With your strong support and advocacy, we’ve covered a lot of ground together this past year. 2022 will be a year of great consequence for Snake River salmon, Southern Resident orcas, tribal justice and Northwest communities.
We are at the crossroads today. The Northwest and nation must decide – and act - to remove four dams to restore health and resilience, and salmon and steelhead to the historic Snake River. The choice is clear: it's either extinction or restoration.
With your help, the Save Our wild Salmon Coalition (SOS) and our partners have made 2021 a pivotal year for the Snake River, its endangered fish and the irreplaceable benefits they bring to the Northwest and nation.
OUR TOP GOAL IN 2022: To support – and hold to account – Northwest policymakers and the Biden Administration to develop and deliver a comprehensive package in Congress that (i) authorizes the removal of the four lower Snake River dams in southeast Washington State and (ii) invests in critical infrastructure – clean energy, irrigation and transportation – to create jobs, ensure prosperous communities, and uphold our nation’s promises to the region’s tribes.
Your advocacy and support has been essential to our progress in 2021. We’ll need all of that and more in the new year. We’re gearing up now to bring all of our strategic focus and creative energies to seize this window of opportunity that together we’ve recently opened up.
Read on for a summary of SOS’ top accomplishments and related developments affecting salmon and orcas in 2021 - and to look into the year ahead.
2021 has been a transformative year for political engagement in the Northwest and nationally to address the plight of Snake River salmon and the benefits they bring to people, wildlife and ecosystems.
Time, however, is running out for two of the Northwest’s most emblematic species – wild salmon and the orcas that rely upon them. Adult salmon and steelhead returns to the Snake River in 2021 were among the lowest on record. The Nez Perce Tribe's recent study makes plain that protecting these fish from extinction requires bold, urgent action.
2021 also marks the 30th anniversary for the listing of Snake River sockeye under the Endangered Species Act. After three decades, billions in spending and six illegal federal salmon plans, the same number of sockeye salmon swam into their spawning grounds in the Stanley Basin in central Idaho in 2021 as in 1991: four. Clearly, the status quo has failed and a new approach is urgently needed.
This spiraling ecological crisis in combination with our smart, coordinated, relentless pressure has (finally!) stirred bi-partisan engagement in the Northwest. This year and for the first time ever, political leaders in Idaho, Oregon and Washington State have committed themselves to work urgently with the region’s tribes, stakeholders and citizens to develop solutions for Snake River salmon and Northwest communities.
Idaho Congressman Mike Simpson (R) deserves great credit for driving a conversation about the future of the Snake River and its fish. In February, he unveiled his proposal to remove the lower Snake River dams and invest in infrastructure and communities. His announcement kicked off a much-needed discussion with broad implications for the Northwest's environment, economy, culture and identity.
Other regional leaders have stepped up as well. Gov. Kate Brown and Rep. Earl Blumenauer in Oregon announced their readiness to work with others to develop a regional strategy to restore the lower Snake River and invest in impacted communities. Then in October, Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray in Washington State outlined next steps in the federal-state process they first announced in May. The senator and governor are working together now to study our options for replacing the services currently provided by the dams as a key step toward developing an action plan for Snake River salmon and Northwest communities by or before July 2022.
Also in October, the Biden Administration joined with the Nez Perce Tribe, State of Oregon, and conservation and fishing plaintiffs led by Earthjustice to temporarily pause 20+ years of litigation over salmon and dams in the Columbia Basin and begin settlement discussions to develop a long-term plan to protect imperiled salmon and steelhead in the Snake and Columbia rivers. The deadline for these talks is the same as the Murray/Inslee process: July 2022.
Meanwhile, Sen. Maria Cantwell (WA) secured historic levels of funding to support Pacific Northwest salmon recovery by removing culverts, restoring habitat and much more in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill signed this fall by President Biden. SOS is very grateful for the senator's efforts to secure these funds. They will help advance an important set of recovery priorities across the Northwest in the months and years ahead. But we'll also need Senator Cantwell's leadership working urgently with others in the region to help develop the comprehensive plan we need in 2022 to protect Snake River fish from extinction.
