IN THIS ISSUE:
1. Conservation and business advocates oppose new legislation that would overturn court decision and push imperiled wild salmon populations closer to extinction
2. University of Washington Study: Lack of salmon increasing orca reproductive problems
3. Columbia River Treaty: New economic analysis confirms the Columbia River Basin's immense natural capital value
4. New science webinar: Born to be wild - How science can inform recovery of Idaho salmon and steelhead
5. Spokane churches and Tribal members gather on the banks of the Lower Snake River
6. Patagonia focuses Northwest events this summer on campaign to “Free the Snake!”
7. Save the Date: 3rd Annual "Free the Snake!" Rally on the river - September 8 and 9, 2017
1. Conservation and business advocates oppose legislation that would overturn court decision and push imperiled wild salmon populations closer to extinction
Business and conservation leaders from across the Pacific Northwest announced their strong opposition to a U.S. House bill that would overturn a decision by the U.S. District Court in Portland finding that the federal government is not doing enough to rebuild endangered salmon and steelhead populations. The legislation would rubberstamp the failed recovery efforts of the federal government, which has spent more than $10 billion without recovering a single endangered salmon population.
On June 29, Pacific Northwest Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Kurt Schrader (OR-05), and Greg Walden (OR-02) introduced legislation that seeks to block a federal court order requiring increased protections of threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia and Snake Rivers. The bill is aimed at an April decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon that requires federal, state and tribal fisheries experts to work together to improve conditions in the Columbia and Snake Rivers for baby salmon that migrate to the ocean in the Spring. The Court’s Order would take effect in April, 2018.
In the meantime, state, federal and tribal fisheries experts have been working together this spring and summer to reach an agreement on the details of dam operations under the Court’s Order. McMorris-Rodgers' new bill would stifle this cooperation and harm salmon survival and recovery efforts. The bill is also aimed at the May 2016 decision by the Court that rejected the federal government’s most recent plan to protect endangered wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. Last year's decision was the fifth consecutive plan deemed illegal by three different judges across two decades. As the Court observed in that decision: "For more than 20 years . . . federal agencies have . . . continued to focus essentially on the same approach to saving the listed species—hydro-mitigation efforts that minimize the effect on hydropower generation [and] focus on habitat restoration. These efforts have already cost billions of dollars, yet they are failing."
This bill, if it becomes law, would lock in the failed, illegal and costly 2014 Federal Salmon Plan for the Columbia/Snake Rivers until 2022 and prohibit any use of federal funds to study (!) the costs, benefits and potential tradeoffs associated with lower Snake River dam removal. In other words, it takes a head-in-the-sand approach to policymaking, overturning the judicial branch and increasing the likelihood of salmon extinctions and orca deaths in the years ahead. This divisive bill will lead to further litigation, further costs for regional businesses and energy consumers, and increased uncertainty about the future.
See the full press release from SOS and its partners here.
TAKE ACTION: If you live in the Pacific Northwest states, please send a letter/make a phone call to your Congressional member: express your strong opposition to this harmful, costly, divisive bill. If your Member of Congress sponsored this bill (McMorris-Rodgers, Newhouse, Herrera-Beutler in WA, Walden and Schrader in OR) express your strong displeasure. If your Northwest Member of Congress (WA, ID, OR) did not join this bill, please reach out and thank them!
2. University of Washington Study: Lack of salmon causing orca reproductive problems
A new study by Dr. Sam Wasser, Director of the University of Washington's Center for Conservation Biology, finds that the lack of chinook salmon is a primary cause of the endangered Southern Resident Orcas' failure to rebuild their population. The study measured hormone levels collected in orca scat and found that pregnant nutritionally stressed females were far more likely to lose their calves before or very soon after birth. 31 percent of pregnant females successfully birthed calves while 69 percent were lost. Scientists also indicate that the number of lost calves is likely higher due to difficulties in detecting pregnancy.
