Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Where do we go from here?

After 15 years of fighting tooth and nail in federal court, fishing and conservation groups left U.S. District Court Judge Redden's Courtroom yesterday ready to wait at least an additional 2 weeks for an answer. Will the federal agencies step up and do what is needed to save Columbia-Snake River salmon?

We sure hope so because protecting this iconic species is about more than just saving a fish. It's about family-wage jobs in communities throughout the Northwest. It's about saving a healthy food source, a cultural icon, and a way of life. It's about policy guided by science and the law, not politics. What we really need is for our elected leaders to demand and execute a solid salmon recovery plan for all our rivers. Right now. Today. Not next year. And unfortunately, this plan is nowhere near that.

Outside the federal courthouse, scores of commercial and recreational fishermen came with a clear message, many in their own fishing boats: to remind Dr. Lubchenco and the Obama administration that their jobs matter; that healthy salmon runs mean healthy businesses and strong communities; and that science, not politics, should be at the center of the government’s decisions on this matter.

Check out an interview about the hearing with renowned steelhead guide and Sierra Club Hunter-Angler liaison Jeff Hickman on the Oregon Fly Fishing Blog.

Matt Preusch's Oregonian story this morning says this about Lubchenco's position:
Speaking after the hearing, Lubchenco said she supported the science behind the plan “100 percent.” “We paid attention to the science; we paid attention to the law,” she said.
What Matt doesn't point out is that Dr. Lubchenco and NOAA's plan runs counter to the science and advice of experts in the field — regional Forest Service, Department of Fish and Wildlife and American Fisheries Society scientists.

In October, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society wrote a letter to Judge Redden outlining their concerns:
On February 17, 2000, the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society (ORAFS) unanimously passed a resolution (attached) that breaching of the four lower Snake River dams should be considered as an essential component of the recovery of Snake River salmon and steelhead*. When the revised (2008) Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) Biological Opinion (BiOp) was issued, ORAFS members reviewed it and reaffirmed our position that dam breaching should remain an essential element of salmonid restoration. We write today to further reaffirm this position and suggest that it is not adequately addressed in the NOAA Fisheries’ September 15, 2009 Adaptive Management Implementation Plan (AMIP).

While the AMIP is an improvement to earlier BiOp versions, it contains several crucial, but correctable, shortcomings...
The Oregon AFS is comprised of over 450 fisheries and aquatic science professionals from federal, state, and tribal agencies, colleges and universities, diverse private employers, college students, and retirees.

Some folks said that having Lubchenco in the Courtroom would sway the judge, but I think Jeff Hickman says it best here:
As you know this “plan” is an ugly leftover from the Bush days. It has a couple bits of fluff added by the Obama folks, but it would effectively shovel dirt onto the casket of wild Columbia River salmon and steelhead.

I am confident that the judge will decide this case based on the law and the evidence, period.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Federal salmon plan fails to follow science, law

PORTLAND, Ore. — Salmon advocates returned to federal court today to fight for the people of the Pacific Northwest.

Represented by a diverse, nationwide coalition, they are challenging a woefully inadequate 2008 federal salmon plan, which does little for the people of the Northwest and too much to protect the status quo.

On Sept. 15 the Obama administration became the most recent architect of this long-standing federal failure when it embraced a 2008 Bush administration plan to mitigate the harmful impacts of dams on endangered salmon and steelhead populations.

"We look forward to explaining to the court just how little this latest effort actually accomplishes," said Todd True, lead attorney for the fishing and conservation groups. "This is not Groundhog Day — we don’t have to keep doing the same old thing over and over and over. It's time to stop the repetition and start to do what these fish need and what the law and science requires. Our fishing communities deserve nothing less. And our Northwest way of life depends on it."

The Obama team adopted a discredited scientific analysis and legal standard despite strong objections from fisheries biologists, former Northwest governors, and people and businesses across the nation. The groups are joined in the litigation by the state of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho.

