Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wild Salmon Rising: Two epic stories about the greatest salmon rivers on Earth… and fishing

Save Our Wild Salmon and Wild Salmon Center Present Eastern Rises + The Greatest Migration

On April 14 at 7pm in NE Portland, Save Our Wild Salmon and Wild Salmon Center are teaming up to present Wild Salmon Rising: two epic films about the greatest salmon rivers on earth… and fishing.

In Felt Soul Media’s Eastern Rises, fishing is poetry; Bigfoot lurks in the fog; and fishermen risk life and limb in decommissioned Cold War helicopters to explore rivers that have never been fished. Eastern Rises has won awards including: Best Sport at Banff Mountain Film, Best Film at The Drake Magazine Video Awards, Audience Choice at Wild & Scenic Film Festival and Best Action at Flagstaff Mountain Film.

"Kamchatka is one of the most wild and remote places on Earth and a huge producer of wild salmon in the North Pacific, currently only rivaled by Alaska's Bristol Bay,” said filmmaker Travis Rummel of Felt Soul Media. “The entire Pacific coast of North America used to produce wild salmon in abundance — especially the Columbia/Snake River systems. Sadly you have to travel to the end of Earth to find what was once in our backyards."

While the audience won’t see many salmon in Eastern Rises, the film showcases a wild piece of the world where salmon still return in large numbers and is reminiscent to what the mighty Columbia once was.

Eastern Rises | teaser from felt soul media on Vimeo.

In EP FilmsThe Greatest Migration, follow endangered Snake River salmon as they tackle an incredible journey from Alaska through the Columbia and Snake Rivers to Idaho's wild and rugged Sawtooth Mountains — swimming 1,000 miles inland and nearly 7,000 feet in elevation — farther and climbing higher than any salmon on Earth.

“While filming I spent time fishing with a fisherman from Sitka, crouched on the banks of the Snake with a Nez Perce elder and stalked spawning wild chinook salmon with a fisheries biologist in Idaho — 1,000 miles from the ocean,” said filmmaker Andy Maser of EP films. “After all of that, it was crystal clear that the story we set out to tell was about so much more than a fish. Salmon are an icon. They’re the lifeblood of our communities, culture and environment. Without them, our world looks very different.”

The Greatest Migration Teaser from EP Films on Vimeo.

Historically, 30 million salmon used to feed the Columbia-Snake Rivers, but today, their populations have plummeted to just 1% of those historic numbers — largely due to impacts from the basin’s hydrosystem. Salmon advocates, fishermen, business leaders and conservationists are fighting in court to institute protections on the Columbia-Snake Rivers that would restore wild salmon populations. And the region’s top scientists have identified lower Snake River dam removal as the most effective — if not only — option to recover the Snake River’s legendary salmon runs. The Obama administration has yet to consider that option.

Not wanting to stir up controversy or upset powerful interests, our government has allowed science and innovation to lose out to politics and procrastination,” said renowned Oregon steelhead fishing guide Jeff Hickman. “My job depends on healthy wild salmon and steelhead. To save them, we’ve got to take the lead and push for the removal of the dams that are literally blocking wild salmon and steelhead from their very survival. This fight is far from over. We will not simply sit on the sidelines and allow science and truth to be silenced. We will fight for salmon, for our rivers, for ourselves and for our future.”

Wild salmon are an integral part of our cultures, ecosystems, food security and global economy. To save them, we must protect our best remaining rivers and remove the dams that are literally blocking wild salmon from their very survival.

Join Save Our Wild Salmon and Wild Salmon Center to enjoy an evening of films, Widmer brews, wild smoked salmon, gear giveaways and to take action to save wild salmon in our own backyard!

When: April 14 — Doors at 7pm, Films at 7:30pm

Where: Boothster — 521 NE Davis in Portland

Eastern Rises Teaser: http://vimeo.com/3074182

The Greatest Migration Teaser: http://vimeo.com/15041410

FREE Entry, 21 and over.

