Friday, May 28, 2010

Patagonia Environmental Essay — Meet an Unlikely Proponent of Dam Removal: Farmer Bryan Jones

From Patagonia's Environmental Essays:

Bryan Jones is a 4th generation wheat farmer near Colfax, Washington. He farms 640 acres. He and his fellow farmers rely on barges on the Snake River to move their wheat to market. This is primarily why the dams on the Snake were built.

Jones remembers going down to the Snake before it was dammed.

“I watched the currents and eddies with my grandparents and was told how treacherous that river was, yet its currents fascinated me. I picked fruit along the banks of the Snake. At times when picking with my grandparents, my brothers and I would eat as many peaches as we could, stuffing our mouths with big warm juicy peaches. (Afterwards, they never weighed us!)

“The dams were built when I was young; Little Goose in 1966, Lower Granite in 1974. After the four dams went in, we lost 140 miles of the river. Today, there are only a few places along its banks where people can recreate and enjoy our local river. As a young man, I remember coming back home from Los Angeles, and I looked at the slow water in its summer heat; there was no current, it was algae filled, and I knew it was not a place I wanted to play in or eat fish out of.”

Jones began working with Save Our Wild Salmon in 2006 after he was contacted by his local conservation district office and asked if he’d like to come to a meeting. Once there, he heard representatives of SOS and American Rivers talk about ways to take down the dams and help farmers.

Before that, Jones says, “advocates for dam removal wanted to remove the dams with no options for locals. But this was a new tack. I saw that the dams could be removed if farmers had an economically viable way of shipping grain. I saw that for much less money we could build infrastructure, ship our grain via rail and still have the option of shipping grain and importing goods without tearing up highways. Currently, one rail line already exists on the lower Snake. If affordable and efficient rail can replace Snake River barging, it can be a better alternative for farmers and other shippers. It is the bottom line that farmers look at most.”

Jones adds, “The bottom line is that we need to take care of this planet sooner or later. If we take down the dams on the Snake, we will save a species that ranges from the deepest ocean to the highest reaches of the United States. They help keep our planet alive. By coming together, having a dialogue, studying the science, we can restore salmon, keep farmers whole, and give communities back that which they have lost – their river. In turn we might benefit from improved infrastructure, better market access, public access to the river, recreation, wildlife habitat, but most importantly, we may give a species so critical to the great northwest and beyond, a chance to survive.”

Take Action! Urge the Obama Administration to change course and remove the four lower Snake River dams

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

National Geographic Action Atlas: Save Snake River Salmon

From NatGeo News Watch, by Allen Carroll:
For thousands of years, a migration of majestic proportions has played out annually in the wild rivers of the northwestern United States. Sockeye and steelhead salmon return to the rivers in which they were born, swimming upstream for hundreds of miles against ferocious currents in order to spawn and die. To reach their spawning grounds, fish populations of the Snake River navigate more than 900 miles, ascending an astonishing 6,500 vertical feet--the highest climb of any salmon population.

The Snake River's salmon spawn in the high, clear waters of one of the largest and most intact wild areas of the coterminous United States. Their annual arrival is not only the climax of their remarkable life cycle; it also represents a huge influx of nutrients to the ecosystems of central Idaho, northeastern Oregon, and southeastern Washington. Dozens of species, including bears, wolves, eagles, ospreys--and humans--benefit from this unlikely delivery, courtesy of Mother Nature, of fresh seafood to inland North America.

Read the rest of the story and take action!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

6th Time Not the Charm

Obama administration ignores climate change impacts, weakens Endangered Species Act in release of Northwest salmon plan

May 20, 2010 - Download the press release - Media Contacts below
Take action on this issue.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Just one month after oil began spilling into the Gulf of Mexico — crushing wildlife and fishing communities — and on the eve of Endangered Species Day, the Obama administration announced today that, instead of employing sound science and following the Endangered Species Act, it will stick with the Bush administration’s failed analyses and strategies for endangered wild salmon on the Columbia and Snake rivers in the Pacific Northwest. This was the Obama administration’s first attempt at a plan of their own for these iconic creatures.

"This is a disappointing decision from the administration,” said Rebecca Wodder, President of American Rivers. “These fish are truly one-of-a-kind — the only salmon on the planet that travel as far and as high. Their habitat is equally unique, providing the largest, wildest, highest, coldest salmon habitat in the lower 48, and our best chance of protecting and restoring Columbia and Snake salmon in the face of climate change. We can recover salmon and restore the Snake River in a way that works for local communities and the region’s economy, and we should embrace that path, not shy away from it."

The Obama salmon plan is an attempt to mitigate the harmful impacts of federal dams on endangered salmon and steelhead populations. But despite strong objections from fisheries biologists, former Northwest governors, and people and businesses across the nation, the Obama administration has taken no action to address the effects of climate change on rivers and salmon populations, and has effectively lowered the bar for protection of endangered species across the country.

“The administration has chosen to wear blinders regarding the impacts of climate change on salmon,” said John Kostyack, the executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming program. “The science tells us that our rivers and lakes are warming. This administration had an opportunity to confront this problem and to protect salmon from the impacts from climate change. Instead it elected to ignore the impacts and defend a discredited strategy written by the previous administration.”

