WSSNWild 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 - unless we act! Find out how SOS is helping lead efforts to restore health, connectivity, and resilience to the rivers and streams these fish depend upon in the Columbia-Snake Basin and how you can get involved to help restore healthy, abundant, and harvestable populations and sustain more just and prosperous communities. To learn more and/or get involved, contact Martha Campos.


TABLE OF CONTENTS: 

1. Happy New Year – and thank you for your generous year-end support!
2. Historic agreement creates path to rebuild Columbia Basin salmon, honor our nation's promises to Tribes, and prepare for Snake River dam removal.
3. Welcome J60  newborn J Pod orca calf! 
4. Not Mars! Patagonia hosts inspiring speakers in Seattle, WA.
5. A Photographer's Journey with 'All Our Relations'
6. Snake River and salmon media roundup.


1. Happy New Year – and thank you for your generous year-end support!

Happy New Year! We're starting this issue off with a very joyful and energetic 'THANK YOU' for your generous year-end support and advocacy to protect and restore the Northwest’s native fish and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to our region and nation.

With the generosity of many of you, we more than met our year-end $15,000 match challenge! Save Our wild Salmon's collaborative work with you and many others in the past year has been critical to demonstrate public demand and to engage state and federal officials in the Northwest and in Washington D.C. to make truly historic progress on behalf of endangered salmon and orcas and their Pacific Northwest lands and waters.

As we enter 2024, our work with you will be critical for ensuring the actions and commitments of the recent federal-tribal-state Agreement stay on track and on time. We'll need your help to hold accountable policymakers to rebuild abundant salmon and steelhead populations, restore the Columbia Basin, honor our nation's promises to Tribes, and invest in more just and prosperous communities.

Thank you for all that you do for SOS and the Northwest's salmon, orcas, and rivers! We look forward to leveraging our accomplishments in 2023 to make new, big strides for wild salmon and steelhead and their rivers and streams in the new year!

We wish you and yours a happy, healthy, hopeful, and fulfilling 2024!

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2. Historic agreement creates path to rebuild Columbia Basin salmon, honor our nation's promises to Tribes, and prepare for Snake River dam removal.

On December 14, 2023, new federal commitments and investments were announced by the White House, States of Oregon and Washington, and four Columbia Basin Tribes - marking an important step toward a comprehensive solution to restore healthy and abundant salmon populations, and essential to honoring Tribal Treaty obligations.

The December Agreement provides a multi-year pause in litigation to allow for the implementation of commitments, actions, and federal investments advancing the recovery of salmon, steelhead and other Native fish populations throughout the Columbia River Basin, including more than half a billion dollars in NEW federal funding to the region and additional resources for habitat restoration and fish passage infrastructure. Importantly, it sets the Pacific Northwest on a path to breach the four lower Snake River dams and replace and modernize the services currently provided by the dams.

The Agreement "lays out a pathway to breaching," said Nez Perce Tribe Chairman Shannon Wheeler to AP News. "When these [services] are replaced, and the Pacific Northwest is transforming into a stronger, more resilient, better place, then there’s a responsibility ... to make the decisions that are necessary to make sure these treaty promises are kept."

The federal commitments, actions, and investments included in the Agreement respond directly to The Columbia Basin Restoration Initiative (CBRI), a groundbreaking and visionary joint proposal from the "Six Sovereigns" (the states of Washington and Oregon and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and the Nez Perce Tribe). The Biden Administration is supporting the bold new blueprint with specific federal commitments, funding and deadlines, and a Presidential Memorandum of Understanding (announced in Sept. 2023) pledging the federal goverment to work closely with Northwest sovereigns and constituencies on critical next steps.

Jointly developed by the Six Sovereigns, the CBRI establishes for the first time a comprehensive, regionally-supported roadmap to rebuild imperiled native fish populations, honor Tribal treaty rights, and restore healthy ecosystems while supporting a robust Pacific Northwest economy. The CBRI explicitly calls for the services of the lower Snake River dams to be replaced and then the dams breached within two fish generations (approximately 8 years) to avoid extinction and begin rebuilding salmon populations to healthy and harvestable levels. The CBRI also protects and enhances other key service sectors by modernizing and investing in clean energy, agriculture, and transportation, helping restore vital ecosystem functions and services essential for local and regional resilience and adaptation to climate change.

It’s important to know that the multi-year pause in litigation allows the federal government to continue working with the Six Sovereigns and conservation plaintiffs to recover salmon in the Columbia Basin. However, if the government fails to honor its commitment within this Agreement or implement key elements of the CBRI in the coming years, then the plaintiffs and Six Sovereigns are able to return to court.