$5 gets you a Klean Kanteen steel pint and beer for the night

$5 gets you 3 raffle tickets for great prizes from Osprey Packs, Patagonia, Idylwilde Flies, Rio Products, Sage and more!

All proceeds benefit Save Our Wild Salmon.

Fewer dams will improve Columbia-Snake river system

By Brett Swift
For the Capital Press

Woody Guthrie sang the virtues of a working Columbia River nearly 70 years ago.
Back then, a working river meant an industrialized river harnessed for power and irrigation.

Today, we need to make the Columbia a working river that "rolls on" in a way that balances hydropower, barge navigation and irrigation with the amazing array of services a healthy river provides. These services include clean drinking water, healthy fisheries and recreational activities like fishing, birding, boating, hiking and camping that improve our quality of life and attract new businesses and jobs.

The next several years will be pivotal for ensuring that the Columbia River and its tributaries work for farmers, fishermen, communities and the environment. This effort will be won or lost based on how we manage the following benefits that the Columbia and its tributaries provide.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Students call on Congressman DeFazio

Derek Kimbol with his boys.

This past fall, several students at the University of Oregon spent time reaching out to fellow students about an open letter to Congressman DeFazio. The letter asks DeFazio to "support a stakeholder process – bringing together fishermen, farmers, energy users, and decision-makers – to craft durable solutions for communities of the Columbia and Snake Rivers that are based on sound science and economics, and an all-options approach."

Last week, one of the main student organizers, Derek Kimbol, submitted the final letter to Congressman DeFazio from nearly 300 students and young people in Oregon's 4th congressional district.  Derek decided to share his cover letter with us (below).  Here is the full sign-on letter from students.  You can also find more information here on DeFazio's role in Northwest salmon recovery.

Dear Congressman DeFazio,

My name is Derek Kimbol and I am currently a senior in Environmental Sciences at the University of Oregon.  I write to you regarding the attached letter about salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake Rivers from students and young people in Oregon's 4th Congressional District.

Salmon are an essential part of my cultural heritage.  I am Modoc Indian and an enrolled member of the Klamath tribes with family in the Hoopa, Grande Ronde, Warm Springs and Yakima Tribes.  I consider salmon a part of my family as well.  What's more, salmon play a key role in our Northwest ecosystem and economy.  They support hundreds of plant and animal species in the coastal temperate rain forest, the inland high desert, and the high mountain ranges of central Idaho and northeast Oregon. And these salmon support thousands of jobs in a diversity of industries throughout our region.  We as people of the Northwest deserve a real voice in deciding the fate of this precious resource.

This past fall I worked with several other students on the attached letter.  For a period of about two weeks, we reached out to fellow students and student groups on campus at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College.  The reaction was very positive and there was a strong call for change.

I was disappointed to read your op-ed with Congressman Hastings praising the current federal efforts to recover salmon.  We have unfortunately not reached the peace you mention and the federal agencies have failed to craft a long-term, science-based plan that proposes new actions to recover wild salmon and steelhead.

The Nez Perce Tribe, the State of Oregon, and many of your colleagues in Congress – Representative Blumenauer and Senator Jeff Merkley among them – have helped keep pressure on the federal agencies to implement stopgap measures, such as spilling water at the dams, that are working to protect salmon until a lawful and science-based plan with a broader set of solutions for salmon and the Northwest can be crafted.  Newly elected Governor John Kitzhaber supports an open conversation about all options as well; I hope you will stand with him.

History has shown that NOAA and the Bonneville Power Administration do not have the best interests of salmon or salmon people in mind when managing the rivers and operating their dams.  If the federal judge rules NOAA's plan illegal again, I hope you see this as an opportunity to change course and embrace alternatives to the four lower Snake River dams.

Again, I hope you read the attached letter and take it to heart.  Salmon and salmon-dependent communities deserve a fighting chance and they need you in their corner.


Derek Kimbol
Senior in Environmental Sciences
University of Oregon

Here's another link to the sign-on letter. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Congressman DeFazio at it again.

Congressman DeFazio (left) and Congressman Doc Hastings (right)

History is repeating itself. 

