Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Scientists predict decline in 2011 for Columbia Basin salmon.

Regional fisheries managers just released their predictions for 2011 Columbia/Snake River salmon returns and – despite the regular assurances from the federal government that they have salmon recovery well in hand – the situation does not look so rosy. This is bad news for salmon and for the people whose jobs rely on them. Before getting into 2011, however, let’s review what happened in 2010.

Last year, federal agencies in charge of Columbia Basin salmon recovery rather loudly anticipated “record returns”. They like to say that because, of course, it sounds good. The phrase strikes salmon advocates, however, as more than a little cynical. Historic returns to the Columbia Basin ranged between 16 and 30 million fish each year, so calling a return that is less than a million a “record” seems rather misleading. In determining a “record run”, the government conveniently only started counting after the dams on the Columbia and lower Snake were completed and much of the damage was already done. It was our famous American Mark Twain who complained “there are three types of lies: “lies, damned lies and statistics.” Case in point.

Unfortunately for both imperiled salmon and working people, 2010’s much-heralded record returns failed to materialize. All 2010 chinook runs to date (final Columbia Basin Fall Chinook numbers are still being tallied) were lower than predicted, sometimes substantially lower. The various stocks can be counted in tens or hundreds of thousands. All chinook runs combined so far, about 800,000 swam past Bonneville dam near Portland Oregon in 2010, the first of many dams they may encounter on their perilous journey upstream.

It is also important to remember that roughly 80 percent of these salmon and steelhead are hatchery-origin, not wild, self-sustaining populations.

Hatcheries are important for producing the fish that are caught by commercial, recreational and tribal fishermen – supporting thousands of jobs in scores of communities on the Pacific Coast and inland to Idaho. Though essential in the near-term for fishing communities, hatcheries are not a long-term solution. Rebuilding wild, self-sustaining stocks is the key to the long-term future of Northwest salmon and the people whose jobs depend on them. Wild Columbia Basin salmon returns – most of which are imperiled today – are just a fraction of these overall return numbers and can be counted today in the hundreds, thousands or at most tens of thousands.

Sockeye salmon were the exception of 2010. Across the Pacific Coast, sockeye returned in unexpectedly high numbers. Scientists are attributing this largely to the excellent ocean conditions (lots of food) that greeted these fish when they migrated downriver as juveniles and entered the ocean in 2008. 33 million sockeye returned to the dam-less Fraser River in British Columbia just north of here. Over 2,000 Snake River sockeye returned to their high elevation spawning grounds in central Idaho this year, a significant increase from dismal returns over the last two decades.

What should we expect in 2011?

Early analyses indicate population declines compared to 2010. With only one or two exceptions, estimated returns will be one-third to one-half smaller than last year’s runs, and back near the average over the last ten years. This will mean less fishing opportunity and less fishing-related jobs in 2011. Stay tuned as these estimates are updated in the next several months. The salmon themselves should start showing up in the real world at the mouth of the Columbia River in late March or April.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wild Salmon & Steelhead News - Nov. 2010

Save Our Wild Salmon coalition members ask Judge Redden to toss out the Bush-turned-Obama plan.

2. Fall Fundraiser - We Did It!
Thanks to your support we have met and exceeded our goal!

3. The Greatest Night
The sneak preview of The Greatest Migration at Keen Footwear is a great success.

4. The Elwha River: A Case Study in Success
America’s largest dam removal has lessons for restoring a free-flowing Snake River.


Monday, October 11, 2010

10/10/10 Global Work Party — Taking Local Action

Photo courtesy Johnson Creek Watershed Council

Yesterday was the Global Work Party — 10/10/10 — a day when people across the globe decided to celebrate our climate solutions and send a message to our politicians: “We’re getting to work — what about you?”

We decided there was no better time to get together and help restore one of our local watersheds. So some of us SOS advocates joined up with the good people at Johnson Creek Watershed Council and spent the afternoon restoring a pedestrian path along Crystal Springs Creek in Sellwood.

This gave us the time to get our hands dirty and talk about salmon... two of our favorite things. And plenty of blackberry brambles and invasive plants made it into our 350 street installation!

