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 - 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.
1. Biden Administration makes historic commitments and progress to recover Columbia Basin salmon
2. Thousands call on BPA to prioritize wild salmon and clean, reliable and affordable energy
3. 'All Our Relations' Snake River Campaign reaches thousands across the Northwest and nation
4. Stand with Tribes to protect salmon and orcas: 'Rise Up Northwest in Unity' - Nov. 1 and 2, 2023
5. 'Covenant of the Salmon People' - Find a film screening near you!
6. 'Salt and Other Spells' by Sarah Stockton, a poem from 'I Sing The Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State'
7. Watch 'Primal Drive,' a captivating short film about salmon by John Gussman
8. Salmon media roundup
In just the past few weeks, the federal government has made several significant announcements to advance salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin.
I. Biden Administration supports Tribally-led salmon reintroduction efforts in the Upper Columbia Basin:
On Sept. 21, the Biden Administration committed more than $200 million to restore passage and reintroduce salmon in the Upper Columbia Basin.
Not long ago, salmon runs in the Upper Columbia River and its tributaries were healthy and abundant - and a mainstay of Tribal cultures and trade. The legendary 'June Hogs' – chinook salmon that weighed more than a hundred pounds and could exceed six feet in length – used to migrate each year into the upper reaches of the watershed. They completely disappeared, however, just a few years after the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam in the early 1940s. The construction of large hydroelectric and flood control dams nearly a century ago — including the Grand Coulee Dam and Chief Joseph Dam — blocked anadromous fish from migrating into and through the ceded and reserved lands of the Colville, Spokane and Coeur d'Alene Tribes.
The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the Coeur d'Alene Tribe, and Spokane Tribe of Indians – all members of the Upper Columbia United Tribes – signed the agreement with federal officials in a ceremony in Washington D.C. These Tribes have worked for decades to reintroduce salmon into the rivers and streams above Grand Coulee Dam. This agreement secures $200 million from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to be paid over 20 years to advance a Tribally-led implementation plan to reintroduce and restore salmon and steelhead to these ancestral habitats.
Learn more here: Seattle Times: $200M pledged to return salmon to Upper Columbia Basin in Biden deal with tribes
II. Presidential Memorandum on restoring 'healthy and abundant' Columbia-Snake River salmon:
A few days later on Sept. 27, the Biden Administration announced an historic Presidential Memorandum. For the first time ever, this Memorandum formally commits the federal government to recover 'healthy and abundant' salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia-Snake Basin – and directs all relevant federal agencies to take immediate actions to ensure their authorities and resources are used to help achieve this federal priority.
"Conservation and fishing advocates applaud the historic Memorandum," said Tanya Riordan, Save Our wild Salmon's Policy and Advocacy Director. "With this directive, the President is sending a clear message to the Bonneville Power Administration, Army Corps of Engineers and other relevant agencies and leaders within the federal government that business-as-usual is no longer acceptable, and a 'whole-of-government' approach is required to help meet our nation’s Treaty responsibilities to Northwest Tribes. Protecting and restoring healthy, harvestable and abundant populations of wild salmon and steelhead and other native fish populations in the Columbia and Snake rivers is a national priority."
Restoring abundant, fishable wild salmon and steelhead populations and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to Northwest people, other fish and wildlife species, and ecosystems is critical for maintaining and strengthening our region’s economy, culture and unique way of life.
Salmon advocates appreciate the focus by the Biden Administration to develop lawful plans to restore salmon abundance in the Columbia Basin. Many populations, however, including all stocks remaining in the Snake River Basin, face certain extinction without immediate, science-based recovery actions. Salmon and steelhead – and other fish and wildlife that depend upon them – are simply running out of time.
Now, we urgently need our members of Congress to support the Biden Administration and ensure that federal agencies act quickly to implement this directive, before it's too late.
ACT NOW: Contact your elected officials today. Ask them to support the Biden Administration's directive to help restore healthy and abundant salmon populations and uphold our nation's promises made to Northwest Tribes.
Read more about the Presidential Memorandum here:
- Spokesman-Review: ‘This is historic’: Biden orders whole-of-government effort to restore salmon in Columbia, Snake rivers
- Seattle Times: President Biden calls for abundant salmon in Columbia, Snake rivers
III. Finally - an update on the ongoing Columbia-Snake salmon/dams litigation pause:
At the time of newsletter publication – the settlement talks continue between the Biden Administration and Northwest Tribes, states of Washington and Oregon, and stakeholders to develop a durable, lawful plan to finally protect and recover healthy wild salmon and steelhead populations currently at risk of extinction - including in the Snake River Basin. As you may recall, the deadline for these discussions was recently extended from August 31 to October 31 - to allow additional time for the parties to craft an agreement. We are keeping a close eye on these proceedings and will keep you posted on any developments. For more information on the settlement talks, here is a link to the lead article from last month’s newsletter.
