Northwest and nation must act decisively in 2022 – or we risk losing Snake River salmon and steelhead forever. These fish – and the irreplaceable benefits they deliver to so many tribes, to non-tribal communities, and to other fish and wildlife and ecosystems – are struggling for survival today.

In 2022, our leaders in the Northwest and in D.C. must develop and deliver a comprehensive solution for salmon and people that removes the four lower Snake River dams and makes important and necessary investments in communities and infrastructure. As advocates, allies, and citizens, our top priority in the coming months is clear: to support and expand this emerging leadership by our elected officials – and to hold them accountable to their promises and commitments. Because, in the words of Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee, “[s]aving our salmon is absolutely essential to Washington state’s economy and cultural heritage—it is an urgent undertaking that we are fully committed to.”

Are you a Washington State resident?
Send a note of "thanks!" to Senator Murray and Gov. Inslee today!

Here are two links to press and to the joint statement from Sen. Murray and Gov. Inslee:

Spokesman-Review: ‘With open minds,’ Murray, Inslee detail process to consider breaching Snake River dams (Oct. 22, 2021)

Joint Statement from Senator Murray and Governor Inslee on Establishing a Joint Federal-State Process on Snake River Salmon Recovery

2. The Biden Administration hits "pause", chooses settlement talks rather than defending the 2020 Trump Salmon Plan

DOI.logoAlso in October - and also significant - the Biden Administration decided to join with the Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon, and conservation/fishing plaintiffs led by Earthjustice to temporarily pause 20+ years of litigation over salmon and dams in the Columbia Basin. Rather than defend an inadequate and almost certainly illegal plan finalized in 2020 by the previous administration, the Biden Administration is now participating in settlement discussions in an effort to develop a lawful, science-based, long-term plan that will protect imperiled salmon and steelhead populations in the Snake and Columbia rivers. The deadline set by the parties and overseen by the U.S. District Court for the completion of these confidential talks is similar to that of the Murray/Inslee process (see story above): July 2022.

The plaintiffs hailed the agreement: “This pause in our decades-running litigation offers the federal government, states, Tribes, and conservation advocates an opportunity to come together and finally find common ground and enact a comprehensive solution to restore salmon,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the lead plaintiff in the long-running court case.

For the Biden Administration, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland also praised the agreement, saying, “Today’s filing represents an important opportunity…to identify creative solutions that improve conditions for salmon for years to come. While it is important to balance the region’s economy and power generation, it is also time to improve conditions for Tribes that have relied on these important species since time immemorial.”

As part of this agreement, an operating plan for the Snake and Columbia river/dams/reservoirs for 2022 was also jointly developed by the litigants. The one-year plan represents a compromise to allow the parties to focus on crafting a lawful, long-term strategy for Columbia Basin salmon. With increased levels of spill as its centerpiece, the 2022 operations plan will deliver more help for endangered fish as they migrate through the reservoirs and past the dams than in previous years, but its considerably less than what the plaintiffs (Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon and conservation/fishing groups) had asked the court for in their request for injunctive relief back in July. Important to note as well: this interim plan for 2022 falls far short of what the fish actually need to survive and recover. While the settlement talks are confidential, we are certain that the removal of the lower Snake River dams will be among the main topics of discussion.

Here are several press links to further information:

Seattle Times: Lawsuit over dams on hold as Gov. Inslee, Sen. Murray pursue breaching assessment on Lower Snake River (Oct. 22, 2021) Murray, Cantwell Joint Statement: Biden Administration Announcement of an Interim Agreement and Request for Stay of Litigation in Columbia River Basin Case (Oct. 22, 2021)

Press Release: Nez Perce Tribe Joins Stay of Litigation with State of Oregon, Conservation Groups and United States to Discuss Comprehensive Litigation Solutions (Oct. 22, 2021)

Press Release: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Steps to Improve Conditions for Salmon in the Columbia Basin (Oct. 22, 2021)

3. Senator Cantwell secures big dollars in the bi-partisan infrastructure bill - an important down-payment on Northwest salmon recovery

Maria CantwellEarlier this year, Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) quietly led efforts to secure historic levels of funding in the bi-partisan infrastructure bill signed recently by President Biden. These funds will support Pacific Northwest salmon recovery by, for example, removing culverts, restoring habitat, and much more. The senator’s successful efforts represent a major step forward for protecting, restoring, and reconnecting the resilience that Northwest salmon (and the orcas that rely upon them) need. It also reflects strong public support for ensuring healthy salmon runs for current and future generations.