Thanks to everyone who came out and volunteered.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

An Epic Migration: Telling the Story of One of a Kind Snake River Salmon

©Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

900 miles.

That's how far Snake River salmon swim to reach their spawning grounds. Not only that, they climb 7,000 feet in elevation too. All to return home and continue the cycle of life, a process that's imperative given their classification as an endangered species.

But because the federal government has refused to take the steps necessary to ensure their protection, those 900 miles are a never-ending fight for survival.

Later this fall, in conjunction with EP, we'll be releasing a film that follows the journey of the critically endangered Snake River salmon, as these fish who migrate farther inland and higher than any other fish on Earth, make their way from the coast of Alaska to Idaho's Sawtooth Valley.

Salmon Film Teaser from Epicocity Project on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Obliterating Roads, Building Bridges

... and other fun things to do on the Oregon Coast.

On August 28th, a small crew of volunteers met at the Seaside Golf Course in, you guessed it, Seaside, Oregon.  Folks from Save Our Wild Salmon, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), the Rainland Flycasters of Astoria, and the Tualatin Valley and Clackamas River Chapters of Trout Unlimited were on hand. 

Let's back up a second to explain what's going on here...

From Alan Moore – TUs NW Director of Habitat Programs:
A couple of years back, Trout Unlimited secured funding from the NOAA/American Rivers community-based restoration program and technical assistance from ODFW and US Fish & Wildlife Service for the replacement of a large barrier culvert in the middle sections of Circle Creek outside of Seaside, Oregon. Circle Creek is a major tributary of the Necanicum River used by coho, winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat, lamprey and some fall chinook salmon.

Now we're seeing projects undertaken by Trout Unlimited and all the wonderful partners working here from the Necanicum watershed’s headwalls down through the tidewater, which is pretty cool to see.  Currently, TU is a partner in 5 active project sites in the Necanicum River watershed, with more on the way soon. Here are two examples:

Road Obliteration

On August 21st, 2010, a small very non-elite team went up to the headwaters of Circle Creek to apply some post-obliteration TLC to a section of old logging road running alongside the headwaters up on Tillamook Head in the Necanicum watershed on the North Coast. In the works for a couple of years now, this project is funded by the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and is a joint effort by ODFW and The Campbell Group, owner of the property as part of over 140,000 acres purchased from Weyerhaeuser Co.

Special thanks to TU Specialists Rod Lundberg and John Arnold for donating their Saturdays and to add some finishing touches before we step back and let Mother Nature – and happy hydrological and forest functions along Circle Creek - reclaim the area.

Our mission - led by Tualatin Valley TU stalwart, Necanicum Local Legend and 2009 National Betty Winn Award for Sea Run Conservation Winner Doug Ray - was to spread some bullrush thatch we cut earlier in the day over some selected terraces along the road obliteration where a week or so earlier Doug and Amy Horstman from USFWS had seeded with native stock.

This is not your grandma's road obliteration: each foot was carefully designed and executed for maximum ecological response. Kudos to Troy Laws at ODFW and Doug for having the vision and to Campbell Group and a patient excavator operator for allowing it to come to fruition. For example, where Doug and his crew knew there were sidehill seeps they constructed little pond basins as they ripped out the road prism to fill for amphibians, and while we were looking at one we were joined by a large female Northern Red-Legged frog taking up residence there already - a highlighted species in the Oregon Conservation Strategy!

Bridge Building
confluence of Circle Creek and the Necanicum River

Here again is Alan Moore:

While the small motley crew was putting the finishing touches on the project in the headwaters, I got a call from Troy Laws at ODFW.  We got the go ahead to complete a project at the very opposite end of Circle Creek: replace the triple-barrel culvert complex (and concrete path) over Circle Creek at the confluence with the mainstem Necanicum. Michael Ellis, Conservation Director of the Tualatin Valley Chapter of TU, led a crack team of construction experts (and others, like me) to the confluence project on Saturday, August 28th. 