“It’s a sad commentary that we even have to be here today to try once again to get the government to follow the law and the science. They should do that on their own,” said Dan Parnel, owner of Leisure Sales, which represents several fishing brands in 14 Western states and the President of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association. “But the Judge’s decision in this case has serious economic implications for our industries’ jobs, our families and our communities. We’re hoping that Judge Redden will help this region finally produce a successful salmon plan and put us on a legal path to protecting our resources, our communities and our way of life.”

Salmon fishing still brings tens of millions of dollars into the regional economy each year and supports thousands of jobs. However, commercial fishing-dependent communities have already lost more than 25,000 salmon fishing jobs because of salmon declines in the Columbia and Snake Rivers over the past three decades. Regional sport and recreational fishing communities have lost tens of thousands more.
“This was a test for Commerce Secretary Gary Locke — on economics and science — and this plan fails on both accounts,” said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “The Obama administration should be embarrassed that it allowed regional bureaucrats, intent on protecting the status quo, to convince it to buy into this badly flawed plan. We remain convinced that the law and science are on our side and we look forward to working with the administration to get things on the right track.”

Commercial and sportfishing representatives from up and down the Pacific Coast sent a letter to Secretary Locke in September urging him to begin a dialogue on how to address the salmon crisis that has plagued coastal communities over the last eight years. Secretary Locke has not yet met with fishermen since the request was made almost three months ago.

Salmon advocates have long argued that the 2008 plan remains illegal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and largely ignores the impact federal dams have on ESA-listed threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. In fact, the plan allows a rollback of in-river salmon protections. U.S. District Court Judge James Redden has agreed with salmon advocates in challenges to two very similar prior plans.

“We scientists believed the President when he said he would protect science and strengthen the ESA, but Secretary Locke and Dr. Lubchenco have seemingly allowed political pressure to circumvent a decision based on sound science,” said Bill Shake, retired Assistant Regional Director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Tell a salmon biologist that you don’t want to remove the four lower Snake River dams or that you don’t want to spill water over the dams, but don’t tell them those actions aren’t necessary for these imperiled fish. We know better; we know what the science says. We come to Court with hope for more because the fish need more than this plan, and fishing families and communities deserve more.”

The Obama administration’s September 15 plan adopted the old Bush salmon plan with minor tweaks. The administration’s plan does allow for a multi-year study — at some uncertain point in the future — of what is already known to be a viable salmon restoration option — lower Snake River dam removal — and then only if already-depressed endangered salmon numbers plunge even further. Other than this, and some re-arranged monitoring and habitat measures that have been on the table for more than a year, the Obama plan is unchanged from the 2008 plan that has been challenged in court by fishing and conservation interests.

Opponents of following the science have criticized the idea of removing dams, especially in light of climate change concerns. Salmon advocates, however, point to a recent expert analysis from the NW Energy Coalition and an analysis from the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to show that protecting salmon and providing for a clean energy future is both eminently doable and affordable.
“We truly can have both clean, affordable energy and healthy salmon runs in the Pacific Northwest,” said NW Energy Coalition Executive Director Sara Patton. “It’s not an either/or question — the Northwest needs and deserves both, and both are 100 percent possible with the right vision, planning and leadership. We have the technology; now let’s find the political will to make it happen. The Northwest can show the rest of the country how to do this right while creating jobs and providing for a better future.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Snake River Salmon Do It At Altitude

Snake River salmon spawn at the highest habitat in the world in the rugged Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. They swim nearly 1,000 miles inland and climb more than 6,500 feet in elevation — the longest, highest salmon migration in the world. Yep, Snake River salmon do it at altitude.

Snake River Salmon Do It At Altitude

Snake River salmon spawn at the highest habitat in the world in the rugged Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho. They swim nearly 1,000 miles inland and climb more than 6,500 feet in elevation — the longest, highest salmon migration in the world. Yep, Snake River salmon do it at altitude.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Are you connected?

Today, the intrepid Bobby Hayden and I will attempt to do the impossible — get our board and staff connected to social media. Props to Bobby for the cool graphic too!

