The Path Forward for Salmon Recovery.
Fighting for an Abundant Future
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Salmon are iconic, but these fish are far more than a symbol. The Columbia supports important subsistence, commercial, and recreational salmon fisheries. For many people, the Columbia’s salmon provide paychecks, meals, a connection to place and family, and a way to mark the changing seasons. Columbia River salmon are also food for critically endangered Southern Resident orcas and other wildlife.
Preventing extinction of Columbia River salmon is necessary but insufficient. It is not enough for salmon to persist in small numbers, in isolated places—living museums, so to speak. Our vision is a return to healthy, abundant, harvestable runs of salmon throughout the Columbia River and its many tributaries. Basin-wide abundance will ensure that salmon continue to play their critical role in Northwest ecosystems and that salmon cultures flourish for generations to come.
Given the threats to salmon, abundance may seem unrealistic. But salmon recovery on a large scale is possible. Conservation practices have led to remarkable increases in salmon in parts of the Columbia Basin like the Hanford Reach and the Okanogan River. With this in mind, Columbia Riverkeeper’s Saving Salmon program continues to take aim at big goals.
Progress and Accomplishments in 2023
This year, we helped build national momentum toward Snake River dam removal. Columbia Riverkeeper called attention to another massive fish kill caused by hot water and dams—80 percent of endangered Snake River sockeye salmon died in 2023 as they migrated through eight dams on the Columbia and Lower Snake. Following this tragedy, we sent legal notice of our intent to file a new Endangered Species Act case against the Army Corps of Engineers to require action to keep the Lower Snake River cool enough for salmon. We also submitted thousands of comments—from members like you—to the Biden Administration asking for Snake River dam removal to restore abundant salmon and honor Tribal rights.
The Biden Administration is listening! This September, the White House called for “a sustained national effort to restore healthy and abundant native fish populations in the [Columbia] Basin,” and directed all federal agencies to use their authorities to support this goal. We still have a long and uncertain path ahead, but we are gaining momentum.
Elsewhere in the Basin, Columbia Riverkeeper is supporting efforts by the Cowlitz Tribe and Yakama Nation to restore salmon migration throughout the Lewis River. This fall, PacifiCorp agreed to a new schedule to install fish passage at two of its dams on the Lewis. PacifiCorp broke a previous promise to retrofit its dams to include fish passage, so Columbia Riverkeeper will continue to hold PacifiCorp accountable for its promises to Tribes and the public.
Columbia Riverkeeper also worked with the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and many conservation groups to oppose weakening Oregon’s laws protecting migratory fish. Now we are challenging the rule changes in court in order to restore protections for salmon and steelhead.
The Path Forward In solidarity with Tribal Nations, and in partnership with river communities, Columbia Riverkeeper will keep fighting for salmon in 2024 and beyond. The challeng- es we face are substantial. But we are building momentum toward actions—like Lower Snake River dam removal—that would ensure a future for salmon, orcas, and salmon cultures.
Your Impact in 2023
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