Willamette Coalition Makes It Official at Public Kickoff Event
The Willamette Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Coalition has officially gone public! Last month, Native Fish Society and founding coalition members hosted the Rewild the Willamette event. Willamette fish advocates from around the basin packed the room, chosen for its location next to the iconic Willamette Falls. Cohosted by Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Trout Unlimited, Northwest Guides and Anglers Association, and McKenzie Flyfishers, Rewild the Willamette was the public unveiling of a coalition building effort which seeks to promote and support the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead in the Willamette Basin.
Representatives from each of the host organizations spoke on the need to bring a diversity of voices together to advocate on behalf of wild spring Chinook salmon and winter steelhead in the Willamette Basin. (You can view the official presentation and event photos below). A lively Q&A session followed with passionate voices speaking for the need to recover Willamette fish throughout the basin for the multitude of benefits they provide including supporting healthy ecosystems that supply drinking water to our communities, the cultural heritage needs of indigenous people and tribal nations, and commercial and recreational fishing economies.
The Willamette and its network of tributaries was once a powerhouse of wild fish production with historic return estimated at 300,000 Chinook and 200,000 winter steelhead. By 2017, less than 5,000 wild spring Chinook and only 822 wild winter steelhead made it over Willamette Falls. Without significant change in the basin and soon, it is possible that we will lose these fish, icons and keystone species of a watershed that three million Oregonians call home, within the next decade.
In the coming year, the Willamette Salmon & Steelhead Recovery Coalition will seek to bring a diversity of interests together to advocate for recovery. The coalition’s first priority will be to address the ongoing harm done by the current operations at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer dams throughout the basin. Specifically, the coalition’s members and supporters will advocate for fish passage, improved water quality, and more natural stream flows. The changes to dam operations that will benefit our fish have already been identified by the management agencies, but for more than a decade, the Corps has failed to act. Together, we will hold the agency accountable to its legal obligations under the Endangered Species Act and ensure that the Corps fully implements the actions contained in the 2008 Biological Opinion. And we will ensure that the upcoming management plan for the basin will not only stop the decline but put our fish on the path to recovery.
We know that it will take more than just the folks we brought together for our kickoff event to achieve our mission of restoring abundant, wild fish to the Willamette basin and its network of tributaries. We must all work to bring the diversity of organizations, entities, and individuals who support wild fish recovery and a healthy, functioning river into this work and advocacy. We know that we must reach beyond our traditional, fish-focused conservation groups to all Oregonians who value a clean, healthy, and functioning Willamette River basin. Our communities, as well as our fish, depend on it.
Rewild the Willamette - Eve... by on Scribd
Rewild the Willamette event photos by Conrad Gowell, NFS Fellowship Program Director