Save Our Wild Salmon has been ramping up our social media efforts over the last year and we've seen a huge impact with increased visible public support, stronger relationships with our business partners, increased media attention and even a nod or two from our elected leaders.

Check us out on Facebook and Twitter!

So, what is social media? Social media is all about multi-faceted communication. It's about connecting you with like-minded folks. It’s designed to stream information through social interaction via the internet and social networks. While we still need to support our traditional media goals, social media supports the human need for interaction, and makes it possible to broadcast information to the masses in an instant.

Here's a quick video that amplifies the fundamental shift in the way we communicate today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Salmon Watch

From our good friends at The Kamchatka Project:

Since 1993, The Freshwater Trust (formerly Oregon Trout and Oregon Water Trust) has conducted an award-winning environmental education program called Salmon Watch, which serves over 5,000 public and private school students throughout Oregon annually and has served over 60,000 students to date.

On a cool morning in October we drove a few miles down the Columbia Gorge to one of our favorite local waterfall runs, Eagle Creek, and joined a class of seventh graders from The Dalles Middle School as they learned about salmon ecology from US Forest Service Fish Biologists.

Judge Has Serious Concerns About Columbia-Snake Salmon Plan

Salmon advocates are heading back to Court on Monday, November 23 to present arguments in their legal challenge to a 2008 federal salmon plan. On September 15, the Obama administration decided to adopt the 2008 Bush administration plan — including support for the Bush-era scientific analysis and legal standard — over the strong objections of regional fish biologists, former Northwest Governors, and people and businesses across the nation. The groups are joined in the litigation by the State of Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho.

From the Associated Press:
The federal judge overseeing the balancing act between salmon and Columbia Basin dams said he doesn't think he can consider new steps the Obama administration wants to take.

In a letter on Friday to lawyers in the case, U.S. District Judge James Redden wrote he was concerned that federal law prohibits him from considering any of the new parts of the 2008 plan.

The reason he cited is they were developed unilaterally by the federal government, and not, as he had suggested, in conjunction with the other parties involved in the lawsuit challenging federal plans for protecting salmon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Just a Couple of Reasons Why We Love David James Duncan

His interview in 1859 Magazine pretty much sums it up…

He has hope: "Where’s the hope? The Columbia/Snake system drains over a quarter square million miles of the continent. Its surviving wild chinook, sockeye salmon and steelhead migrate farther and more significantly higher, into the mountains than any other salmon species. The purity and high elevation of their wild Idaho and eastern Oregon and Washington birth streams make them more capable of surviving global warming than any other salmon species. That’s my big hope. Yet these salmon are endangered, and bound for extinction, due to little more than the brokenness of our political and information systems."

He’s not afraid to speak truth to power: "Because the BPA runs the dams, and greases Patty Murray’s political machine, Patty Murray has convinced the Obama administration to accept the biological opinion of the Bushies though that bi-op was driven by nothing but neocon superstition and is not biologically or scientifically or spiritually true at all. The removal of the lower Snake River dams would constitute the largest workable salmon recovery in the world at a time when the ocean’s fisheries have been reduced by 90%. We’re talking about saving our childrens’ freaking lives here. But our “news” and politics have become so manipulative and rhetorical and virtual that they aren’t capable of making contact with reality any more. Acknowledgements of physical reality would occasional be reassuring from our so-called leaders. Expressions of outright love, like those you find in the best science, poetry, film, prose, oral accounts, children’s drawings, local watershed group celebrations, of wild rivers and salmon, would be even better."

He’s funny: "Convince Congress to remove those four damned Snake River dams. Maybe with a filibuster in the meter of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham.
I do not like Snake River dams!
I do not like them Sam I am!"

And his words are incredibly poignant: "One day we’ll become worthy of our incredible world and the souls that tell our hearts to beat and the wild salmon that find the fire in water and use it to create astounding life. In the meantime, I stand in earth’s flowing water as if my life depended on it because, for me, it really does."

Oh, and he rowed through a wheat field to save salmon...

From your friends at Save Our Wild Salmon — Thank you David!