Wielding slegehammers and drills, volunteers attached the surface timbers to the bridge's incredibly robust superstructure, much of which was recycled from an old bridge removed from the hatchery at Clatskanie.

What's important about this view of the bridge - and the whole project  - is the huge concrete plug and the three culvert pipes (which the awkward looking fellow is standing on in the pic) running through it which we can now pull, restoring full passage at all flow levels for all life stages of the many species of fish that use Circle Creek and, critically, tidal ebb and flow well up into Circle Creek, where it's been blocked for decades. That’s the mainstem Necanicum running in front of the culverts; not visible here is Circle Creek backed up behind them. That’s about to change.

There's high-quality habitat just beyond this barrier (including the 365-acre Circle Creek Preserve under the care of the North Coast Land Conservancy, another great TU partner), and all through the Circle Creek drainage, and with its removal and restored hydrologic function, that habitat can once again be fully utilized. The plug and the three pipes will all be pulled this week.

This project was funded in large part by a grant secured in 2009 by the Tualatin Valley Chapter of TU through the Embrace-a-Stream program. Other major contributors include the Rainland Flycasters from Astoria (especially Bob May), Mr. Wayne Fulmer and Seaside Golf Course, ODFW, Big River Construction, TU National, several local businesses who were good to us, and many others.

However, today's loudest golf clap goes to Troy Laws, Fish Bio from ODFW out of the Tillamook Office and North Coast Lifer. This whole thing was Troy's idea and he's managed the project for the duration of its long, often twisted and very bumpy road. We had Troy drive the final "golden spike" in the last timber completing the span on Saturday. We did this not out of recognition, reverence or respect for Troy, but because we realized he hadn't done a damn thing all day and we were about done.

Stay tuned for future news on expanding our partnerships and work into other North Coast watersheds soon. But notice - none of these can be done by TU - or anyone else, effectively - alone. It's all about partnerships, and we're lucky to have many of them, and volunteers. With those two pieces we'll be able to continue and expand what we're all trying to do here, which is restore ecological function and fish - and the quiet satisfaction they bring to the people fortunate enough to visit them now and in the future - to the great watersheds of Oregon's North Coast.

To learn more, and to learn about volunteer opportunities, please contact these guys:
Michael Ellis – conservation director for Tualatin Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Alan Moore – TU’s NW Director of Habitat Programs, (503) 827-5700
Tom Wolf – Council Chair, Oregon Trout Unlimited, 503-640-2123

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thank you, Outdoor Retailers!

a report from Bobby Hayden, national representative for Save Our Wild Salmon

Earlier this month, I headed out to Salt Lake City with Nicole Cordan, our Policy and Legal Director, for the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Summer Market.  It was there that outdoor industry leaders again proved one of our favorite axioms:   
Salmon Mean Business.

Twice a year, the Outdoor Retailer (OR) market attracts thousands of buyers and industry decision makers that are looking for outdoor specific products, services, brands, fresh ideas, apparel launches, and outdoor innovation. Thanks in large part to the amazing work of the Conservation Alliance - a key coalition of businesses within the outdoor retailer industry - OR has become a place for conservation organizations to link up with businesses that want to work with us to protect our nation's land, water, and wildlife. You gotta have wonderful places to use all that great gear, right?.

Brett Ashton from Evolv was "Buster the Wild Snake River Sockeye" for about 72 hours straight.

This summer's OR show was another huge success.  In coordination with Emily Nuchols and Anna Brones at Under Solen Media, we met with industry leaders to update them on the continuing work to recover the one-of-a-kind salmon and steelhead of the Columbia-Snake basin to abundance and return 140 miles of the Snake River to a free-flowing state.

Save Our Wild Salmon was humbled by two great events at the show:

1) Keep-it-Wild Day
A brilliant idea brought to you by the Conservation Alliance. Throughout the day on Wednesday, eight Conservation Alliance member companies hosted grantees (conservation organizations) in their trade show booths. These current and past grantees asked participants to take action to protect a specific place (ours was the Snake River!).  The day culminated with a great party hosted by Keen.

