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 Tanya Riordan.
1. Biden Administration delivers definitive report on science and salmon recovery
2. Washington State Rep. Debra Lekanoff speaks for salmon & justice
3. Population Census 2022 - just 73 Southern Resident orcas survive today
4. Spotlight on the Columbia River Treaty – and need to modernize this international watershed agreement
5. Artists Against Extinction: ‘United for Salmon’ Mural
On Sept. 30, the Biden Administration’s National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final report “Rebuilding Interior Columbia Basin Salmon and Steelhead.”
Their report is the U.S. government’s definitive review of what science says is needed to recover endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. It takes a comprehensive look at leading causes of decline and prioritizes a set of urgently needed actions to protect these fish from extinction and recover abundance, including:
"For Snake River stocks, the centerpiece action is restoring the lower Snake River via dam breaching. Restoring more normalized reach-scale hydrology and hydraulics, and thus river conditions and function in the lower Snake River, requires dam breaching.” (page 17)
This report is one of several commitments from the Biden Administration when they agreed with plantiffs (Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon, and conservation and fishing NGOs led by Earthjustice) to settlement negotiations and to extend the “stay” in the decades-long lawsuit – NWF v. NMFS et al. – concerning the inadequacy of federal efforts to protect and restore salmon in the Columbia Basin. Specifically, the "Administration commits NOAA and the USFWS to review comments on the draft salmon rebuilding report from Tribal and State fishery managers and scientists and finalize the report on or before September 30, 2022.”
The NOAA report is “intended to provide climate-smart, science-based information that can inform development of actions that could rebuild listed and unlisted interior Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead stocks towards healthy and harvestable levels." (page 1)
The report addresses ten questions and elaborates on the biggest threats:
“In general, NOAA found the biggest threats and limiting factors to be:
- Large-scale tributary and estuary habitat and water quality degradation.
- Hydrosystem impacts, including direct mortality, and indirect mortality, where delayed effects from transiting the hydrosystem occur during the first year of ocean residence.
- Impassable human-constructed barriers prohibiting access to much of the habitat historically accessible throughout the basin.
- Predation from pinnipeds, native and non-native fishes, and colony nesting waterbirds that are taking advantage of habitats altered by the Columbia River Systems.” (page 11)
The report “recognizes that a comprehensive suite of actions that address threats to salmon and steelhead across the basin, including three “centerpiece actions,” will provide the greatest potential to make considerable progress towards healthy and harvestable abundances.” (page 2) The report calls these centerpiece actions “paramount” and the first one listed is “For Snake River stocks, the centerpiece action is restoring the lower Snake River via dam breaching.” (page 17)
The report also addresses uncertainties of dam removal compared to other salmon impacts such increases in ocean temperatures. “The increasing role of deteriorating ocean or freshwater conditions from climate change on the health of salmon and steelhead stocks does not diminish the importance or necessity of taking meaningful actions in areas society has more direct influence over. In fact, the importance and necessity of meaningful actions is heightened, not diminished because of the impacts of climate change.” (page 10)
The report acknowledges that “While there are some uncertainties on the full extent of the benefits of dam breach for native aquatic species and short-term negative effects are expected, there is evidence from other dam removals in the region that the overall long-term benefit is high.” (page 25)
The report makes a summary statement about the efficacy of dam breaching: “The common message is clear across all the work: salmon rebuilding depends on large-scale actions, including breaching dams…” (page 24)
It is also worth noting the Biden Administration understands the great urgency of moving forward quickly given increasing climate impacts on salmon. “To achieve the Columbia Basin Partnership’s mid-range goals, given the current stock status and demographic inertia identified above, it is imperative to start taking actions immediately.” (emphasis added, page 23)
This is the most definitive statement from the federal government on what the best available science tell us we need to do to protect and recover endangered fish populations in the Columbia Basin. It aligns the federal government with long-standing position of many tribal, state and independent scientists regarding the necessity of lower Snake River dam removal for salmon and steelhead recovery.
The science debate is over. Now it is a race against time to replace the services of the dams and begin dam removal as soon as possible.
Read more here:
•E&E: NOAA calls Snake River dam breaching 'centerpiece' of salmon rescue (Oct. 3)
•OPB: Federal report recommends removing four Lower Snake River dams to protect salmon (Sept. 30)
2. Washington State Rep. Debra Lekanoff speaks for salmon & justice
"Washington State continues to face one of the most significant crises of our lifetimes in the degradation of Pacific Northwest salmon. The salmon, whose numbers have been plummeting for decades, are now in some places facing extinction. Once the salmon are gone, the very foundation of Pacific Northwest Native American culture, laws and values will be irreparably damaged.
