WSSNWild Salmon & Steelhead News is published 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 Carrie Herrman.


1. Restoring the Snake River and its salmon is about social justice
2. Tribes work to bring salmon home to the Upper Columbia River Basin
3. 'Wild Salmon Webinar Series' - Join us Thursday - April 15 at 6 pm PT!
4. 'Dam Removal Success Stories 2021' - Restoring the Elwha River - #3 in a 5-part series
5. An interview with Northwest artist Lisa Gilley
6. Shout-out for a pro-salmon business - Lark Restaurant
 (Seattle, WA)

1. Restoring the Snake River and its salmon is about social justice

Screen Shot 2021 04 14 at 11.23.04 AMRemoving the four lower Snake River dams will restore the Snake River along with its iconic creatures – including its wild salmon, steelhead, and lamprey. Indeed, it is our single best opportunity to restore abundant salmon runs anywhere on the West Coast. It will benefit struggling sport, commercial, and tribal fishing economies and communities, and is an essential piece of the puzzle for saving critically endangered Southern Resident orcas who desperately need more chinook salmon in order to survive and rebuild their population.

Restoring the once-abundant salmon runs of the Snake River is also fundamentally about keeping faith with the treaties our nation signed more than 150 years ago with Northwest tribes. We must honor our commitments to the tribes and break the long-standing cycle of neglect and failure. Recently, eleven Northwest tribal leaders called on Congress and President Biden to uphold the federal government’s commitment to tribes and save salmon by removing the lower Snake River dams. These leaders wrote “Salmon are inseparable from who we are...Even as our ancestors’ lives and homelands were threatened, they made sure to protect within the treaties our ancestral salmon lifeway. Those treaties were promises made by the United States Government. Those promises must be kept.”

1NPT.boy1 copyIn early February 2021, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) unveiled a groundbreaking proposal to restore the lower Snake River and make comprehensive and strategic investments to assure the Northwest's energy system, farms, and local communities remain strong and vibrant.

In response to this proposal, Yakama Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin said, “We have reached a tipping point where we must choose between our Treaty-protected salmon and the federal dams. And we choose salmon.” Sharing a similar sentiment, Chairman Shannon Wheeler of the Nez Perce Tribe commented, “We view restoring the lower Snake River – a living being to us, and one that is injured – as urgent and overdue. Congressman Simpson, in focusing on the facts and on a solution speaks the truth – that restoring salmon and the lower Snake River can also reunite and strengthen regional communities and economies.”

For many, the restoration of the Snake River is a social justice issue. A recent letter from the Washington Black Lives Matter Steering Committee sent to the Washington congressional delegation made a powerful statement of solidarity with the tribes noting that “restoring salmon is a human rights issue.” They further stated, “In the same way we as Black people have heard from elected leaders that they need more time to act on racial justice, Indigenous people have heard ‘we need more time’ to prevent the salmon extinction. In his 'Letter from Birmingham Jail', Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, ‘Wait has almost always meant “Never.”’”

1mccoy.workman copySOS believes we must restore the Snake River and its salmon and stand in solidarity with the tribes. Passing on this natural heritage of resilient rivers and healthy fish and wildlife to future generations is part of our responsibility as well.

Representative Simpson’s proposal provides a solid foundation to restore the salmon, honor tribal communities, and make investments to both address the impacts of removal and ensure the future of the Northwest. His proposal is not perfect. It has holes that need to be filled, and changes and improvements to some parts. But it has the right comprehensive framework. What is missing right now is leadership from the Washington congressional delegation.

We have the most powerful congressional delegation since the storied days of Scoop Jackson and Warren Magnuson. Our salmon and orca need urgent action today or we will lose them. Senator Maria Cantwell is Chair of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and Senator Murray is in Senate leadership and serves on the Appropriations Committee. Rep. Kilmer serves on the House Appropriations Committee with Rep. Simpson. Right now, our delegation has the positions and clout to work with Rep. Simpson and other Congressional members to shape the kind of legislative package that is needed. Northwest tribes deserve our legislators' best effort and support. Future generations are counting on us to do our jobs – now.

take action copyHOW YOU CAN HELP: If you live in the Pacific Northwest (OR, WA, AK, ID, MT), please use this link to ask your Senators and House member to step forward, seize this opportunity and work with others to develop a comprehensive solution that works for salmon, orca, tribes – and all of us.