Warm Springs Tribal Council Chairman Jonathan W. Smith stated to Underscore News, "The overarching goal when we approached this [Agreement] is, as long as we can fulfill the obligations we have when it comes to the big law — the unwritten law that says we have to take care of our food and it takes care of us — as long as we can make sure this Agreement does that, we’d like to see it continue."

Save Our wild Salmon Coalition is deeply grateful for Tribal, State, Federal, and NGO partners' leadership to secure this Agreement, and the important investments necessary to begin to recover imperiled fish populations throughout the Columbia/Snake River Basin. We are not at the finish line, but we're closer to a free-flowing Snake River, abundant salmon and steelhead, and a healthy ecosystem than ever before.

Urgent action, committed leadership, and strong support from policymakers across the Northwest will be essential to seize this historic opportunity, end the harmful status quo, and move forward a comprehensive plan and investments — and benefit the entire region and future generations.

Please join us in thanking the administration for these important steps forward, and urge your members of Congress to pledge their strong support and leadership to ensure we implement the actions necessary to recover Northwest salmon.

Take Action

Resources: 

  • Read more on Earthjustice’s factsheet and SOSblog post with additional resources from coalition partners, agreement documents, and news coverage. 

News Coverage:

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3.  Welcome J60  newborn J Pod orca calf! 

Newborn orca J60 next to orca J40. Sticker artwork by Rosemary Connelli, Northwest Artist Against Extinction.

What better way to start 2024 than with hope - with the arrival of a new orca calf in the J Pod!

On December 26, a new calf was spotted with the Southern Resident orcas' J Pod! Researchers were able to confirm that J60 is male. He has been spotted with several adult orcas (including J16 and J40) making it difficult to determine who his mother orca is.

Since 2019, there have been 10 new calves, although the mortality rate of calves remains high. Our friends at Whale Scout said it best, “Every new life in this endangered population is precious!”

The three Southern Resident orca pods, known as J, K, and L pods, historically traveled, foraged, and socialized throughout the inland waters of the Salish Sea from late spring through late summer feeding on once-abundant Chinook salmon. As Chinook numbers have dwindled, changes in pod structure, pod movement, and seasonal usage of the Salish Sea have become increasingly apparent.

J60 brings the Southern Resident population to 75 orcas. Yet, in some years, we see almost twice as many deaths as births. Orcas and salmon, alike, remain on the edge of extinction.

It is with cautious optimism that we share the good news of J60’s birth. Together, let’s ensure he has all the food he needs in the years ahead - and for all the Southern Resident orcas!

Learn more about the new J pod calf:

Northwest Artist Against Extinction collaborative artist Rosemary Connelli created new stickers (featured at the top image) celebrating and welcoming J60! 10% of the proceeds will be donated to Southern Resident orca conservation and research. Get your sticker here!

Learn more about Rosemary Connelli on Instagram and her website ConnelliDesigns.com

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4. Not Mars! Patagonia hosts inspiring speakers in Seattle, WA.

On December 8, Patagonia hosted a special evening of speakers at Town Hall Seattle: Not Mars - Tools to Save Our Home Planet.

SOS’ executive director Joseph Bogaard was featured as a speaker, along with an amazing host – award-winning journalist Yessenia Funes – and set of inspiring thought-leading change-agents.

Not Mars - Tools to Save Our Home Planet was a one-night event that filled Seattle Town Hall – more than 500 people attended – to be inspired and learn lessons, practical tips, and personal stories to turn climate anxiety into action. Attendees had the opportunity to connect directly with local advocacy groups – including SOS! – and get involved in campaigns to protect clean water and build healthier communities. 

Speakers included:

  • Hilary Franz, Washington State Lands Commissioner (and current candidate for the 6th Congressional District)
  • Bonnie Tsui, open water swimmer, journalist and author of a wonderful new book – Why We Swim
  • Greg Long, big wave rider and global ocean advocate
  • Jamie Henn, founder and director of Fossil Free Media
  • Nikkita Oliver, Seattle-based community organizer and attorney, and
  • Amy Bowers Cordalis, attorney, salmon restoring dam-breacher and member of the Yurok Tribe.