In March of 2009, on the day of a key hearing in Judge Redden's courtroom, the Oregonian printed an op-ed from Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR), praising the federal government's salmon and steelhead plan for the Columbia-Snake Basin and basically telling Judge Redden to get over it.  Here is that op-ed.  We posted this long blog response shortly thereafter.

Just over a week ago, Congressman DeFazio was at it again, this time with Congressman Doc Hastings (R-WA).  Read that here.  The themes are familiar: hard work - collaboration - fish are doing fine - just be done with it already. 

Now author Steve Hawley is back in the fray.  In the Oregonian, he takes Congressman DeFazio head on and offers a potential window for the Congressman to change gears.

We also thought it made sense to respond to some of the assertions mentioned in the DeFazio/Hastings oped.  Read Bipartisan Inaccuracies - A Response to Reps. Hastings and DeFazio.

Here's an excerpt from Hawley's piece: 

Therein lies the most offensive assertions put forth by Hastings and DeFazio. It's simply not true that water spilled over dams for fish translates into power generation that has to be made up by fossil fuels. In the short term, the region is sitting on a surplus of wind and hydropower. In the long term, enough can be accomplished through efficiency and conservation measures that not only could our long-term energy needs be met, but removing a few dams on the Snake could be accomplished without replacing the lost power with new generating plants. This news comes not from environmental groups, but from the agency responsible for recommending power plans and fish recovery measures to the BPA.

In the meantime, the cost of spill is calculated with a magical formula known as "forgone revenue." The BPA arrives at this number by assuming it owns all the water in the river, then charges the salmon recovery program for water that goes downstream without spinning a turbine. This surcharge amounts to half of what the agency claims it spends on fish. This accounting methodology exists nowhere else in natural resource economics. Imagine billing the Forest Service for the trees it didn't cut down. 

Read more of Hawley's oped in the Oregonian. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vote for Johnson Creek!

Johnson Creek Watershed Council of Portland, Oregon is competing in a national grant competition for a $30,000 grant to support salmon restoration in one of the last remaining above-ground creeks in the Metropolitan Portland area.



It's a grant from River Network and MillerCoors, and the organization receiving the most votes by March 20th will win $30,000.  

Project summary:  
The Johnson Creek Watershed Council and its partners plan to enhance salmon habitat and restore streamside forests at the mouth of Johnson Creek.   To enhance fish habitat, we will construct sixteen engineered log jams throughout a quarter-mile reach of Johnson Creek and place logs and boulders in two areas of exposed bedrock.   At the north end of Milwaukie Riverfront Park, an interpretive overlook and trail are planned for construction.   The overlook will provide information about salmon and other wildlife that use the site and benefit from the project.

Project benefits:  
The project will provide a much-needed refuge for migrating Willamette River salmon just upstream of Portland’s “downtown gauntlet” where dense industrial development and cement sea walls have left few resting areas and little protective cover for fish.    Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists highlight how all the threatened Coho and Chinook salmon and Steelhead trout in the middle and upper Willamette Basin – an area with over 11,000 miles of rivers and streams – pass by the mouth of Johnson Creek, and will benefit from this project.

Johnson Creek is one of the few Portland streams with active runs of threatened Coho, Chinook, and Steelhead.    In December 2010, Coho salmon were seen in upper Johnson Creek east of Gresham, 15 miles from the creek mouth -- much farther upstream than spawning Coho have been documented in recent years.   Our confluence project will benefit Johnson Creek salmon at an exciting and opportune time when we are beginning to see positive results of years of investment in restoring Johnson Creek.

Learn more about Johnson Creek.
Vote Here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Scientists respond to Lubchenco

Op-Ed to the Oregonian by Demian Ebert, president of the Oregon Chapter of the American Fisheries Society:

In a recent commentary in The Oregonian, Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, stated that salmon recovery in the Columbia Basin is now being guided by science and pointed to increased survival of juvenile salmon and improved returns of adult salmon as validation of recovery efforts. But attributing improvements in salmon and steelhead returns to the recovery program alone is misleading. 