and clean energy.The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) sells the power generated by federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers to electric utilities in the Northwest based on long-term contracts that will soon be renewed. To guide this renewal process, BPA composed a ‘Draft Provider of Choice Contract Policy’ and recently offered the public an opportunity to provide comment. Within the last week, approximately 20,000 salmon, orca, fishing and clean energy advocates called on BPA to prioritize salmon recovery
In order to protect wild fish from extinction and to adapt to a changing climate, business-as-usual at BPA must end. The agency’s new power sales contracts with utilities must support and incentivize urgently-needed work to diversify our regional energy resources, expand the transmission grid and give back some of the river to the fish before they disappear forever.
BPA’s policies and contracts moving forward must prioritize salmon recovery alongside the long-term reliability of our electric supply. BPA can - and it must - ensure that power generation does not continue to come at the cost of wild salmon, Tribal Treaty rights, our economy and the special way of life in the Northwest.
While the power sold by BPA provides valuable benefits to the region, it has come at an extraordinary cost to salmon and salmon-reliant communities. With responsible planning, we don’t have to continue to choose between clean, reliable electricity and healthy and abundant wild salmon and steelhead.
Unfortunately, responsible planning that incorporates the needs of fish and reliable and clean electricity is woefully absent in BPA’s 'Draft Provider of Choice Policy.'
The policy, for example, fails to plan for changes in dam operations necessary to restore healthy and abundant fish populations. Salmon need more spill, cooler waters, and healthy rivers to survive and restore themselves. Meeting these needs is increasingly urgent and will affect the operations and output of the federal hydrosystem. These impacts won’t be disruptive as long as BPA anticipates changes in the new contracts and plans ahead to finally meet its dual responsibility to (1) provide reliable, clean and affordable energy and (2) support healthy and abundant salmon populations.
In his recent Presidential Memorandum (see story above), President Biden called for “a sustained national effort to restore healthy and abundant native fish populations in the [Columbia] Basin.” Now - in preparation for the new contract period - BPA must prepare for (1) lower output from federal dams and (2) a more diversified regional energy portfolio in order to achieve these critical goals. BPA's final contract policy must lay out this assumption clearly as it summarizes the emerging landscape and plans for future resource acquisition to augment future federal hydroelectric generation.
For more information, here are two letters sent to the BPA as part of its recent public comment period:
- Save Our wild Salmon Coalition letter to BPA re: Draft Provider of Choice Policy
- NW Energy Coalition-led letter to BPA re: Draft Provider of Choice Policy
The All Our Relations Snake River Campaign took place last month - evoking joy, grief, hope and inspiration to the thousands of Northwest people who participated. Thank you to all who gathered in Olympia, Portland, Pasco, Spokane, Lewiston, and Seattle in September and October to stand with this powerful Indigenous-led journey.
To get a glimpse of the spirit of the journey, view our 'All Our Relations' photo gallery.
Since the beginning of time, Native peoples have honored their deep connection with the Snake River and its salmon. But today the lower Snake River dams threaten these fish with extinction. Through art, music, speech, procession and prayer, each stop of this campaign centered Indigenous voices and reflected strong support for urgent action and comprehensive solutions that will finally protect and restore the gravely imperiled fish populations.
A. Cyaltsa Finkbonner who designed and hand-crafted the beautiful and inspiring steel sculpture that traveled with the Journey.We appreciate all who supported and participated in these events. A special thanks to Master Carver Jewell James for his leadership and conceptual inspiration and to
Restoring a free-flowing Snake River will help to honor the promises our nation made more than 150 years ago to many Northwest Tribes. It will reconnect endangered fish to thousands of miles of high quality, cold water habitat, increase resilience and help fight the effects of climate change, and allow the river to fulfill its role in supporting native fish, orca and the other wildlife who rely on healthy salmon and healthy waters. A freely flowing lower Snake River will benefit all peoples and communities who cherish and depend upon the river and its gifts for fishing, hunting, cultural traditions, renewal, recreation and more.
Read more about the All Our Relations Snake River Campaign:
- Lewiston-Tribune: Demonstrators gather for a free-flowing Snake River
- Sierra Club: Native Welder Crafts Artwork to Help Free the Snake River Salmon
- NWPB: As Biden negotiates future of lower Snake River dams, Northwest tribes push for removal
- Watch the Town Hall Seattle livestream here
On behalf of the Nez Perce and other Northwest Tribes, we invite you to join SOS in attending the Rise Up Northwest in Unity Convening on Nov. 1 and 2.
