Going National

From the desk of Pat Ford

NYTimes adSave Our wild Salmon launched our campaign to restore the Snake River and its salmon by removing four dams in 1998.  One objective was to make this a national issue.  An early initiative was four full-page ads in the New York Times in late 1999.

The idea was Dr. Steve Pauley’s, a fisherman with salmon passion and knowledge.  In 1999 the Army Corps of Engineers had an environmental statement underway on dam options for salmon; SOS and our members were organizing massive public comment at hearings and by mail. We were mulling how else to reach Al Gore and the administration. Steve broached the ad idea to Doug Christensen, an Idaho conservation leader with his wife Ann, and Wendy Wilson of Idaho Rivers United.  They began the overlapping jobs of vetting the idea, fundraising, seeking sponsors, and creating content.  

Steve and Doug were already talking to the Nez Perce Tribe and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, pursuing knowledge and alliance.  They asked CRITFC to co-sponsor the ads, and CRITFC agreed- a big step for breadth and credibility. Various conservation groups also signed on, as did Taxpayers for Common $ense and SOS.

Steve Pauley, Doug and Ann Christensen, and Charles Stevenson, all from Idaho, put up much of the funding, and others chipped in lesser amounts.  (Wendy recalls a fundraiser at Pauley’s home.)  Then came Yvon Chouinard and Patagonia.  Yvon added a final piece of funding, and Patagonia (thank you John Sterling) lent its professional graphics shop.  What had been until then “too many cooks in the kitchen” as regards themes and text began to take solid shape.    

The ads appeared four successive weeks in October and November 1999.  The themes were science, economic and taxpayer issues, Tribal rights, and an appeal to the heart, with bold design and visuals.  Readers were asked to contact Vice-President Gore and the Clinton Administration.  The final list of sponsoring groups included: Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Idaho Rivers United, American Rivers, Taxpayers for Common $ense, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Save Our wild Salmon, and Patagonia.

The ads did not achieve their objective – that the Clinton Administration issue a science-based salmon plan with a clear path to dam removal – but they were fruitful in other essentials.  As Wendy points out, “No one cared much what salmon defenders thought in 1998.  Now people do, and leaders do.”  The ads, plus massive public response to the Army Corps’ EIS, put us at that level, and with much other work we’ve stayed there.

This was also our first big partnership with Patagonia.  Except for the sport and commercial fishing businesses already within SOS, that began our continuous business outreach.  The seeds of last year’s letter from 1100+ American businesses to the Obama Administration asking for stakeholder talks were sown then.  

The idea for the ads, and the funds, didn’t come from SOS or the national groups.  It came from passionate people who cared – enough to ignore first doubts from “experts,” including myself.  Wendy remembers the fundraiser at Steve and Marilyn Pauley’s as when she got it that what people with passion want to do is more important than what experts think – because building the spreading fire that ever-wider circles of people with passion create is how large and difficult campaigns, like this one, are won.

Normally I’d end by thanking Steve, Doug and Ann, Charles, Yvon, the Tribes, and Wendy for making the ads real.  But Doug Christensen died 3 months ago, after a long distinguished walk upon earth, filled with living and giving.  What Doug and Ann have given Idaho, and salmon, and conservation, is past words.  So is the energy, intellect, and spirit Doug gave day by day to we who knew him.  God bless you, Doug.

Save Our wild Salmon is a diverse, nationwide coalition working together to restore wild salmon and steelhead to the rivers, streams and marine waters of the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of our region's ecology, economy and culture.

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