2) Dam Busters w/ Patagonia and SOS
Patagonia, one of our key supporters over the years, hosted a party for Save Our Wild Salmon at their booth (after all, their founder - Yvon Chouinard - is a dam buster!) The gathering was a great way to highlight the ongoing work of the International League of Conservation Photographers to capture the true beauty of the Snake River basin and screen a trailer for an upcoming film on Snake River salmon by the Epicocity Project.

Onlookers mesmerized by the awesome power of the Snake River and its salmon.

Thank you to several of our supporting companies for meeting with us while we were there.  Please support these guys!

Keen, Patagonia, Osprey, Confluence, Outdoor Research, Granite Gear, Black Diamond, Kelty, Evolv, The North Face, Mountain Khakis, Stanley, Petzl, Yakima, Horny Toad, Arc'teryx, Ruff Wear, Nixwax, CamelBak, Dansko, and others!

And thank you to ALL the hundreds of businesses that continue to support our work to restore one-of-a-kind salmon and steelhead.  Check out more info on our support from the outdoor retailer industry and the sportfishing community.

Looking forward to the Winter Market!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bringing The Story of Snake River Salmon Home

Save Our Wild Salmon, EP and the International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

How do you inspire people to save wild salmon? Give them provocative and beautiful images. That's why we brought in these guys...
Andy and Kyle of the EP crew and Neil of iLCP put some muscle into the game of salmon saving. Thanks guys!

In all seriousness, for the last week, we've waded in the water with sockeye just released into Redfish Lake, crouched on the bank of Marsh Creek watching wild chinook salmon spawning and spent time with the people on the ground in Idaho working so hard to save these fish from extinction.
It's clear the building blocks to recovery are right here in this wild habitat. We just have to get the fish here. And I have to believe that if more people could witness the incredible life salmon — stand on the bank watching a mother salmon knock the flesh off her own body to dig a nest for her babies, or catch a flash of red as a sockeye zipped through the blue waters of Redfish, or witness the last breaths of a spawned out salmon that will return its nutrients to the waters and land of its birth — they'd do what it takes to save them.

And that's why we're here — to bring that story home through images we've captured along the way. To inspire this generation to save wild salmon for us and future generations. Because at the end of the day it's up to us. It will be our actions that decide if we save wild salmon.

Watch for more images and video in the coming months. And take action to save wild salmon today.

PHOTOS © Emily Nuchols

Monday, August 16, 2010

Giving Sockeye A River to Run

Save Our Wild Salmon, the Epicocity Project and the International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

I wasn't sure I'd ever see sockeye swimming in Redfish Lake, but over the past few days, we've watched dozens released into the lake and even more swimming upstream to their rugged mountain home.

We've been up and at 'em every morning at dawn to hang out with the good folks of Idaho Fish & Game as they count, record and release endangered sockeye at Redfish Lake Creek just a couple miles from their final destination. After spending a few days with the team, it's impossible not to catch a bit of their excitement over this improved run...

More than 2,000 fish have cleared Lower Granite dam, the last of eight dams, on their way to Redfish — a marked improvement from only 4 fish in 2007. Salmon, if nothing else, are survivors. This summer's stronger return tells us that there's still hope for the world's most endangered salmon. Court-ordered spill and increased hatchery production, combined with good snowpack and ocean conditions, have done wonders for these fish. Now just imaging what could happen if the four largest obstacles in their path to recovery — the four lower Snake River dams — were removed...

While the legendary lake isn't turning red w
ith sockeye this summer, we can see a bright splash of crimson from these iconic fish — a bright spot for all of those working so hard to save them. And we're here to tell that story. Stay tuned for more photos and stories from the field.

PHOTOS © Emily Nuchols

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Dam Busters: Save Our Wild Salmon and Patagonia

We're in Salt Lake City for the week for Outdoor Retailer. A lot of what we would wouldn't be possible without the support of outdoor industry brands, so it's good to come down, hand off some salmon jerky and give a big "thank you" for all of the ongoing support that makes this campaign possible.

