In 1996, Pacific Rivers developed certification guidelines that promote ecologically sustainable agricultural practices for the benefits of Pacific salmon and the clean water they need to survive. These practices (used by StreamCare, Pacific Rivers’ cooperative agricultural program) include such methods as planting riparian zones on streams, incorporating cover crop to control erosion, and applying sophisticated methods to control weeds and pests. Within the first year of inception, the cooperative had enough members to take the Salmon Safe logo to the shelves of over 60 natural food stores in Oregon and Washington.
In 2001, Federal District Court Judge Michael Hogan threw a monkey wrench into ESA protection for sensitive salmon and steelhead stocks with his decision in Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans. In the decision, the judge ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to reconsider its listing of Oregon Coast coho salmon in light of the potential contribution that hatchery fish may make to their status. Some anti-ESA interests latched onto Judge Hogan’s 2001 ruling as a basis for a biologically wrong argument – that large numbers of artificially produced hatchery fish justify pulling protection for the few naturally-spawning wild fish that remain.
In 1988, Pacific Rivers (then Oregon Rivers Council) took the unprecedented step of crafting the nation’s first large federal river protection act, the landmark Oregon Omnibus National Wild and Scenic River Act of 1988. This Act remains the largest river protection legislation in the nation’s history. It added 40 outstanding rivers totaling 1500 river miles to the National Wild and Scenic River system in Oregon. Seven additional rivers were given “Study” status for future designation.
Today, throughout the Snake River Basin, imperiled populations of salmon continue to die at rates far below sustainable replacement levels. Scientists have told us for decades that breaching the four federal dams in the lower Snake River. Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho has an ambitious proposal to remove the dams and invest billions in energy, irrigation and transportation infrastructure. But elected leaders in Washington and Oregon must step up too before we lose the fish that define the region’s ecology and cultural heritage. Good work is happening in places like the Lostine, but ultimately, the success of those collaborations depend on restoring a free-flowing Snake River.