I stand before you as the only Native American in the Washington State Legislature. I’m asking your spirits and hearts to make the right choices to avoid salmon extinction." - Representative Debra Lekanoff is a Tlingit tribal member and represents Northwest Washington State’s 40th district in the legislature in Olympia."
On Oct. 3, the Seattle Times published a powerful op-ed by Rep. Lekanoff bringing to bear her personal and Indigenous perspectives on recovery of imperiled Northwest salmon. Salmon and orca advocates applauded her leadership.
While Rep. Lekanoff described what’s at stake bluntly, she also praised the leadership from Sen. Patty Murray, Gov. Jay Inslee, and the Biden Administration: “Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray have also created a path forward for breaching the four dams on the Lower Snake River. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association recently released a report noting what Native people have said for years: We need to breach the four dams on the Lower Snake River to prevent salmon extinction. Gov. Inslee and Sen. Murray are now focusing on the services that must be replaced before the dams are breached.”
In her article, she also recognizes that the state, including the legislature, have key roles to play, promising, that, “I’m working in the Legislature to make salmon restoration a policy and budget priority for the 2023 session — for the generations to come.”
Rep. Lekanoff’s op-ed, and her ongoing leadership for salmon, justice and a sustainable future brought praise from non-tribal advocates. Bill Arthur, who leads the Sierra Club’s three-state Columbia-Snake River Salmon Recovery Campaign, had this to say: “Rep. Lekanoff continues to be a champion of salmon recovery and habitat protection all across the state including ongoing support for breaching the Snake River dams.”
Read Rep. Lekanoff’s full op-ed here:
Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Make salmon restoration a policy and budget priority (Oct. 3)
Highly social and intelligent Southern Resident orcas have roamed the coastal waters for hundreds of thousands of years – relying primarily on an abundance of large, fatty Chinook salmon for their diet. Generational knowledge passed down from grandmothers to mothers and mothers to daughters within the Southern Resident clan uniquely binds them to these waters along the Pacific Northwest to forage for wild salmon. However, Southern Resident orcas face extinction today due to the steep declines of Chinook salmon populations across the region.
In September, the Center for Whale Research released its annual census of the Southern Resident Killer Whale population from July 2021 - July 2022 for the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
As of July 1, 2022, just 73 individual orcas survive.
The Southern Resident census confirmed three deaths: K21, K44, and L89 as well as two new births. “J37 had her second offspring, J59, in February of 2022. In May, CWR observation determined that J59 is female. K20 also had her second offspring, K45, sometime in April 2022.”
The census states that “the lowest L pod census since the study began in 1976, with 32 individuals. K pod sits at its lowest number in the last two decades, at 16 individuals. With no mortalities and a single birth, J pod now totals 25 individuals.”
Every orca individual is vital to the entire population and when we lose one of them, the population and their shared generational knowledge and culture suffers. The leading cause of death among the Southern Resident population is lack of prey. Their diet consists of roughly 90% Chinook salmon, as well as other species of salmon like coho and chum.
On separate occasions, Senator Murray, Governor Inslee, and the Biden Administration have confirmed the urgency to remove the lower Snake River dams in order to protect and recover salmon, steelhead, and orcas. With their leadership, we are now on a path to restore a free-flowing lower Snake River and replace the dams’ services, but time is not on the side of Snake River salmon or Southern Resident orcas.
Salmon, orca, clean energy and fishing advocates have hard work ahead in order to realize this opportunity: to support the Tribes and work with - and hold accountable - Northwest states, members of Congress and the Biden Administration to secure the necessary funding and replace the dams' services as quickly as possible to restore the lower Snake River.
Read more here:
•Center for Whale Research: Census of the Southern Resident killer whale population (2022)
•Go Skagit: Changes in 2022 bring optimism for Southern Resident orcas’ recovery (Sept. 28)
Last month, SOS joined 32 conservation, clean energy, faith, fishing, and civic organizations to send a letter to the Biden Administration highlighting the urgent need to modernize the U.S. – Canada Columbia River Treaty in order to protect the health of the river and well-being of its inhabitants and the communities that rely on it. In addition to prioritizing the health of the river in an updated Treaty – the letter urged the administration to better inform Northwest people on the status of talks now under way between the two nations, and to increase the involvement – especially by Tribal sovereigns but other residents as well - in discussions and decisions about its future.
This month, Save Our wild Salmon and allied organizations of the U.S. NGO Columbia River Treaty Caucus, followed up delivery of the NGO sign-on letter with a webinar: Modernizing the Columbia River Treaty: Where do we go from here?
