Save Our Wild Salmon: How To Take Action

NWF is celebrating Endangered Species Day on May 21, by highlighting ways that
you can learn about and advocate for endangered species. Visit to get a free polar bear
photo for your Facebook profile and show your support for endangered and
threatened wildlife.

As plumes of spilled oil approach the Florida loop current in the Gulf of Mexico, danger also looms  elsewhere for America’s water-faring wildlife.

At risk: the salmon of the Columbia and Snake rivers in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

SaveoursalmonOn the eve of Endangered Species Day, the Obama administration is set to release a reworked plan for recovering and protecting these iconic fish of the American West. Unfortunately, the new framework may not change a whole lot.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has accepted a three-month “remand” period to review its plans for recovering salmon in the region, but the agency is still proposing that “no major changes” be made to the Bush-era rules on construction and operation of dams on the crucial waterways, leaving populations vulnerable and potentially setting off an ecological chain reaction that could touch other endangered species nationwide.

U.S. District Judge James A. Redden, who offered the review window, has previously raised the alarm about the need of the government to step up its wildlife protection responsibilities. Quoted by Counsel of Record in National Wildlife Federation v. National Marine Fisheries Service (May 15, 2009):

Federal Defendants have spent the better part of the last decade treading water, and avoiding their obligations under the Endangered Species Act… We simply cannot afford to waste another decade.

The agency survey period offers an opportunity to more closely follow these obligations, but it does not place the legal onus on NOAA to increase its efforts or change its dam policies. Judge Redden (who offered the review window) again:

“[the remand] does not require [the government] to admit fault, reopen the entire decision-making process, or commit to a change in course.”

According to Nicole Cordan, legal director for Save Our Wild Salmon, a perfunctory check would be a waste:

“If they just take a sort of pro forma approach, I think they’re both missing a major opportunity to try to fix an issue that has been plaguing this region for a very long time, and secondly, they will not be listening to what the judge has asked them to do[.]”

As climate change wreaks havoc on the American West and resident wildlife in the coming years, the consequences of decisions like this will likely be further magnified. John Kostyack, Executive Director of Wildlife Conservation and Global Warming for NWF:

“The last cut at this plan largely ignored the impacts climate change will most certainly have on these salmon. And it ignored the unique habitat in the Snake Basin that these fish call home. The science tells us that getting these fish back home is the surest and perhaps only way to ensure salmon in the Columbia-Snake Basin under a warming world. Let’s hope that in addition to protecting the ESA, the administration prepares for the current and future harms caused to these fish from global warming. Let’s get these fish back to their habitat so we can ensure salmon in the Columbia-Snake Basin for generations to come.”

A coalition of conservation and fishing groups hopes to take the government to task and get NOAA to stop working off an outdated plan for salmon recovery. It’s time to swim hard against the current and fight alongside them to protect America’s natural heritage.

Take action today to save salmon and protect America’s endangered species by clicking here.

Photo Credit: Save Our Salmon,on Flickr

Published: May 19, 2010