In the Pacific Northwest, chinook salmon populations have plummeted by more than 90 percent in recent decades due largely to the destruction of and inaccessibility to healthy freshwater habitat in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and across the West Coast. Southern Resident Orcas rely on primarily on chinook salmon to meet their nutritional needs and are struggling today to find adequate prey to survive and increase their critically low numbers. Today just 78 individual whales remain; NOAA listed this whale population as endangered in 2006. In 2015, NOAA included the Southern Residents as one of eight "species in the spotlight" - species highly likely to go extinct in the very near future without immediate help/action.
Removing four federal dams and restoring a freely-flowing lower Snake River in southeast Washington State is our best opportunity to restore the large numbers of chinook salmon that these orca need to survive and recover. Although dam removal is not a silver bullet for either endangered Snake River salmon or Southern Resident orcas, it is very difficult for experts to see how these populations avoid extinction and recover while these high-cost, low-value dams remain in place.
Seattle Times: A new study nails dearth of chinook salmon as the primary cause of the endangered resident orca whale’s failure to rebound (June 28, 2017)
3. New Economic Analysis: The Columbia River Basin Holds Immense Natural Capital Value
A new study from Tacoma (WA) based Earth Economics shows that the Columbia River Basin’s natural capital provides $198 billion in value annually, in food, water, flood risk reduction, recreation, habitat, aesthetic and other benefits. At 258,000 square miles, the Columbia River Basin is the foundation for communities, wildlife and economic activity from the mouth of the river to Wyoming, from British Columbia to Utah encompassing most of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Fifteen Columbia Basin Tribes and several non-governmental organizations including the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition contributed to and supported the development of this report.
The report also shows that modernizing the U.S. - Canada Columbia River Treaty by improving dam management and increasing water flows in low water years would greatly enhance the basin’s natural capital value by enhancing salmon, steelhead and other valuable fish runs. A modest 10% increase in ecosystem-based function would add $19 billion per year to the basin’s value. The report’s release comes at a critical time for the renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty. Both the United States and Canada have been preparing to begin talks to modernize the Treaty. Adding ecosystem-based function - the health of the river - as a new Treaty purpose is a top priority of Columbia Basin Tribes and conservation, fishing and faith groups in the United States.
"This report comes at a time when the region is poised to take a historic step to modernize the Columbia River Treaty," stated Jaime A. Pinkham, Executive Director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. "There is vast potential for natural capital remaining in the Columbia River system. These findings tell negotiators that incorporating ecosystem based function (health of the river) into the Treaty will broaden and expand the economic benefits that can co-exist with flood control and energy production. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity.”
View the press release from Columbia Basin Tribes and Conservation Organizations here.
4. New science webinar available online: Born to be wild: How science can inform recovery of Idaho salmon and steelhead (June 2017)
Two of the Northwest’s most respected salmon biologists teamed up recently to give an online presentation sharing their expertise and perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing endangered wild salmon and steelhead that call the Snake River Basin home. Dr. Rick Williams and Dr. Russ Thurow are both top-notch scientists and excellent communicators. They recently teamed up at the USFS Research Center in Boise to discuss what we know about Snake River wild salmon and steelhead and why despite thousands of miles of excellent river and stream habitat in the wilderness and wild lands of central Idaho, they remain at risk of extinction. Hint: there are four big problems downstream.
Dr. Williams provides an overview of the challenges wild salmon and steelhead face in the Columbia/Snake Basin; Dr. Thurow focuses in especially to the salmon and their circumstances in central Idaho where he has conducted field research every year for decades. Their 1-hour joint presentation online was recorded and can now be viewed online. It includes the Q&A session. This is a very informative presentation by two of the best in the field. Don’t miss it!