Survival of juvenile salmon in the Columbia River has increased because of improved passage conditions, due largely to increased spill at the dams -- ironically, an action that was imposed on federal agencies by court order. Improved ocean conditions have resulted in increased adult returns for some populations of salmon and steelhead. Unfortunately, most of the returning fish are from hatcheries. Wild fish populations remain far below recovery levels. 

Read more over at the Oregonian.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Agreeing with Dr. Lubchenco... almost.

NOAA Admininstrator Jane Lubchenco.

- from the desk of Nicole Cordan, Policy & Legal Director, SOS

On Sunday, the Oregonian printed an opinion piece from NOAA Administrator Dr. Jane Lubchenco. Here’s how that piece starts:

“Effective rebuilding of the mighty salmon runs of the Columbia River depends on science to guide our actions, a firm commitment to implement those actions, people and funding to do the job, and a robust monitoring program to guide us through the uncertainties of the future.”

I couldn’t agree more. 

The problem with Dr. Lubchenco’s plan however, is that it does none of these things.  It doesn’t follow the science. It doesn’t commit to implementing or funding what the science says we need to do. And it doesn’t set even set up a monitoring plan that would move to more stringent actions if the science is right and what is happening on the river isn’t good enough to help fish.

Instead, Dr. Lubchenco’s and other federal officials in the Obama administration continue to tout the science and the process endorsed by the Bush Administration. This wasn’t a transparent process as Dr. Lubchenco suggests — the science review meetings she refers to were closed-door processes. Scientists were forced to sign confidentiality agreements just to participate; and still today, state and tribal scientists are forced to remain silent about what is best for salmon because of contracts signed with the federal government. No matter how you spin it, that’s not transparency or peer reviewed science — or a process that leaves one with a sense of security that good decisions are being made.  Something we’ve seen far too much of with this administration.

In her defense, Lubchenco appears to have been limited in her power to change both the scientific and political dynamics of this issue. As an Oregonian op-ed piece from Paul VanDevelder highlights, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and the offices of Senators Murray and Cantwell, among others, have hamstrung Lubchenco’s work since the day she stepped into office.

Nevertheless, Lubchenco has allowed this to happen. Ignoring her former colleagues in the region, she has allowed politics to trump science once again. Her continued assertion that Obama’s Columbia-Snake Basin salmon and steelhead plan follows the “best available science” simply doesn’t square with the rest of the scientific community. The Western Division of the American Fisheries Society — the nation’s oldest, largest, and most respected fisheries science organization – released a critical review of NOAA’s plan. The AFS deemed NOAA’s plan “inadequate” which roughly translates to horse pucky on the street. If Lubchenco stands “100% behind the science,” she’d better watch her step.

Lubchenco’s opinion is, I’ll admit, great public relations, but claiming victory for the federal agencies from higher salmon returns simply goes too far and ignores the facts.

We have indeed seen slightly better returns in the past couple of years, but most of those fish returning are not wild salmon and largely because of spill ordered by Judge Redden in Portland — against the vehement objections of the federal agencies.  For more than a decade, I have fought side-by-side with fishermen, river and clean energy advocates, Northwest tribes and scientists to ensure that these salmon and communities get what they need: a fair chance. And if fish are coming back in higher numbers, it is because of the protections these people fought for and achieved from Judge Redden. Judge Redden has done more to protect endangered salmon and protect jobs on the Columbia-Snake rives than has the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations combined. To take credit for that work is in poor taste.

Lubchenco said, ultimately we have to get this plan right because, “we owe it to the fish and the communities that depend upon them.”

Again, I couldn’t agree more. But may we remind you, Dr. Lubchenco, that actions speak louder than words. And to date, your actions have done little to protect these fish.

Read more reactions to Lubchenco's op-ed in the Oregonian from author Steve Hawley, commercial fisherman Joel Kawahara, and filmmaker Andy Maser.

Paul VanDevelder's piece, mentioned above, can be found over at the Oregonian.