Where we’ve come in 2020 – and where we’re headed in 2021
With your support and advocacy, the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition (SOS) has made 2020 a pivotal year for the Snake River and its endangered wild salmon and steelhead populations.
OUR TOP GOAL FOR 2021: To further our work with Northwest policymakers and people to develop a comprehensive investment package that will recover the lower Snake River and its salmon and invest in the region’s communities and infrastructure. Read on for a summary of SOS’ top accomplishments and related developments affecting salmon and orcas in 2020 - and a look at the year ahead.
Despite the pandemic, its economic challenges, social protest nationally and a contentious election, SOS and its coalition partners have made critical progress in 2020. We have significantly expanded public support and political engagement needed to restore the lower Snake River and rebuild its endangered native fish populations and the benefits they bring to the Northwest and nation. Strong support and focused advocacy by you and many others has been essential to our progress this year. Your generous support before the end of the year will help us leverage our momentum in the new year.
SOS in 2020 has pushed, supported and engaged key Northwest policymakers and stakeholders. Through our strategic, coordinated organizing, coalition-building, communications and outreach, we have worked assiduously in-region to build the public and political foundation for a comprehensive solution that restores endangered Snake River salmon and meets the needs of Northwest communities. Restoring the lower Snake River – an essential cornerstone of salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin - requires champions. Through our smart, persistent work, the governors and members of Congress in the Northwest are stepping up.
Here's a partial list of our accomplishments and related political developments from 2020:
I. SOS FOCUSED OUR PROGRAM WORK IN 2020 TO SECURE A STRATEGIC PIVOT – away from the federal agencies’ costly, inadequate and illegal salmon recovery efforts in the Snake and Columbia rivers and toward a new, urgent, regionally-led initiative. Under a 2016 court order won by conservation and fishing plaintiffs, the Nez Perce Tribe and State of Oregon, the federal government finalized a “new” FEIS and federal plan for Columbia Basin salmon this past summer. The feds’ latest approach has been widely panned as woefully inadequate by many Northwest states, Columbia Basin Indian Tribes, stakeholders and NGOs, scientists and economists. SOS has been working urgently with many of these same interests to develop a comprehensive solution that meets the needs of endangered salmon and orcas and the region’s communities and energy system.
- SOS coordinated public and NGO engagement for the EIS public comment process. We organized hundreds of people and diverse voices to testify at the federal agencies’ virtual public meetings last winter. We coordinated with coalition partners to generate hundreds of thousands of public comments supporting Snake River dam removal and needed transition investments for communities. Many Northwest states and Tribes, and NGOs and business associations submitted comments sharply critical of the feds’ approach and pressing for a comprehensive regional solution that will actually meet the needs of salmon and communities.
- SOS helped generate and inform scores of media stories in 2020 including articles, guest opinions and editorials. SOS staff and leaders were quoted regularly in print, radio and digital media. We maintain regular contact with reporters and editorial boards across the Northwest.
- We published our Hot Water Reports and hosted two online speaker series: This past summer, SOS published our fourth annual series of Hot Water Reports highlighting for the press, policymakers and people the harms of hot water to already-endangered fish populations caused by the federal hydrosystem and intensifying climate impacts. We hosted seven webinars in spring and fall featuring experts on dam removal economics, clean energy replacement, Indigenous perspectives, orcas, the faith community and more.
- We’re challenging a woefully inadequate federal plan in court: In October, led by Earthjustice, SOS’ member organizations initiated litigation challenging the feds’ “new” plan for Snake and Columbia River salmon. We believe the State of Oregon and Nez Perce Tribe will once again join forces with us in court. While we remain focused on urgently developing and delivering a regional solution, the litigation provides a critical backstop to help salmon - and salmon-reliant communities and orcas - in case collaboration with stakeholders and sovereigns founders or moves too slowly.
- SOS is leading development of the Snake River Vision Project. SOS’ Sam Mace is working closely with partners, including residents, local groups, and Tribal, community and business leaders in the Inland Northwest to re-imagine the opportunities of restoring 144-mile lower Snake River and the 14,400 acres of land submerged under the dams’ reservoirs today. Look for more about this project in early 2021!
