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By Miles Johnson, Legal Director 

Miles Johnson and his toddler holding a fishing rod on a river bank

On a warm Saturday this spring, my family headed to a pond in the Columbia River Gorge that had been recently stocked with hatchery-grown rainbow trout. Carrying lawn chairs, power bait, snacks, and assorted fishing gear, we found a place along the shore. The trout cooperated, and soon both kids were smiling and coated in a healthy layer of fish slime, scales, and blood.       

Watching my son cast a purple bass worm dangerously close to his sister, part of me wished they would always remain so young and so excited by even the smallest, most contrived catch. Or perhaps I was just wishing to stop time, to delay needing to give them full, often painful, answers to simple questions: Why don’t we eat many smallmouth bass from the Columbia? Why is there so little smoked salmon in the freezer? Why is the big river so still, warm, and quiet?  

Will you make a commitment to protect healthy, abundant fish and clean water by becoming a monthly donor today? By joining us as a River Sustainer, you create stability for Columbia Riverkeeper by powering the work to protect the Columbia River and our climate now and for future generations.             

We won’t completely solve the serious problems facing the Columbia before my children come of age. But I take pride and solace in belonging to an organization that successfully helps reduce pollution, restore endangered fish, and works in solidarity with Tribal Nations. And you should take pride as well, because your support powers Columbia Riverkeeper’s victories.

I want to share some hope about Snake River Dam removal. While the path ahead remains uncertain, the movement to un-dam the Lower Snake River has more momentum now than ever before. That’s evident in the leadership of Columbia River Tribes, in statements by Northwest politicians about the need for dam removal, and in President Biden’s recent public commitment to rebuilding abundant salmon runs. It’s also largely thanks to people like you, who stand up for healthy rivers and donate to Columbia Riverkeeper.

Please consider joining as a River Sustainer.

Your small monthly gift leads to big results in the fight to protect the Columbia River and our climate.

Here’s another bright spot: Columbia Riverkeeper is fighting for clean, cold water in court, and winning. After years of strategic litigation, the Lower Snake River dams finally have Clean Water Act discharge permits. Enforcing these permits will not be simple or quick, but—for the first time ever—the federal government has a legal obligation to stop making the river too hot for salmon.       

One more piece of good news. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and Yakama Nation, with support from Columbia Riverkeeper, two dams on the Lewis River in southwest Washington should soon allow fish passage. This will restore access to roughly fifty miles of spawning and rearing habitat, a major step forward for salmon and steelhead recovery in the lower Columbia River. We’ll remain vigilant until the owner of the dams, PacifiCorp, follows through on its promises.  

Back home after the fishing expedition, I fileted small trout while answering my kids’ questions about what’s inside of a fish. It was a scene that their grandfathers—a salmon biologist and a commercial salmon fisherman—would have found familiar. And should either of my children participate in salmon culture by following in their grandfathers’ footsteps, they’ll need clean and healthy rivers, abundant with life.           

I promise to do everything I can to keep salmon, and salmon fishing, part of Northwest rivers and cultures—for my children, and for every youngster growing up in the Columbia River basin. Please make a donation today. Together, we can restore cool water, honor tribal rights, and celebrate our miraculous relationship with salmon. 

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Your small monthly gift leads to big results in the fight to protect the Columbia River and our climate.