The R.U.N. in Unity Convening will bring together partners and allies to connect and unify voices, and develop and implement best practices for the protection and preservation of water, orca, and salmon in the Northwest. This two-day event will prioritize education, cultural awareness, and the exchange of ideas to address the urgent needs of water, orca, and salmon through the formulation of solutions and strategies to build a stronger, smarter, and more resilient Northwest. The R.U.N. in Unity Convening is free, open to the public and will focus on providing clear, precise, and factual information to empower informed decision-making.
- Dates: November 1st to November 2nd, 2023
- Location: Tulalip Resort, Tulalip, Washington
- Register here
- This event is free and open to all, including Tribal and Non-Profit Organization voices.
SOS is excited to participate in the R.U.N. in Unity Convening on Nov. 1 and 2 - and we hope you will be able to attend as well. We will share additional information re: speakers, activities, etc, as additional details become available. If you have questions in the meantime, please contact Abby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Covenant of the Salmon People is a moving portrait film of the Nez Perce Tribe as they continue to carry out their ancient promise to protect salmon—a keystone species and the first food their people have subsisted on since time immemorial. Today, the Tribe is facing the extirpation of their most prized salmon species. The widespread construction of dams across their Traditional lands is driving these fish to extinction. Restoring a free-flowing lower Snake River is the Tribe’s very best option today to uphold their ancient agreement with salmon and to save the species from extinction. Learn more about this powerful film here and look for an upcoming screening near you:
October 18, 2023 | 7:00pm PDT
Majestic Bay Theaters, Seattle, WA
October 24, 2023 | 6:00 - 7:30 pm PDT
Everett Public Library, Everett, WA
October 26, 2023 | 5:30 - 7:00 pm PDT
Dungeness River Nature Center / Rainshadow Hall, Sequim, WA
November 2, 2023 | 5:00 - 7:00 pm MDT
University Center Theater, Missoula, MT
November 6, 2023 | 6:00 pm PDT
Compton Union Building (CUB) Auditorium, Pullman, WA
Registration is NOT REQUIRED for this event!
November 9, 2023 | 5:30 - 7:30 pm PDT
Dungeness River Nature Center / Rainshadow Hall, Sequim, WA
November 14, 2023 | 6:00 pm PDT
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
'Salt and Other Spells' by Sarah Stockton
Inspired by the spawning cycle of
salmon in the Dosewallips River
We were water once
salt and sediment into scales
moving from sea into sweet water
fresh to salt
to spawn, traveling
in deep-sea channels
from silvery blue
to darker, going home
as we, floundering at water's edge,
turn in four directions
three visions, seven cycles,
bowing to salmon slipping through water
I Sing the Salmon Home: Poems from Washington State, is edited by Rena Priest and published by Empty Bowl Press. The anthology features more than 150 Washington poets ranging from first graders to Tribal Elders, all inspired by the Northwest's beloved, iconic salmon. You can purchase the anthology here.
Sarah Stockton is the founder/editor of River Mouth Review. She is also the author of no poetry chapbooks: Time's Apprentice (dancing girl press, 2021) and Castaway (Glass Lyre Press, 2022). More published poems can be found at www.sarahstockton.com. Sarah lives in Port Townsend.
Watch Primal Drive by John Gussman, a captivating video of a coho salmon leaping through the Salmon Cascades on the Sol Duc River (Olympic Peninsula, WA) on their way home to spawn.
About John Gussman: After getting a degree in photography, John Gussman began working full-time in 1973 as a staff photographer for a newspaper in the Bay Area. Moving to Washington State in 1979 to be closer to wilderness, and with Olympic National Park as his backyard, he began to photograph this new natural playground. In 1982 John began his own business, Doubleclick Productions, and found he had a natural talent for photographing architecture and other commercial location work. Working locally and abroad, John actively seeks projects to help tell the stories of companies, non-profits, and environmental organizations to help tell the story of the planet. Learn more about John Gussman and his work here.
Here are some recent stories about the urgency and opportunity today for the Snake River and salmon recovery:
- NWPB: As Biden negotiates future of lower Snake River dams, Northwest tribes push for removal (Oct. 6, 2023)
- Lewiston-Tribune: Demonstrators gather for a free-flowing Snake River (Oct. 01, 2023)
- Spokesman-Review: 'This is historic': Biden orders whole-of-government effort to restore salmon in Columbia, Snake rivers (Sept. 27, 2023)
- Seattle Times: President Biden calls for abundant salmon in Columbia, Snake rivers (Sept. 27, 2023)
- Lewiston Tribune: Feds back tribal-led salmon campaign (Sept. 22, 2023)
- The Oregonian LTE: Give environment a voice in modernized treaty (Oct. 15, 2023)
- KNKX: For first time since dam removal, a fishery opens on the Elwha (Oct. 11, 2023)
- Seattle Times: Tribe catches coho salmon on free-flowing Elwha River, a first since dam removals (Oct. 10, 2023)
- Vox: How a California tribe won their ancestral land back and saved endangered salmon (Oct 9, 2023)