Moderated by Graeme Lee Rowlands, this 90-minute webinar was attended by more than 100 people who zoomed in from across the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia and beyond. The webinar featured an excellent set of panelists, including:
- DR Michel, Executive Director, Upper Columbia River Tribes
- Jim Heffernan, Policy Analyst, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission
- Jessica Zimmerle, Advocacy Director, Earth Ministry/Washington Interfaith Power and Light, and
- Joseph Bogaard, SOS’ Executive Director
Panelists explored the importance and history of the Treaty, where things stand today in terms of negotiations, and what the U.S. government and Canada need to jointly achieve in order to ensure a healthier, and more resilient and just future for the river, its fish and wildlife, and related communities.
Several themes emerged from the panelists' presentations and Q&A with the audience that followed:
- Add Ecosystem-based Function – health of the river – as a new third, co-equal purpose of the treaty – alongside with existing purposes of power production and engineered flood management;
- Engage Columbia Basin tribes in the talks and implementation commensurate with their status sovereign nations and the original stewards of the basin;
- Support and expand reintroduction of salmon and steelhead above the currently impassable dams in the upper Columbia River;
- Avoid the transition now expected in 2024 - from 'coordinated flood management' to 'called upon'. “Called upon” flood management will bring with it increased costs, uncertainty and disruption to long-standing river management practices and increase pressure on at-risk fish and wildlife populations;
- Position the two nations – and Basin residents on both sides of the border – to better coordinate and collaborate – in a manner that is holistic and inclusive; and
- Modernize the Treaty - time is short! Update the collaborative bi-national management regime – in order to help support and facilitate the above goals, to help to adapt and respond to the intensifying effects of a changing climate.
You can view the recording of the full webinar here.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Send a letter to the Biden Administration and Northwest members of Congress. Urge the administration to move quickly in negotiations with Canada to update - or ‘modernize’ - the Treaty by adding Ecosystem Function – the health of the river - as a new third purpose. Under the pressure of a changing climate, modernizing the Treaty and prioritizing Ecosystem Function is essential to the broader transformation we need to uphold our nation's promises to Tribes, sustain vibrant communities and resilient ecosystems into the future.
•KUOW: Salmon advocates ask to include healthy ecosystems in Columbia River Treaty (Oct. 5)
•Columbiarivertreaty.org – a website and resource of the U.S. NGO Columbia River Treaty Caucus.
Last month, Northwest Artists Against Extinction and Eileen Klatt partnered with participants in the Youth Salmon Celebration and Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment to begin the work of a large collaborative mural project, ‘United By Salmon’. Following youth speakers and a beautiful ceremony on the banks of the Snake River, attendees gathered around the white panels and the mural quickly began to take life.
“I was impressed by the entire group’s absolute focus on painting salmon. Following a brief introduction and minimal instructions, everyone got to work. The quiet hum of engaged group creativity settled over us as colorful salmon emerged from the white background like magic” said NWAAE partner, Klatt. “The mural is a perfect metaphor for the salmon recovery work by Tribes, activists, politicians, and other resolute individuals and organizations. Created in a spirit of creativity and love for salmon and all things salmon, it embodies the collaboration, cooperation, dedication, and vision necessary to save our salmon.”
This mural project will continue to grow at NWAAE events across the Pacific Northwest. “We have visions of this colorful, collaborative artist representation of healthy ecosystems, abundant salmon and regional potential growing to be 60’, 100’, 350’ long!” said NWAAE partner, Britt Freda. “It can happen with the creative, hopeful hands and hearts of the diverse population of people who love and rely on salmon in our region.”
Read more about the ‘United By Salmon’ and the Youth Salmon Celebration and Call to Action event at nwaae.org/blog
SOS would like to introduce you to the newest member of our team - Maanit Goel!
Maanit is a driven environmental youth organizer based out of Sammamish, Washington who harbors a deep passion for salmon and orca recovery in the Pacific Northwest. As a senior at Eastlake High School, Maanit is already an accomplished activist on various environmental initiatives.
Since first getting involved with the Snake River restoration campaign, Maanit has facilitated educational outreach and youth mobilization across six Seattle-area K-12 schools, drawn in activists from four cities, coordinated collaboration across two states, and directly reached an audience of 1,300+ students - and counting. Maanit currently serves on the EarthEcho International Youth Leadership Council, Washington Legislative Youth Advisory Council, and is returning Chair of the Sammamish City Council's Youth Board.
We are honored to welcome Maanit to the team!
Oct. 28 9am - 4:30pm PT and Oct. 30 6pm-8pm PT | Livestreamed
The International Indigenous Salmon Seas Symposium
On October 28th and 30th, the livestreamed International Indigenous Salmon Seas Symposium will bring together thirty-five Indigenous peoples, knowledge-keepers, and invited guests from the three great salmon seas: the Salish Sea, Alaska, and the Russian Far East (the Sea of Okhotsk/Bikin River and the Kamchatka Peninsula). The Symposium is dedicated to the proposition that all of us have an obligation to each other, to all our relations, to the creation, and to future generations to honor ancient lifeways, celebrate our alliances, and work together to restore the health of the Salmon Seas and through that healing, to heal ourselves.