But we also like to simply celebrate these fish, and that's where throwing a party comes into the mix. One of our key partners, Patagonia, offered to help us throw a celebratory event to feature the recent work of our partnership with the International League of Conservation Photographers and the beautiful photos from the Sawtooth Valley, as well as a film trailer from Epicocity Project.

This party is all about celebrating the power of these fish, so if you're in Salt Lake City, swing on by and come raise a glass for salmon!

WHAT: Snake River salmon swim more than 900 miles inland and climb almost 7,000 feet to reach their spawning grounds — the highest salmon spawning habitat on the planet, and the largest and wildest habitat left in the continental United States. These one of a kind salmon travel farther and higher than any other salmon on Earth — not to mention tackling eight massive dams along the way. Come celebrate these amazing fish and catch a glimpse of their epic migration first hand with a film trailer from the Epicocity Project and an amazing photo exhibit from the International League of Conservation Photographers. The filmmakers, photographers and Save Our Wild Salmon crew will be on hand to answer questions and help you take action to protect these one of a kind fish. FREE beer and smoked salmon!

WHERE: Patagonia Booth # 13027

Thursday August 5 from 4-6pm

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The floor, not the ceiling

Salmon returns in the Columbia and Snake Rivers

This summer, the Columbia-Snake River Basin is witnessing a very positive return of salmon and steelhead. Scientists credit favorable ocean conditions, along with the court-ordered spill of water over some of the basin’s dams, for swelling the ranks of fish.
The increases in spill (the good kind) — won in court by Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition members alongside the legal team at Earthjustice — helps many more baby salmon survive their epic migrations from mountain streams to the sea where they grow to adulthood. Scientists also credit this spill with significantly contributing to a chinook salmon return currently 140 percent above the 10-year average and a sockeye run breaking modern records.

For those working to restore vibrant runs of salmon to the Columbia-Snake, this year’s salmon returns offer a glimpse of what could be achieved if we follow science to protect what was once the world’s most productive salmon watershed. For the communities that rely on these fish, and for the durability of the Endangered Species Act, these returns should represent the floor, not the ceiling, as we assess the recovery of Columbia-Snake salmon and the economic, cultural, and ecosystem needs of the region. 

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Nobody's Backyard: Pat Ford on the Tar Sands

What follows is a letter from Save Our Wild Salmon's executive director to coalition members and supporters, on the emerging implications for salmon of oil sands strip-mining in Canada's Boreal Forest.  Exxon recently issued a surprise plan to use the Columbia and Snake Rivers, and Idaho and Montana highways, to ship huge mining machinery to the oil sands. In effect, the Columbia and Snake Rivers are slated to be a conveyor belt for one of the world's largest intentional environmental disasters.

This is the kind of project that belongs in nobody's backyard...


Dear friends of Save Our Wild Salmon,

This fall Exxon intends to start using the Columbia and Snake Rivers as a transportation corridor to support development of the Canadian oil sands in northern Alberta.  The basics of oil sands development, Exxon’s plan, and the threats of both to salmon are outlined on our website.  I think this matter helps illuminate the changed context of conservation and citizenship in a time of climate disruption.

Save Our Wild Salmon’s mission is to restore abundant wild salmon to Northwest rivers and streams for use by people and ecosystems.  Most of those salmon and steelhead are endangered by extinction or trending that way, for the “old” reasons we are all familiar with:  habitat destruction of many kinds at all scales, often abetted and complicated by our salmon management responses.    

Salmon people are now looking for handles on a risk that overlays and amplifies the old ones:  the steady heating of our rivers and disruption of the water cycles that govern them caused by the collective greenhouse gas pollution of humankind.  It gives one pause.  Stopping and then reversing habitat destruction is hard enough, but at least we can have at it in the watersheds where we live or work or fish.  It is rather more daunting if coal development in China is now a greater threat to salmon than, say, public land livestock grazing in our own states.  How do we deal with that?