SOS is grateful for the senator's efforts to secure these funds. They will help address a multi-billion dollar project backlog and advance important recovery priorities in the months and years ahead. We'll also need Senator Cantwell's committed leadership working urgently with others in the region to develop the comprehensive plan we need in 2022 to protect Snake River fish from extinction.

Here are some of the specific investments for salmon recovery that were included in the bi-partisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). :

  • National culvert removal, Replacement, and Restoration Grant Program: $1 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation to create a new program aimed to remove, replace or restore culverts, which will enable the recovery of salmon passage and habitats.
  • Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund: $172 million for NOAA’s Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, a grants program that provides funding to States and Tribes to protect, conserve, and restore West Coast salmon.
  • Fish Passage Barrier Removal Grants: $400 million for the creation of a new community-based restoration program focused on removing fish passage barriers.
  • EPA Estuary Programs:
    • $89 million for the Puget Sound Geographic Program.
    • $79 million for the Columbia River Basin Geographic Program.
  • NOAA Habitat Restoration Programs: Funds will be used to enable communities, Tribes, and states to respond and adapt to climate change impacts.
    • $491 million for Habitat Restoration and Community Resilience Grants
    • $492 million for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund Grants.

The important developments reflected in these first three newsletter articles – (i) emerging political champions regionally and in Washington D.C., and (ii) the availability of significant funds for salmon recovery – are the critical ingredients we need to leverage in 2022 in order to avoid an extinction spasm in the Northwest and lay the groundwork for achieving our nation's greatest salmon/river restoration ever.

Here’s a press link for further information:
Spokesman-Review: Cantwell quietly secures billions for fish recovery (Oct. 31, 2021)

4. Snake River salmon vigils are held around the region to highlight 30 years of 'endangered' salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin

2021.Vigil.Macy copyOn November 20, tribal and non-tribal organizations and people gathered across the Pacific Northwest to highlight the 30 year anniversary of the listing of Snake River sockeye salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Salmon Vigils were hosted by conservation and advocacy groups across the region, including Save Our wild Salmon, Endangered Species Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Washington Environmental Council, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, and Backbone Campaign.

In Spokane, Bellingham, Boise, Ketchum, Vancouver, and Portland, people gathered to listen to tribal and non-tribal speakers share their perspectives, highlight the urgent plight of Snake River salmon, and to call on our public officials to act quickly to remove the four lower Snake River dams, protect salmon and orcas from extinction, and secure necessary community investments needed to move everyone forward together.

Thirty years ago, on Nov. 20, 1991, Snake River sockeye became the first salmon population to be listed as ‘endangered’  anywhere in the United States. This listing occurred in response to a petition submitted by the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes whose traditional homelands are centered in the mountains of central Idaho. Not long after, the three other imperiled Snake River salmon and steelhead populations also received protection under the ESA. Today, after three decades of failed federal mitigation plans and billions of dollars in spending, all four Snake River salmonids - sockeye, spring-summer chinook, fall chinook, and steelhead - remain listed as 'threatened' or 'endangered' under the ESA.

This year just four wild sockeye salmon successfully swam to their natal spawning grounds high in central Idaho. Snake River salmon are running out of time. Declining salmon populations threatens the health and well-being of tribal nations, fishers, businesses, and communities throughout the Northwest - and critically endangered Southern Resident orcas that rely upon Chinook salmon as their primary source of food.

Here are several print and television press links for further information about the vigils:

Salish Current: Vigil calls for more urgency to save endangered salmon, orcas (Oct. 22, 2021)

KTVB (ID): Vigil for Snake River sockeye salmon held at Idaho State Capital: Conservation groups observed the 30 year anniversary of the Snake River sockeye salmon listing on the Endangered species list (Oct. 21, 2021)

KIVI TV (ID): Rallying for salmon with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe at the Idaho Capitol (Oct. 21, 2021)

5. Salmon Mean Business: A big year-end  'Thank You' to ORVIS!

This holiday season our friends at the Orvis store in Seattle will be selling their special holiday gift boxes to their customers and are generously donating the proceeds from these sales to Save Our wild Salmon!

Orvis is a family-owned business founded in 1858, that specializes in fly-fishing, hunting, and sporting goods. Orvis has long been a friend and partner to SOS and they maintain a strong commitment to giving back; Orvis donates 5% of pre-tax profits every year to protecting nature, supporting communities, and advancing canine health and well-being. With a unique matching grant program, Orvis and its customers have raised and donated more than $20 million to protect nature over the past 25 years!

A huge thanks to Orvis and the store in Seattle for their support in our efforts to protect and restore abundant, fishable populations of salmon and steelhead to the rivers and streams of the Pacific Northwest!


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