Visit se-si-le-symposium.org to register and learn more about the livestreamed symposium.
This event is organized by Se’Si’Le. Se’Si’Le (saw-sea’-law) is the Lummi language term for our grandmother. Se’Si’Le is an all-Indigenous-led nonprofit based in Washington that reintroduces Indigenous Natural Law into the mainstream conversation about climate change and the environment. Working with strategic partners, we deploy storytelling, special events, targeted campaigns, and policy analysis to provide a voice for the voiceless, including Salmon, Killer Whales, rivers, streams, oceans and seas.
Nov. 14 and Nov. 17 | Virtual
‘Delivering Community Clean Energy’ Fall Conference
On Nov. 14 and Nov. 17, 12:30pm – 3:15pm PT, join the ‘Delivering Community Clean Energy’ virtual Fall Conference, hosted by the NW Energy Coalition, featuring expert panelists from across the Northwest.
November 14: Influx of Funding for Clean Energy Transformation:
- Federal Funding: IRA and Infrastructure Law
- State Funding Round Table
November 17: Clean Energy Community and Equity Issues
- Siting Issues of New Resources
- Energy System Impacts on Salmon
SOS is a proud sponsor for this conference and we hope you join advocates, utility representatives, regulators, students, and decision-makers to discuss the region’s most pressing clean energy topics!
Register today and visit nwenergy.org for more information about this conference. This event is $40 for members and $50 for non-members and is open to all. Sponsorship and scholarship opportunities are available.
Contact: For more information, email Chris Connolly, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, November 8, 2022 is Election Day and your last day to vote. Are you ready?
Exercising your right to vote is at the core of our democracy. There’s a lot going on in the world right now and we all have a stake. Whether the issue is human rights, climate change, environmental justice, or salmon recovery policy - all of this and more will be heavily impacted over the next few years by the leaders WE vote into office in November.
We have the power to vote on critical candidates and issues this election cycle that will affect the future of our nation - the air, lands, and waters where we live, and the opportunities and quality of life we seek for ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities. Now is the time to use your voice.
Make a difference and vote! SOS has developed this Voting Checklist to ensure you are registered, informed, and ready to vote:
- Are you registered to vote? Double-check if you are registered to vote. If you are requesting a mail-in ballot, double-check your mailing address. Check your registration status and find out the voter registration deadline in your state here. Move quickly as time is running short in many states!
- What are your state's voting deadlines? Find out your state's voting deadlines, mark these important deadlines on your calendar, and schedule a day to vote!
- How will you vote? Will you vote-by-mail or in-person? Depending on where you live, you can vote by mail, by ballot drop-off, or in-person. For the most up-to-date voting information, including how to obtain a mail-in ballot, early voting locations, and where you can vote in-person, contact your state or local election office.
- Check out Earthjustice’s resource list for additional election resources and frequently asked questions.
Every election is determined by the people who show up. Thank you, in advance, for showing up and getting your ballot in.
Salmon have been migrating through the news recently. Here are some stories from the last few weeks about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and Pacific Northwest salmon recovery:
Guest Opinions and Articles:
- Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Stop sacrificing Indigenous sacred sites in the name of climate change (Sept. 25)
- Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Make salmon restoration a policy and budget priority (Oct. 3)
- Seattle Times Guest Opinion: Lessons from California on preventing power failures during heat waves (Oct. 10)
- Canary Media: With renewables, Native communities chart a path to energy sovereignty (Oct. 10)
- E&E: NOAA calls Snake River dam breaching 'centerpiece' of salmon rescue (Oct. 3)
- OPB: Federal report recommends removing four Lower Snake River dams to protect salmon (Sept. 30)
- KUOW: Youth rally to protect salmon in the Snake River (Sept. 27)
- OPB Reporter's Notebook: The racism, and resilience, behind today’s Pacific Northwest salmon crisis (Sept. 24)
- Lewiston Tribune: Speaking up for salmon (Sept. 23)
- Seattle Times: How Northwest tribes are leading the push to restore eel-like lampreys (Sept. 23)
- Watch this 5-minute video of David James Duncan, critically acclaimed writer, fly fisherman, and conservationist, reflect on his deep connection with salmon and steelhead, and the grief of salmon and steelhead heading towards extinction. David James Duncan urges for critical action to recover salmon, steelhead, the lower Snake River, and to honor tribal treaty rights and commitments made by the United States to Tribes in the Pacific Northwest.