And, regardless of where you call home, please sign this petition to the Biden Administration to support a comprehensive solution to restore Northwest salmon, uphold our responsibilities to Northwest Tribes, and invest in the region's communities and infrastructure.

Thank you.

For further information:

Tribal Leaders Letter Calls on Congress and President Biden to Honor the Treaties Made with Northwest Tribes (March 18, 2021)

Letter from the Yakama Nation to Oregon and Washington State Senators expressing its strong support for Congressman Simpson’s proposal. (March 9, 2021)

Seattle Times: Salmon People: A tribe’s decades-long fight to take down the Lower Snake River dams and restore a way of life. (Nov. 29, 2020)

2. Tribes work to bring salmon home to the Upper Columbia River Basin

logoThanks to hard work by the Upper Columbia United Tribes, salmon are returning to streams empty of fish for nearly a century.    Dams constructed in the 1930s and '40s without fish ladders extirpated once-abundant salmon fisheries important to Tribes in the upper Columbia Basin. It is estimated that historically the upper Columbia River Tribes caught more than 644,000 fish every year, sustaining a people and culture built around wild salmon and healthy rivers.  Built in 1910, Little Falls dam blocked the famed chinook salmon—known as “June Hogs” because of their enormous size—from returning to the Spokane River and its tributaries. The "hogs" could exceed 5 feet in length and often weighed more than 100 pounds. Plentiful steelhead populations were also decimated.  Today, passage is blocked further downstream on the Columbia River - at the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams.    upcolmapDespite these obstacles newly hatched salmon were found in Tshimakain Creek this spring, a tributary of the Spokane River, the offspring of 750 yearling Chinook placed up above the dams last year by the Spokane Tribe. The baby salmon are the result of a reintroduction project lead by the Spokane Tribe. The first phase looked at available habitat and carrying capacity in Upper Columbia tributaries. The second phase has involved planting salmon in streams and monitoring survivability and the number of redds (the in-river 'nest' where a female salmon lays her eggs).    Studies have determined that there are 711 miles of habitat for Spring Chinook and 1610 miles for summer steelhead in the Upper Columbia basin—if fish can access it. There are challenges to solving that problem, including dams without passage and the size and length of Lake Roosevelt, the reservoir behind Grand Coulee. But the Tribes are determined to overcome these obstacles - and have made impressive progress in recent years. Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson’s Northwest in Transition proposal to restore salmon to Idaho by removing the four lower Snake River dams and investing in infrastructure and communities includes a $700 million fund to assist in returning salmon above blocked areas in the Columbia Basin. We hope that Senators Murray and Cantwell will work urgently with others to develop and advance a comprehensive solution to our Columbia basin salmon crisis that removes the Snake River dams to restore salmon to the Columbia’s largest tributary, and support the hard work of the Spokane, Colville, and other Upper Tribes to bring salmon back to the Upper Columbia.    For more information check out this article in the Spokesman-Review.

3. 'Wild Salmon Webinar Series' - Join us Thursday - April 15 at 6 pm PT!

2021.3.webinarJoin us for the last installment of our online speaker series (via zoom) on April 15 from 6:00 to 7:30 pm PT - 'Dam Removal Success Stories - Rivers Restored and Lessons Learned'. With guest speakers Shawn Cantrell (Defenders of Wildlife) and Serena McClain (American Rivers).

Here's a link to our Facebook event page - for further information and to share with your networks!

For more information about our third and final webinar this spring, visit here.

You can RSVP here!

If you missed our first two webinars in our spring series, don’t worry! We’ve got recordings! You can find them on our YouTube channel.

Have questions? Reach out to

4. 'Dam Removal Success Stories 2021' - Restoring the Elwha River - #3 in a 5-part series

1This spring, Save Our Wild Salmon and American Rivers are teaming up for a 5-part series spotlighting dam removal success stories from across the Northwest and the nation. These short, informal ‘case studies’ take a close look at recent dam removal projects and explore some of these projects’ economic, community, ecological, and social justice outcomes.