SOS’ response, like everyone’s in this new context, is experimental – but it has not been timid.  Since 2007, working with allies, we have helped move the Northwest toward a future with both wild salmon and clean energy.  We take Ben Franklin’s conviction in another context to heart:  these two pillars of a good future will either hang together, or hang separately.  We have not worked on coal plants in China, nor to phase out particular coal plants in the Northwest; but we have endorsed, helped document, and helped fund the steps to a Northwest energy future that is close to carbon-free in 30 years.  This is a necessary future for salmon, for people, and for the waters we share.

Full development of the Canadian oil sands will greatly increase the carbon pollution that, unless stopped, will by stages render Northwest waters uninhabitable for salmon.  The oil sands are not that far away.  Our fellow salmon defenders in British Columbia – First Nations, conservationists, fishermen, their communities – are fighting it, and we should join them in self-interest and solidarity.

Salmon defenders are also citizens.  Exxon is one of the largest assemblies of money, technical prowess and power on earth.  Focused on its dominating purpose – make money - it has worked quietly for at least two years to oil the skids for its plan.  Government agencies and elected officials, federal and state, have enabled Exxon’s secrecy and single focus in all-too-familiar ways:  inadvertence, tunnel vision, and capture by the monied and powerful.  Plus a factor that is not unique to government:  capture in the ruts of the past, which in times of challenge can become very deep pits.

A passionate wise young friend asked me a few days ago as I outlined Exxon’s plan, “When do we make our turn to the future?  When do we stop serving a past that we know can’t continue?”  She was in part addressing the Obama Administration, for which she had large hopes on energy and climate.  But she also addressed herself, and me, and you.  Developing the oil sands is for some a comfortable continuation of what has worked well for a century.  For most of us it is a growing but completely invisible source for the gas we pump into our cars.   But our children and children’s children – what is mining the oil sands to them?  Is it part of the change their eyes looking back to us from their future are asking us to make?  When do we start those changes?

I have met some of the Canadians fighting for salmon and their homes, thus against oil sands mining and pipelines.  They are tough patriotic people to whom we owe help.  Now we learn the confluence of massive strip-mining for oil in Canada and climate disruption also threatens salmon in the Columbia and Snake.  Salmon teach the lessons of connectedness, and so will global warming teach them, sternly, for decades to come. 

On behalf of our namesake, Save Our Wild Salmon will oppose Exxon’s plans for the Columbia and Snake, and join friends and fellows in opposing the oil sands.  Win or lose, I trust we will learn something for the many next cases to come when climate change pushes us outside our accustomed ranges of acting and reacting.  As it does the same to salmon, if we watch closely how they react I think we will learn lessons for ourselves.    

Good citizen website. Chronicles work by people who live along and use the Lochsa River who suddenly find this project bearing down on them.
Pembina Institute in Vancouver has a website on the tar sands and its effects along the British Columbia coast.
U.S. effects of the tar sands (though so far without mention of Exxon's proposal) are featured on a joint website of some national conservation groups.
A link for the Declaration against the oil sands and Gateway Pipeline by nine First Nations on the British Columbia coast.

Science guided by politics?

from: "Scientists expected Obama administration to be friendlier" - L.A. Times, July 10

"In the Pacific Northwest, Ruch said, his organization [Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility] has heard in the last 16 months from multiple federal fisheries biologists who report that they are under pressure to downplay the impact of dams on wild salmon." 

Recently the L.A. Times ran an important story on the Obama administration's unfortunate continuation of science guided by politics. The story, by Tom Hamburger and Kim Geiger of the L.A. Times' Washington Bureau, outlines several examples of corrupted science across the country, including a key mention of the Columbia-Snake basin.  
Here's the story.
Please comment or send a Letter to the Editor.  More on that here.

What is Tripods in the Mud?

iLCP photographer Neil Osborne at Little Redfish Lake. © Emily Nuchols

Save Our Wild Salmon and the International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Sometimes you've got to get on the ground. Get dirty, muddy and immerse yourself in a story... That's exactly what iLCP photographer Neil Osborne did to tell the story of Snake River salmon.