The speakers were, without exception, amazing. They shared personal stories, highlighted successes and underscored the importance of an active, informed and engaged citizenry. Nikkita Oliver distinguished herself from other speakers with a powerful poem. Amy Cordalis and Joseph were the evening's final speakers. After Amy zoomed in with a short video recorded earlier in the day from her office in Washington, D.C., Joseph joined Yessenia on stage for a final discussion about the Northwest’s cherished (and endangered) wild salmon, leadership by regional tribes to protect and recover them, and the work of SOS with Indigenous and other communities to restore a resilient, freely flowing lower Snake River in eastern Washington State.

The ‘Not Mars’ Call-to-Action alerts targeted Washington State’s U.S. Senators and House Members generated hundreds of electronic letters in support of restoring the lower Snake River and recovering its endangered salmon and steelhead as urgently as possible! 

The event featured informational tables, where SOS had the honor of meeting so many people eager to learn about the plight of wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia/Snake River Basin and how they can help. Britt Freda, creative director of Northwest Artists Against Extinction, staffed the table and invited Alyssa EckertNorthwest Artist Against Extinction collaborative artist, to sign and share SOS' newest poster featuring her new artwork, Run To Extinction. 

Alyssa Eckert started her Run To Extinction artwork right after the NWAAE Honor: People and Salmon show at the University of Puget Sound last spring. "This piece was inspired by the poetry, [I Sing the Salmon Home, edited by Rena Priest], that was read at the artist reception," stated Alyssa. "I wanted to convey the interconnection of orcas and salmon, how their numbers are dwindling due to the negative impact of humans." At SOS, we are very grateful for Alyssa’s willingness for her artwork to be the centerpiece of an SOS poster (view more of Alyssa's artwork here), and we were ecstatic to see each poster go to new homes and spread awareness to 'Stop Salmon Extinction' and 'Free the Snake River!'

We're incredibly thankful to Patagonia for inviting Joseph to speak at this event and raising funds on behalf of SOS as well as Washington Conservation Action and Wild Orca. The Patagonia crew was amazing (and fun!) to work with. Thank you to all who were able to join us!

SOS deeply appreciates Patagonia’s sustained and committed leadership to remove these four deadly federal dams and restore a healthy, resilient lower Snake River and the imperiled native fishes – wild salmon, steelhead, lamprey eels, sturgeon and others – that have called this watershed home for literally millions of years. Check out SOS' 'Not Mars' photo gallery with photos of this special event by photographer Andrew Burton.   

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5. A Photographer's Journey with 'All Our Relations'

From the desk of Megan Mack

Megan Mack is a photographer based in Moscow, ID and a Northwest Artists Against Extinction collaborative artist. This fall, Mack was asked to document the All Our Relations Snake River Journey, the second tribal-led Totem Journey she’s been invited to document. We are excited to share with you her reflections on traveling with the powerful journey that brought awareness to the plight of Snake River salmon and the sacred obligation many Northwest tribes have to the ecological and cultural keystone species.


"A totem journey is no easy feat. This is grassroots traveling activism fighting for the land and the people, and bringing hope to a community. The totem is created to tell a story and bring awareness to an issue. Each hand carved and painted image represents something important to the tribe. When the totem travels it is being blessed along its journey at different designated stops. As an attendee, you are asked to lay hands on the totem, and put your energy into it. Whatever home the totem permanently lands, that space will be blessed by hundreds or thousands of hands that have lain upon it along the way. These journey’s bring political awareness and government action.

I am not native and am acutely aware of the role I have as a white nonnative photographer–doing my best as an ally to document a culture, tradition and space that I’ve been invited into. I do not have ownership over the images I’m making, but I have been given permission on this journey to document a sacred space and to use my images. 

There were moments along the journey where someone in the crowd told me I couldn’t take pictures, usually during a smudging ceremony or song. I appreciate this. There seems to be a growing awareness around asking permission before blindly snapping away. Songs especially can be sacred and private; a lot of times these songs cannot be documented or recorded. Songs are gifts to individuals and that individual carries that specific song within them. When we (people with cameras) are not permitted to document a moment, all cameras are turned off to respect what is sacred. Documentary photography struggles with this notion of the sacred. Journalism has crossed boundaries that relied on exploitation to tell a story, without respect or empathy. I’m not a journalist, nor do I have a background in documentary photography. Trying to document the sacred, the phantasmagoria, is not always possible, but when it happens, as if by magic, all the elements of the photograph come together."

Read the full article on the Northwest Artists Against Extinction website   Northwest Artists Against ExtinctionRead the full article on the Northwest Artists Against Extinction website   

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6. Snake River and salmon media roundup. 

Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for salmon recovery and river restoration:

News:

Op-eds:

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