All of the stories share themes of renewal, opportunity, and benefit. Dam removal projects frequently start with a struggle over values and visions. In a successful case, this is followed by conflict resolution and collaboration. Persistence is required in nearly all cases, but the payoff is high. River restoration projects - 69 dams were removed across the United States just in 2020! - invariably deliver significant benefits to communities, economies, and ecosystems - and have transformed many a skeptic to supporter.

Restoring the Elwha River: The third story in our series focuses on the Elwha River, which flows from the Olympic National Park in Washington State into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In 2011, the federal government and partners led the deconstruction of the Glines Canyon Dam and the Elwha Dam, providing new access to 70 miles of pristine spawning grounds and fish habitat. After ten years of a free-flowing river, fish populations venture upstream and spawn in previously inaccessible habitats. Other wildlife, including bears, cougars, mink, otters, and even America’s only aquatic songbird, the American dipper, are also returning to the area. Once blocked by the dams, huge amounts of sediment have moved downriver, creating 70 acres of estuary habitat that is home to sardines, anchovies, crabs, shrimp, gulls, and other birds. 
While extensive restoration work remains to be done, recovery trends are encouraging. “The story of the Elwha is: We can do it. We can overcome a century of harm. We can work together. We can restore a river. We can show our grandchildren what commitment, responsibility, and stewardship look like. We can be the beneficiaries of an abundance of riches that flow from a river that runs free,” said Bob Irvin, President of American Rivers.

Read our full story about the Elwha River.

Look for our fourth “success story” next month, spotlighting the Patapsco River in central Maryland!

5. An interview with Northwest artist Lisa GilleyLisaAndElsaAboveSnakeRiver

Artist Lisa Gilley has spent her entire life on or near the water, be that a salty ocean or salmon-bearing streams. Growing up in Mt. Vernon, WA on a farm – Lisa’s family was the first to grow marionberries in the Skagit River Valley – gave her an appreciation of hard work, open spaces, and the places where we can meet nature up close and personal. It also gave her an appreciation for the quality of light and how it changes throughout the day. Ask Lisa and she will tell you she paints the light and the landscapes follow.

Your work is magnificent with its large-scale, sweeping views. Why do you paint landscapes?

I've been a landscape painter for many years. Landscapes fulfill something deep inside me. It’s my way of telling a story about a place that matters. I want to make a difference in the world through my art. My work offers a place to start a conversation about the places I paint. Some may think that landscape paintings are naive in today's art world but I think people need something familiar in order to grasp bigger issues.

It’s true. Grounding people in a common interest or goal can connect strangers. Can you offer an example of how your landscapes draw people into conversations?

I don't supply a narrative with my work but discussions find their way to the table. The landscapes I chose to paint are rare and beautiful places—and endangered, much like the salmon that Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson is trying to save with his comprehensive proposal. People standing in front of my work want to know where these places are and that is how the discussion begins. The paintings offer an entry point and common ground to start talking about stewardship and issues like pollution, dams, and global warming. It doesn't matter whether or not the person is a conservative or a liberal because in that particular moment they realized we share the same interest - a landscape, a river, salmon, and steelhead. Some call it a ‘soft sell.’ I like to think of it as planting the seed.

Recently, I saw a painting you did of the Salmon River. How did you choose to paint that location?

My husband Chris and I love to fly fish. In 2015, I started a new body of work called Chasing the Snake that documents the Snake River. Over the years I have traveled, fished, and documented the river, its canyons, and its tributaries in Washington and Oregon. My plan is to continue the travel, fish, and paint the Snake River all the way to its source in the Tetons. This is all in an attempt to keep alive the conversation around this river and its needs.

Can you offer us an idea of the scale of the Snake River?

Historically Lewis and Clark navigated this river. The Snake River is the 13th largest river in the United States and its watershed is the 10th largest in North America. Its headwaters are just inside Yellowstone National Park. From there it runs through Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, and Washington. The Snake River is the largest tributary to the Columbia River. The mighty river runs through many protected areas including Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National and Park, and Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. We need to help preserve the sections that are still wild and free-flowing. And, of course, we need to restore the 140 mile stretch in southeast Washington!