Tripods in the Mud (TIM) is an initiative of the iLCP that helps partner professional photographers like Neil with conservation organizations for the creation of visual materials on a specific region or issue.
Tripods (And Feet) in the Mud. © Neil Ever Osborne

Snake River salmon swim more than 900 miles inland and climb almost 7,000 feet to reach their spawning grounds — the highest salmon spawning habitat on the planet , and the largest and wildest habitat left in the continental United States. These one of a kind salmon travel farther and higher than any other salmon on Earth.
So how do you make people care? And get them to act? Give them beautiful and provocative images to tell the story.

Thanks to iLCP for joining the fight to save our wild salmon! Learn more about TIM and iLCP here.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Salmon, Wildlife and Connecting the Dots in the Sawtooth Valley

©Neil Ever Osborne

Save Our Wild Salmon and the
International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Not since I was little, have I searched for wildlife so hard.

It's all so clear to kids. Everything is obviously interconnected. And everything is exciting. Their point of view of the world is untainted and hopeful. But somewhere along the way, we adults have lost that simplicity to our lives. And I'm lucky enough to say that one week reminded me of how important that simplicity is.

Last week I got to think, see (and act) like a kid again. We rose at 5a.m. every day to catch the sunrise and didn't stop again until 10p.m. when the sun went down. While the sun was our guide, we were also out to catch wildlife. I have to admit, I was a bit pessimistic about our chances of snagging good wildlife shots, but we were determined... And incredibly lucky.

©Neil Ever Osborne

When you're out there stalking a moose in the woods, or hiding behind sagebrush to get the perfect shot of a pronghorn, or staring for hours staring at the river hoping for a glimpse of the first salmon runs, it's really not that difficult to see how all of these animals are connected.

These salmon that migrate from the ocean are packed with nutrients, carrying them the forests and rivers, and hundreds of animals that exist on land and water. They're little powerhouses. When you simplify that process, it's even more clear...

©Neil Ever Osborne

When salmon come home to spawn and die, the forest has a feast. Eagles, ospreys, bugs, raccoons, wolves, bears and riparian grasses and trees all dine on these iconic fish. From there, it's a domino effect. Deer, elk, bighorn sheep and more dine on the lush grasses by the river. And more wolves and bears eat them. And hey, humans are part of the equation too — eating salmon and large game animals.

Once you break it down. It's clear as day. We're all connected and our futures rely on that interconnectedness. You take one piece out, and it affects every single one of us in one way or another. We lose the way our ecosystem works.

Let's make sure that doesn't happen with these one of kind fish. Take action to save our wild salmon today!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Proud To Be An American? Save Salmon.

©Neil Ever Osborne

Save Our Wild Salmon and the International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Think bald eagles are patriotic? Check out this amazing photo from ILCP's Neil Osborne, then
take action to save their favorite food — wild salmon!

Friday, July 2, 2010

To Find the Perfect Shot, Sometimes You Have to Get Wet...

Or eaten alive by mosquitoes.©Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Save Our Wild Salmon and the
International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Snake River Salmon: An Epic Migration

Little Redfish Lake ©Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Save Our Wild Salmon and the
International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Snake River sockeye make an epic migration each year to Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Valley, climbing nearly 7,000 feet and swimming more than 900 miles to get there. To get a visual — that’s the distance from Denver to Chicago and higher than five Empire State Buildings stacked one on top of another.

In addition, these red fish tackle an eight-dam gauntlet on the Columbia and Lower Snake Rivers. The tenacity and determination of these fish is undeniable and at times unbelievable. It's no wonder that they are often referred to as the lifeblood of the Northwest's signature rivers.

©Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Yesterday, we hit up Dagger Falls on a late afternoon shoot, where Snake River chinook were jumping up the falls. It's endlessly inspiring to watch these fish launch themselves up a mass of churning whitewater over and over until they disappear through the current.

"Perched precariously on a rock with Dagger Falls whitewater below, I encountered for the first time the largest of the salmon species, the chinook salmon, demonstrating endurance and perseverance like no other animal. I now plan to help this story."

Neil Osborne perched over Dagger Falls. ©Emily Nuchols

The trip was a first for iLCP photographer Neil Osborne and Idaho Rivers United's Greg Stahl and I watched him from the bank. He would turn to us often, wide-eyed and grinning. And with every leaping fish and click of the shutter, it was clear that these iconic fish had found a new ally.