In a speech before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2009, President Obama stated that "For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has successfully protected our nation's most threatened wildlife, and we should be looking for ways to improve it — not weaken it.” Unfortunately, the plan released today diverges sharply from this goal by undermining one of the Act’s key protective measures.

“It’s sad, but clear, that NOAA and its fisheries service have not gotten the President’s message,” said Zeke Grader, the executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “Today’s actions tell us there has been no change from the disastrous policies of the past 15 years that failed to protect endangered fish while endangering fishing jobs and fishing economies. Fishing communities deserved better than this.”

Salmon advocates maintain that the plan released today is illegal under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and largely ignores the impact federal dams have on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia-Snake River Basin. In the past decade, the courts have rejected two similarly weak salmon plans.

“We believed the President when he said he would follow science and strengthen the ESA, but the administration has seemingly allowed regional political pressure to trump science and law,” said Brock Evans, President of the Endangered Species Coalition. “Tomorrow is Endangered Species Day. We should be celebrating and working to protect America’s endangered species, but instead, for Columbia Basin salmon, we’re mourning. Even so, make no mistake — we’re not done fighting to save species like wild salmon. They are simply irreplaceable.”

Nicole Cordan, Save Our Wild Salmon,, 503.230.0421, ext. 12 or 503.703.3733 (cell)
Michael Garrity, American Rivers,, 206-852-5583
John Kostyack, National Wildlife Federation,, 202.797.6879
Brock Evans, Endangered Species Coalition,, 202.244.7138

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Will Obama Dam Salmon to Extinction?

On the heels of the catastrophic oil spill that is crushing wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration is poised to make a decision this week that could change the fate of endangered species in this country. On May 20, the Administration will release a federal salmon plan that will do one of two things for endangered wildlife: protect the Endangered Species Act, or weaken it. A decision to weaken the ESA for the West’s iconic Columbia and Snake River salmon could send an ecological ripple across the country — affecting every endangered species in the nation.

And the situation doesn’t look good. Instead of charting its own path, the administration is working off an illegal Bush administration plan for endangered salmon.

Because they return to the biggest, highest and best-protected habitat in America, endangered Snake River salmon are slated as the West’s best chance to save salmon for future generations in an environment threatened by climate change. These cold, crisp waters of spanning three Western states — Washington, Oregon and Idaho, will remain cold under warming climates, protecting these one-of-a-kind salmon with a one-of-a-kind habitat. Making the wrong decision on these rivers would effectively dam (pun fully intended) these salmon to extinction.

"The last cut at this plan largely ignored the impacts climate change will most certainly have on these salmon. And it ignored the unique habitat in the Snake Basin that these fish call home. The science tells us that getting these fish back home is the surest and perhaps only way to ensure salmon in the Columbia-Snake Basin under a warming world. Let's hope that in addition to protecting the ESA, the administration prepares for the current and future harms caused to these fish from global warming. Let's get these fish back to their habitat so we can ensure salmon in the Columbia-Snake Basin for generations to come." — John Kostyack, Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming for National Wildlife Federation in Washington, DC. NWF is the lead plaintiff in the fight to protect Columbia-Snake salmon.

The Columbia-Snake Rivers may not be in your own backyard, but the effects of this decision certainly will be. Take action today to save salmon and protect America’s endangered species.

These fish are fighting right now to survive — tackling a gauntlet of dams, escaping predators and climbing higher than any salmon on Earth. They’re doing their part. Now let’s do ours.

Take Action Now.

Save Wild Salmon from Epicocity Project on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

And the Winner Is...

Thank you so much to everyone for taking part in our We Love Rivers photo contest. We had so many excellent submissions, it was difficult to choose... but we're happy that there are so many of you out there that love and care about free-flowing waterways!

Our grand prize winning photo is Dead Horse Point and the Colorado River. An excellent photo that reminds us that protecting rivers also means protecting the beautiful landscapes around them.

Thanks to Mountain Khakis for hooking our grand prize winner up with a pair of Snake River pants!

And because it was so difficult to choose from all the great photos, here are our two runner's up, one of the Snake River and the other of Lower Yosemite Falls and River:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working Snake River: Bringing people, organizations and businesses together for salmon

Working Snake River for Washington officially launched last week, and we're excited to be one of the many partners in putting this initiative together.

What is Working Snake River? It's a project that's focused on "bringing citizens, businesses, and elected leaders together to restore salmon and steelhead, invest in our communities, and build Northwest prosperity by restoring a Snake River that works for Washington State." That's because salmon issues affect a wide variety of issues, from environment to the economy, and Working Snake River is committed to highlighting those connections.

The project is currently pushing to get support from Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to solve the Columbia basin crisis that is affecting the entire state of Washington.

“Restoring wild salmon directly benefits Puget Sound’s resident orcas that rely on these salmon as a main food source,” said People for Puget Sound executive director Kathy Fletcher. “This salmon crisis is a Washington state problem and all of us must work together to fashion real solutions.”