FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 27, 2023
Save Our wild Salmon Coalition applauds today’s Presidential Memorandum prioritizing the federal government’s salmon recovery commitments - and directing immediate actions to protect and restore 'healthy and abundant' salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia-Snake River facing extinction today.
“Conservation and fishing advocates from across the Northwest and the nation applaud the historic Memorandum issued by President Biden today”, 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, a “whole of government” approach is required, and agencies must immediately align priorities, plans, and actions to ensure the United States is meeting its Treaty obligations to Pacific 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.”
With this Memorandum, President Biden is directing action by all relevant federal agencies to leverage and prioritize existing authorities and resources to restore abundant native fish populations, on an urgent timeline. The President is also directing the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to explore opportunities to develop partnerships with Tribal Nations and States in the Pacific Northwest to ensure that Federal, Tribal, and State entities work together to achieve this obligation.
Restoring healthy, fishable wild salmon and steelhead populations and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to communities, other fish and wildlife species including endangered Southern Resident orcas, and freshwater and marine ecosystems is critical for maintaining and strengthening our region’s economy, culture and ecosystems.
Our coalition of conservation and fishing advocates believes that durable solutions must right historic wrongs and restore healthy, self-sustaining fish populations across the Columbia Basin. It should re-establish passage and reintroduce salmon in blocked areas, and protect, restore and reconnect degraded mainstem and tributary habitat, including the removal of the four lower Snake River dams.
In addition to federal action and investments to restore the lower Snake River, a comprehensive plan must support ongoing Washington State efforts to plan for and replace the limited services provided by these four dams. We can effectively modernize our energy, transportation, and irrigation infrastructure as we also work to stop the extinction of Snake River salmon and steelhead.
Restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River is not only essential for protecting its imperiled anadromous fish populations. It also represents one of our nation’s very best salmon recovery opportunities today. Lower Snake River dam removal will restore 140 miles of mainstem river habitat in southeast Washington State and re-establish productive access for endangered fish to more than 5,500 miles of pristine, protected, high elevation upstream habitat in northeast Oregon, central Idaho and southeast Washington State. It will significantly increase survival of salmon and steelhead in the Snake River Basin by reducing water temperatures, dam powerhouse encounters, disease, reservoir predation, energy expenditure and out-migration travel time.
Steep declines in these wild fish populations are harming communities and businesses across the Northwest. Dozens of populations and sub-populations of salmon and steelhead have already been driven to extinction. Many populations that remain return are at less than 5 percent their historic levels. In 2023 and in countless other years, record or near-record low fish returns to the Columbia River and its tributaries have caused Tribal, recreational and commercial fisheries to be severely constrained and/or cancelled, causing significant economic loss across our region.
Conservation and fishing advocates appreciate the focused efforts recently to develop a lawful plan to restore salmon abundance in the Columbia and Snake rivers, but must emphasize that many populations, including all stocks remaining in the Snake River Basin – sockeye, spring/summer and fall chinook, and steelhead – face certain extinction without immediate, meaningful, science-based recovery actions. Salmon and steelhead – and the orcas and other fish and wildlife that depend upon them – are simply running out of time.