From watching Neil's encounter yesterday, I have to believe that if more people took a moment to watch these fish fight so hard to survive that they'd be encouraged to act. And that's exactly why we're here — to bring this epic migration home.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Snake River Salmon Bring It Home

© Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Save Our Wild Salmon and the
International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Since setting foot in the Sawtooth Valley this week, we've been on a mission to capture late spring wildflowers lighting up meadows, the pristine waters of rivers and streams cutting through the landscape and the grandeur of the rugged Sawtooth Mountains reaching up from the base of Redfish Lake. We're here to give a face to the name of the fight to save the Snake River's one of a kind salmon.
© Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Yesterday, we caught up with Ed Cannady, the backcountry ranger for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Ed has lived in or near the valley for more than 30 years and has logged more miles of backcountry trails in this place than pretty much anyone. Having racked up miles on every single trail in the Sawtooth and White Cloud mountain ranges (seriously), Ed's a walking, talking encyclopedia on all things involving wilderness and wildlife.

We hiked through sage and aspen to the top of a pitch near Boundary Creek and overlooking the Sawtooth range. With a storm rolling in, we took cover from the rain under a massive lodgepole pine. As we looked over the dark clouds looming at the peaks of the mountains, I asked Ed how salmon are connected to the landscape sprawling out below.
© Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

"It's not how this landscape benefits salmon, it's how salmon benefit this land," he said. "Salmon are one of the most noble creatures out there. When you stand on the riverbank and watch this mother salmon digging her redd, knocking the flesh off her own body, it's overwhelming to think about what these fish take on to survive. We're the last generation who can save them. And I don't want to be the generation who witnesses the glaciers disappear from Glacier National Park, or see salmon disappear from the Salmon River, or sockeye disappear from Redfish Lake."

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Looking For Goats And Finding Adventure

© Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Save Our Wild Salmon and the
International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Hopping into Nappy Neaman's pick-up, there was no mistake of what we were after. Known by many in the Sawtooth Valley as the "Goat Man", Nappy is a local legend with a tenacious passion for seeking out the nimble, rugged mountain goats of this landscape.

Nappy Neaman, aka "Goat Man" searching for goats at Phyllis Lake. © Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

After a massive sheep traffic jam and more than 6 hours hiking to the goat's favorite haunts like Phyllis Lake and the aptly named Goat Rocks, when we finally caught our first glimpse
of three adult goats and two babies perched high on a peak.

More than a mile away, we were too far to snap photos, but the thing about adventures (and wildlife scouting missions) is that you never know what you're going to end up with. The adventure is all about the story. And standing there on the trail looking up at those goats, it's crystal clear why this place is so special.

Nappy said: "Why these goats traveled from the North to live in these mountains, we don't know. And why salmon travel from here to the ocean only to battle their way all of this way back to these very streams, we just don't know. We don't know everything. But it's all connected. No one is more important than the other. But if you lose one of them, you effect every single one of them... You lose a piece of why this place is so special."

Photos © Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One of a Kind: Telling the Story of Snake River Salmon

© Neil Ever Osborne, iLCP

Save Our Wild Salmon and the
International League of Conservation Photographers have joined forces to tell the story of the Snake River's one of a kind salmon and the place they call home.

Snake River salmon swim more than 900 miles inland and climb almost 7,000 feet to reach their spawning grounds — the highest salmon spawning habitat on the planet , and the largest and wildest habitat left in the continental United States. These one of a kind salmon travel farther and higher than any other salmon on Earth. And this week, we're here with iLCP rockstar Neil Osborne and Idaho Rivers United's Greg Stahl and Tom Stuart to document this incredible place and the wildlife that live here.

"Look around you. We're standing in the middle of the largest block of wilderness left in the Lower 48. All of this is protected. All of it. And it always will be.
This right here is Noah's Ark for salmon. But it's up to us to make sure they make it here." — Tom Stuart said standing atop Nip and Tuck near Stanley Idaho and looking over the Sawtooth Valley.

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