October 21, 2021
Lapwai, Idaho — Today the Nez Perce Tribe (Tribe) joined the State of Oregon and conservation and fishing group plaintiffs, together with the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Agencies, in asking the Oregon Federal District Court to stay Columbia Power System litigation through July 31, 2022, in order to allow for discussion of comprehensive litigation solutions. The stay is based on a short-term agreement filed with the Court that sets 2022 hydropower measures that compromise the preliminary injunction measures requested by Oregon and the conservation plaintiffs, and supported by the Tribe, that are pending before the Court.
“Salmon and steelhead are at a crisis. Short-term measures are not the answer. We all know that. But this temporary compromise, which provides incremental benefits for fish, will have been a critical turning point if it enables a comprehensive resolution that prevents the extinction of salmon and steelhead populations – which is clearly on the horizon,” said Nez Perce Tribe Chairman, Samuel N. Penney. “Visionary action to save our salmon and honor our treaties is urgently needed. We need the United States Government to comprehend the situation and act. The science is clear: salmon and steelhead need a free-flowing, climate-resilient Lower Snake River, not a series of slow, easily-warmed reservoirs. The Nez Perce Tribe and its people intend to ensure that salmon do not go extinct on our watch.”
After nearly 30 years of failed federal salmon plans, Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon are closer to extinction than ever. The most recent analysis indicates that 42% of the populations of Snake River spring/summer Chinook are now at or below the “quasi-extinction” level of 50 or fewer spawners on spawning grounds for four consecutive years. By 2025, 77% of those populations are projected to hit that functional extinction level.
“We will continue to speak the truth about what the salmon need, and this is a moment of tribal unity in the Northwest and across the nation,” said Nez Perce Tribe Vice-Chairman, Shannon F. Wheeler. “Tribes, maybe more than anyone, understand the moment we face: a salmon crisis, a climate crisis, and a long-overdue opportunity to address 90 years of tribal injustice imposed by the Columbia power system on Indian people and their homelands.” The National Congress of American Indians and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians both adopted formal 2021 Resolutions supporting restoration of the Lower Snake River, and Congressman Mike Simpson’s comprehensive Columbia Basin Initiative. The Resolutions also ask the Biden-Harris Administration to end litigation defense of the prior Administration’s Columbia River System salmon plans as those positions are inconsistent with tribal and environmental justice principles and law.