II. SOS IS FOCUSED ON BUILDING THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AND STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT we need to develop and deliver an investment package that meets the needs of Snake River salmon and Northwest communities. Here are a few examples of important programs and progress led by politicians and stakeholder leaders that SOS and our coalition partners have worked hard to bring about:
- In 2019, Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) put dam removal squarely on the table when he announced his interest in restoring Snake River salmon, investing in communities and ensuring an affordable, reliable regional energy system. His leadership continues to be strong in 2020. Earlier this year, for example, in response to a woefully inadequate DEIS, he publicly vented his frustration: “Salmon need one thing - they need a river!”
- In 2019/2020, Gov. Jay Inslee (WA) sponsored the lower Snake River stakeholder dialogue. SOS staff led the advocacy to establish and fund this forum and was deeply involved throughout. It brought farmers, shippers, utilities, fishermen, and Tribal and conservation leaders together to discuss salmon recovery and community needs. The initiative demonstrated a new readiness by diverse interests to explore shared solutions to these difficult, intersecting problems.
- These conversations continue today - focused on (i) restoring salmon, (ii) investing in communities, (iii) upholding our nation’s obligations to Tribes and (iv) sustaining the region’s affordable and reliable energy system. SOS staff and leaders are leading/co-leading critical conversations with leaders from farming, shipping and energy sectors - and the Snake River is at the center of these discussions.
- Last February, Gov. Kate Brown (OR) sent Gov. Inslee a letter expressing her interest in working with him on big solutions for salmon and communities. In her letter, she noted that the science is clear: restoring the Snake is our most effective path to salmon recovery. SOS and its partners in Oregon have worked steadily to build a strong dialogue with Gov. Brown and her team.
- Also in February, SOS helped draft a letter sent to the Northwest governors signed by 17 utility and conservation leaders calling for urgent leadership to develop a comprehensive solution that restores salmon and meets the needs of communities and regional energy system.
- In June, based on excellent organizing work by SOS and Sierra Club, Congressman Derek Kilmer (WA-6) publicly identified recovering salmon and orcas as a “moral obligation" and expressed his support for stakeholder discussions and working with his colleagues in Congress to address these linked crises.
- In October, four Northwest governors announced a new collaborative forum to be co-led by states and tribes to tackle the interconnected challenges facing Columbia Basin salmon and Northwest communities. This new regionally-driven effort is encouraging – and we’re pressing that the Snake River to be at the top of the agenda.
- While the governors begin this new initiative, Congress has a critical role to play – to develop and deliver a comprehensive legislative package that works for salmon and communities. SOS is moving regional politics today, but we have more to do to secure the champions we need to move a package in Congress. With public commitments to science, Tribes, climate change and collaboration, we hope that Biden Administration will play a constructive role. You'll find thoughts from Joseph Bogaard, SOS executive director, on what a Biden Administration could mean for salmon and orca in the Northwest - and how we'll need to hold it accountable to its promises.
III. LOOKING AHEAD: We’re focused now on supporting the introduction and eventual passage of a comprehensive legislative package in Congress. With public engagement and political leadership anchored in the Pacific Northwest, we’ll continue working urgently with others to develop and deliver solutions that restore the lower Snake River, invest in our communities and bring everyone forward together.
But now is the time to act. Snake River salmon and Southern Resident orcas are in deep trouble today. Fishing and farming communities and the region’s energy sector face high uncertainty and rising costs as a result of the federal government’s repeated failures to protect and recover wild salmon and steelhead populations endangered by federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The status quo isn’t working for anyone – and a comprehensive solution represents both necessity and opportunity for the ecology, culture and economy of the Pacific Northwest.
We ask for your support before the end of the year to help us achieve our nation’s largest river and salmon restoration ever.
Thank you as ever for your support and advocacy. We are grateful for and humbled by your partnership.
Please reach out if you have questions.
With warm regards,
P.S. – You can make year-end gifts online or you can mail them to our office:
Save Our wild Salmon
811 First Ave., Suite 305
Seattle, WA 98104