The New Film From Pacific Rivers Celebrates the Collaboration Between the Nez Perce Tribe and the Wolfe Ranch to Restore Salmon in Oregon’s Lostine River
(Portland, OR) Lostine, the new short film from Pacific Rivers highlights the powerful story of collaboration and salmon recovery in Northeast Oregon’s Lostine River and points towards the urgent need and opportunity to breach four federal dams on the lower Snake River to restore the basin’s salmon runs before it is too late. Lostine will be released online on Tuesday, April 21 at Pacific River’s homepage: www.pacificrivers.org
By the late 1990s, the Chinook Salmon of Northeast Oregon’s Lostine River were nearly gone. Some years fewer than 30 adult salmon returned to spawn. Historical overharvest, loss of fish during their migration through the large hydropower dams on the Lower Columbia and Snake Rivers, and extensive irrigation water drawdowns had all taken their toll on salmon numbers. Chinook Salmon have been a sacred bedrock of the Nez Perce Tribe’s traditional food supply and culture for millenia. Unwilling to lose these fish, the Tribe established a small conservation hatchery program to preserve the unique genetic lineage of the Lostine River’s spring/summer Chinook Salmon.
Significantly, the weir sits near the confluence of the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers, a location home to Nez Perce summer salmon fishing camps since time immemorial. Today this land is permanently protected by the Wolfe Farm Conservation Easement, which consists of over three miles of healthy river habitat, 318 acres of farmland, and 145 acres of connected wetlands. The conservation easements were established by the Wallowa Land Trust and made possible by the generosity of the landowners, Woody and Megan Wolfe. Important improvements to irrigation efficiency and water allocation by local farmers has meant that crucial volumes of cold, clean water have been restored to the Lostine River throughout the year to provide the flows and temperatures required by salmon.
As a result of these inspiring efforts and collaboration, as many as 2000 Chinook Salmon now return annually to the Lostine River and these resilient fish once again support limited sport and traditional tribal fisheries. But, while impressive, these numbers are far below what the habitat could support.
Gregory Haller, the Executive Director of Pacific Rivers explains: “We are inspired by the years of hard work and partnership between the Nez Perce Tribe and the Wolfe Ranch. Together, they are providing a ray of hope for this amazing river’s struggling spring/summer Chinook salmon. We wanted to tell the story of this collaboration and we hope their dedication and success isn’t lost on the region’s elected officials because, ultimately, the long-term opportunity for salmon to thrive in this watershed is dependent on our leaders taking action to restore a free-flowing lower Snake River.”
The mission of Pacific Rivers is to protect and restore the watershed ecosystems of the West to ensure river health, biodiversity and clean water for present and future generations. We are proud to share the story of the Lostine River and appreciate the work and generosity of the Nez Perce Tribe, Woody and Megan Wolfe, and the Water Foundation for making it possible.