What are some of the challenges that face the Snake River where it isn’t protected as part of a national park or national recreation area?

The Snake River is one of the most controversial rivers in the United States. The lower four Snake River dams are barriers to fish passage. The Shoshone and Nez Perce were once able to feed their families from the waters of the Snake. Today, one out of every two juvenile salmon is killed while migrating to the ocean because they can't survive the hydropower system and the warming waters of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Growing up on a farm gives me an appreciation for the needs of the farmers in eastern Washington. I also worked as a deckhand on a salmon boat out of La Conner (WA) in my teens and twenties. If we brought the farmers and fishermen together they would find that they have a lot in common. We need leadership that can help make that happen before we lose the wild fish of the Snake River.

How can people do their part to help the Snake River and its salmon and steelhead?

Get out there and enjoy the River! Experience how wonderful and awe-inspiring it is from every angle. Once you have seen it you will have no doubt what to say when people ask you why you care. Tell your neighbors and friends about your amazing family trip to the Snake River. You will spark their imagination. The most important and urgent thing is to engage our elected officials in conversation and ask for their leadership in saving this last stronghold for our wild salmon and steelhead. Call them, write to them, and send a picture of you knee-deep in the water of the Snake River. A picture is worth a thousand words.

* * *

You can learn more about Lisa Gilley and her art on her website ( and by following her on Instagram (@lisa_gilley). The Woodside Braseth Gallery in Seattle represents Lisa Gilley and her art:

6. Shout-out for a pro-salmon business - Lark Restaurant
 (Seattle, WA)

Screen Shot 2021 04 14 at 11.17.22 AMEach month, Save Our Wild Salmon likes to spotlight a business that supports healthy lands, waters, and fish and wildlife - and healthy foods! This month it is Lark - a restaurant in Seattle, WA.

In 2003, Chef John Sundstrom opened Lark with J.M. Enos and Kelly Ronan. Located in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, Lark's menu features small plates of locally produced and organic foods including cheese, charcuterie, vegetables, grains, meats, and fish. Chef Sundstrom has long been a leader in the ‘eat local’ food movement and for decades he has served the concept to Seattle eaters one dish at a time.

The local food movement has changed the way people eat and the way chefs create their menus. With examples of locally sourced food items found throughout the Lark menu, it reads like a map of the Pacific Northwest. Grains like emmer farro and rye from Bluebird Grains Farm in Winthrop, WA will find their way into salads or substituted for rice in a signature risotto. Lark serves house-made bread that starts with flour from Smalls Family Farm in Walla Walla, WA. Menu items change based on what the seasons have to offer such as fresh halibut from Neah Bay. Come the beginning of May wild salmon from the Washington coast will grace Lark’s menu.

Washington salmon has a friend in Chef Sundstrom. Lark has served as the venue for all 16 of the annual Washington Salmon Lunches that have been co-hosted by the Coastal Trollers Association and the Makah Tribe. The lunch brings chefs and food writers together with members of the Makah Tribe and commercial fishermen that fish out of Neah Bay, WA. Part celebration for the return of salmon and part educational opportunity, guests enjoy a salmon lunch while learning the role of salmon for tribal traditions and as an economic driver for coastal economies.

Each year a different expert on salmon will act as keynote speaker at the lunch. With a roundtable format for conversation, the chefs and media learn the important role they can play as stewards to salmon and the river habitat that salmon need. With 60 to 70 guests in attendance, salmon knowledge is shared along with a delectable salmon lunch prepared and served with care by the talented Lark crew.

Had it not been for the emergence of COVID-19, May of 2020 would have marked the 17th Annual Washington Salmon Lunch at Lark and May of 2021 the 18th lunch. It is with great expectations chefs and food professionals await the time when they can all gather together again over lunch at Lark and recognizer the importance of wild salmon to the economy, culture, and ecology of the Pacific Northwest. And when the time comes Chef Sundstrom will be ready to prepare another memorable meal with Washington salmon in the center of the plate.

Share This