From the desk of Joseph Bogaard
Note: Save Our wild Salmon Coalition is a 501c3 organization. We are non-partisan. We endorse neither political parties nor candidates. Restoring salmon is not - nor should be - a partisan matter. The SOS coalition has a diverse membership; we work closely with people of different political affiliations. Our work is guided by the belief that meaningful, durable solutions to restore salmon and benefit communities will require bipartisan leadership and committed collaboration by people with different interests and backgrounds.
November 30, 2020
On Wednesday, January 20th, 2021, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as the nation’s 46th President and Senator Kamala Harris will be sworn in as the 49th Vice President – and, notably, the first Black, South Asian woman in the position. At this time, we don’t know what the new administration will mean for endangered wild salmon and steelhead and Southern Resident orcas in the Pacific Northwest. But, based on statements and materials and early developments from the then-candidate and now-President-Elect, there are reasons for cautious optimism and a sense of real opportunity.
I hasten to add, however, that the necessary progress that SOS and many advocates seek – that salmon and orcas urgently need – will only come about as the result of excellent and relentless outreach and organizing by salmon, orca, fishing and clean energy advocates – engaging stakeholders and policymakers alike. Now more than ever, we all need to be talking to our friends and family, calling and writing elected officials, encouraging community leaders, supporting Save Our wild Salmon and allied organizations with your time and dollars.
We live in a democracy and good things rarely happen without people organizing and mobilizing. A Biden Administration represents a new window of opportunity to protect and restore endangered wild Snake River salmon and steelhead and the benefits they bring to the Northwest and the nation. We need to work together with people across the Northwest to seize this opportunity and hold the incoming administration accountable to their promises and commitments.
My cautious optimism today for meaningful progress under a Biden Administration is based on four values or priorities anchored in Mr. Biden’s record of public service and his 2020 campaign platform. These include his commitments to (1) embrace science, (2) honor Native American Tribes, (3) confront climate change, and (4) bring diverse people together around shared solutions.
Science: During his campaign, Biden committed to putting science at the heart of his administration’s policymaking. A return to science-informed decision-making will affect all manner of issues – the pandemic, climate change, health care – as well as the fate of salmon and orca in the Pacific Northwest. Advocates shouldn’t expect scientists to make decisions for the President and his administration. But, based on Mr. Biden’s campaign, we should expect scientists to inform the decisions that are made.
Native American Tribes: The Biden-Harris campaign recognized that, while our nation was founded on the notion of equality for all, “we’ve never fully lived up to it. Throughout our history, this promise has been denied to Native Americans who have lived on this land since time immemorial.” Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have committed to uphold the U.S.’s trust responsibility to tribal nations and strengthen the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the United States and Indian tribes.
The Biden Administration has promised to work with America’s Tribes to “empower tribal nations to govern their own communities and make their own decisions,” including to restore tribal lands and safeguard natural and cultural resources. In the Northwest, salmon and orca play central roles in the culture and economy of many Tribes. Protecting and recovering these and other fish and wildlife populations is certain to be an important priority for many tribal communities on the coast and inland.
Climate Change: Addressing climate change was a pillar of the Biden-Harris campaign. The President-Elect recognizes climate change as an existential threat – and understands the urgent need to address it. Climate change imperils our lands and waters and ecosystems, and also puts at risk our health, communities, food systems and economic well-being. While communities of color and low-income communities are often at higher risk, climate change affects everyone - wreaking havoc today on our towns and cities and ways of life in rural as well as urban centers.
In the Northwest, climate change multiplies the challenges facing already-endangered salmon and orcas today – and increases the urgency to act. Scientists tell us that restoring a resilient, freely flowing lower Snake River through dam removal is essential for protecting its native fish from extinction. Salmon and orca – and the rest of us – need an aggressive set of policies to both dramatically reduce carbon emissions (prevention) and invest in resilience and adaptation (care) to better prepare our ecosystems and communities to withstand intensifying climate impacts. The Biden-Harris campaign in 2020 embraced this two-pronged approach of prevention and care - and advocates must be prepared to both support their leadership and hold them accountable.
Collaborative Solutions: The Biden-Harris campaign regularly highlighted a commitment to collaboration and unity. The President-Elect has a reputation as someone who works well with people regardless of their party affiliation or background.
In order to develop and deliver the comprehensive regional solutions our salmon, orcas and communities need, we’re going to need regional and national leadership. And we’re going to need to work effectively with diverse interests and communities. Salmon, fishing and orca advocates are committed to this type of collaboration and we will call on the incoming Administration to bring its leadership, resources and an inclusive and pragmatic approach to problem-solving.
The Need for Urgent Action: Many advocates in the Northwest are hopeful today that the incoming Administration will support leadership by Northwest policymakers, partner with Native American Tribes and engage stakeholders and citizens. To restore salmon abundance, we need to work together with great urgency to develop a comprehensive package that restores the lower Snake River and invests in our inland and coastal communities.
We have a lot of hard work ahead. Nothing good will occur without relentless public pressure, relentlessly applied. Crucial leadership is emerging today – thanks to years of organizing and advocacy by organizations like Save Our wild Salmon with the support of people like you. Policymakers are responding. We’ve made important progress in 2020, despite a pandemic, cataclysmic forest fires, economic disruption and a contentious election. As I see it, 2021 begins with great urgency and opportunity. As ever, we’re depending upon your support and advocacy.
Thank you for all that you do.
Below are links to two recent articles exploring what the new administration may mean for the natural resources, fish and wildlife and the environment in the Pacific Northwest. Notably, both articles specifically highlight the plight of the Snake River and its imperiled salmon and steelhead populations.