5. Spokane churches and Tribal members gather on the banks of the lower Snake
On June 10, three Spokane churches--Salem Lutheran, St. Mark’s Lutheran, and St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral visited the lower Snake River to discuss, salmon, dams, and treaty rights with members of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, a Nez Perce tribal conservation organization. They met at Wawawai, once a gathering place for the tribes before it became an orchard town. Wawawai now sits underwater as a result of nearby Lower Granite Dam. This special place and its history served as the backdrop for the first of what will hopefully prove to be many interfaith events focused on the restoration of wild salmon.
Judeo-Christian scriptures regularly refer to the interconnectedness and life-giving properties of all the waters of the Earth, from Genesis to Christ’s baptism in the Jordan. The Pacific Northwest is also defined by its water. Citizens and businesses utilize one of the world’s great waterways, the Columbia and Snake rivers, for recreation, sustenance and industry.
Members of the Inland Northwest Christian community joined leaders of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment to confront a difficult past and look ahead to the future. Attendees recognized the fact that not so long ago Jesuit priests burned Kalispel canoes, Presbyterian missionaries forced a sedentary lifestyle upon the Nez Perce, and that countless others promoted construction of dams that have devastated the salmon cultures of local tribes. We cannot undo many of these things, and we must not forget them.
The day was marked by excellent weather, with time generously given to all in attendance to introduce themselves, ask questions, and be heard. A portion of the group walked up the hillside to catch a glimpse of Lower Granite Dam while exploring some of the economic issues surrounding the retention and removal of the four Lower Snake Dams. Bryan Jones, a farmer out of Dusty, Washington, joined to share his perspective on this set of issues for the farming community. Nez Perce Tribal members Elliot Moffett and Gary Dorr discussed treaty law and the efforts of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment to uphold them.
Stay tuned for additional interfaith events sponsored by SOS member organization Friends of the Clearwater, and a Loaves and Fishes event in Spokane in the Fall to celebrate and hear the concerns of the food producers of our region.
A. Patagonia Portland celebrates its new store with “Free the Snake!” Reception: Patagonia continues its amazing leadership to restore the lower Snake and its endangered salmon and steelhead by hosting a reception at its newly relocated store in downtown Portland. On June 22, with Always With Honor artwork featured prominently on its 10-foot windows, nearly 100 people gathered with staff and supporters of Patagonia, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and Save Our wild Salmon for food and refreshments, speakers and multimedia. The evening began with Tribal music by the Four Directions, by Nez Perce Harold Paul, his daughter Harmony, and fellow drummer Richard. Mr. Paul has been drumming and singing for nearly 40 years, and teaching his craft for 25. Video presentations and speakers from Patagonia, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and SOS followed their performance.
B. Patagonia (Seattle) to Celebrate 30 years in Seattle with a party and benefit for SOS - July 13!
On Thursday, July 13 – 7 to 10 pm - Patagonia will celebrate 30 years in Seattle (2100 First Ave in Belltown), and SOS is honored to join the party! We’ll be there with materials, new t-shirts, bumperstickers, action items and information. Proceeds from the party will benefit our work to restore a freely-flowing lower Snake River and its endangered salmon and steelhead. All are welcome. Hope to see you there – to celebrate an amazing, visionary company - it's sure to be a hoot!
7. Save the Date: 3rd Annual Flotilla and Rally to Free the Snake!
Mark your calendars! September 8 and 9, 2017, for the 3rd Annual “Free the Snake!” Rally and Recreational Flotilla. Camping at Chief Timothy State Park on the banks of the lower Snake River (well – the banks of the reservoir that - for now - has buried the river). It’s just 15 minutes outside of Clarkston (WA) in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley straddling the ID-WA border.
This year we’re featuring speakers and live music on Friday in the late afternoon/evening. We’ll launch the Flotilla on Saturday morning at 10 am. Spread the word, bring your friends and family, bring a boat (or not – we’ll try to find you a spot in a boat, or you can stay on shore and welcome us on our return).
Mark your calendar, stay tuned for additional details, and if you have any questions in the meantime: please contact Sam Mace at email@example.com