These developments in 2021 – emerging political champions and significant available funding – are the critical ingredients we must leverage in 2022 to avoid an extinction spasm in the Northwest and lay the groundwork to achieve our nation's greatest salmon/river restoration. Before looking into the new year, we'll first review some key SOS accomplishments in 2021 that have helped bring about the opportunity before us today.
SOS' talented team has been going full-tilt all year:
- Coordinating with strategic partners, allies and constituencies.
- Engaging key stakeholders in energy, agriculture and local communities to identify shared solutions.
- Educating and engaging policymakers and the public with projects like our Snake River Vision Project, 2021 Hot Water Report series, monthly online newsletters, action alerts, online speaker series in spring and fall, and more.
- Organizing and mobilizing grassroots and grasstops supporters to contact policymakers in the Northwest and in D.C. with email/phone/text campaigns, meetings, sign-on letters, on-the-ground events and actions, and more.
- Generating earned and paid media with reporter contacts, guest opinions, letters-to-the-editor and social media.
- Organizing print/digital ad campaigns in Northwest newspapers with allied NGOs and businesses highlighting the plight of Southern Resident orcas and Snake River steelhead, and in support of the Tribes’ historic Salmon Orca Summit.
- Engaging public officials, state and federal agencies, the Biden Administration and their influencers with scores of meetings in 2021 in the Northwest and in D.C.
- Partnering with business allies including fishing guides, gear retailers, outdoor recreation companies, food professionals and restaurants, and others.
The Nez Perce and other tribes today are leading the way on salmon recovery and the future of the Snake River. Northwest tribes – Salmon People – rightly insist that 'justice' be at the center of this conversation. Many tribes signed treaties with the United States long ago to maintain healthy salmon runs in perpetuity – and all of us have a role to play to ensure that our nation upholds its promises.
SOS has - and will continue to - seize opportunities to elevate tribal voices and support their leadership. Last summer, we organized a ‘solidarity vigil’ at the historic Salmon Orca Summit hosted by Northwest tribes. We also supported our friends at Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment and the Nez Perce Tribe to promote the Red Road to D.C. Totem Pole Journey event on July 15 on the banks of the Snake River. And we’ve encouraged support for the Umatilla Tribe’s Youth Leadership Council in their powerful advocacy on behalf of the Snake and its salmon. We’re already coordinating with tribal allies and developing plans to support important projects and priorities in 2022.
Our focus in 2022: Looking ahead, SOS will continue to educate and inspire and engage our supporters and the public; strengthen stakeholder alliances; find new ways to elevate tribal voices and support tribal projects and priorities; and support – and hold accountable – our political leaders. The next 6-10 months will be a critical window of opportunity to develop and deliver a comprehensive solution that protects and recovers the Northwest’s emblematic salmon and hungry orcas by restoring a resilient, freely flowing Snake River as part of a larger strategy that brings everyone in the Northwest forward together.
In anticipation of the consequential year ahead, we’ve been busy this fall developing new, ambitious, creative and collaborative ways to elevate the urgent plight of Snake River fish and reach new communities and constituencies. Critical decisions at both the state and federal levels will be made between now and Summer 2022. It's our collective job to ensure the right decisions are made.
Please help ensure we have the resources we need to take advantage of this critical window in 2022. Salmon and orca are simply running out of time. The opportunity is here, now, and, with your support and assistance, we’ll do all we can to seize it.
Thank you as ever for your tremendous support and advocacy. We are grateful for and humbled by your partnership. Please reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org; 206-300-1003) if you have questions about our priorities and program work in the coming year, how you can support us, or would like further information and to get more involved.
Onward together,year-end gifts online or you can mail them to our office here:Save Our wild Salmon
811 First Ave., Suite 305
Seattle, WA 98104