Remembering Jim Lichatowich: A Champion for Wild Fish and Healthy Homewaters


On April 28th, 2024, the Pacific Northwest's wild fish community and river advocates everywhere lost Jim Lichatowich. Jim was an icon in the world of wild salmon conservation, leaving a lasting impact on the Pacific Northwest's environment. His strong commitment to safeguarding wild fish, along with his deep understanding of the connections between salmon, rivers, and communities, made him a source of inspiration for conservationists everywhere. As we look back on his life, we at Native Fish Society reflect on Jim's invaluable contributions to our mission, and for touching the lives of all those who share his love for nature's wonders.

Jim’s notable career spanned over four decades, during which he served as a researcher, manager, and scientific advisor on numerous fronts. His award-winning books, "Salmon without Rivers: A History of the Pacific Salmon Crisis" and “Salmon, People, and Place,” serve as important readings for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of salmon conservation and how to recover native fish to abundance.

For NFS, Jim's impact was deeply personal and profound. His friendship with our founder, Bill Bakke, laid the foundation for a shared commitment to the revival of wild, native fish and the preservation of their natural habitats. Jim's significant writings not only explained the origins of the Pacific Northwest's salmon crisis but also challenged us to think differently, guiding us beyond limited views and to take action.

“Meeting Jim gave me courage as a young wild fish advocate,” said Mark Sherwood, Native Fish Society’s Executive Director. “In a field often flooded with mind-numbing bureaucracy, Jim was a clear, engaging, and science-based voice for wild salmon and steelhead. He told us the truth - that salmon need healthy rivers and so do we.”

Jim believed that healthy rivers were vital for both nature and people. He didn't just talk about science; he believed in connecting with communities and inspiring them to care for their rivers. This idea is at the core of what we believe in and do, thanks in part to Jim's influence.

Another meaningful example of Jim's mentorship and guidance comes to mind through a story of NFS River Steward Andrew Chione, who at the time was an OSU Fisheries student seeking counsel for wild fish advocacy after a concerning lecture. The students had been assigned to read Jim’s book “Salmon without Rivers”, followed by a guest lecture describing a dismal outlook on the future of wild salmon without hopeful guidance. Jim's response, filled with insight and encouragement, demonstrated his unwavering commitment to guiding the next generation of conservation leaders. (see his “Note To Fisheries Students” attached below)

As we reflect on the life of Jim Lichatowich, we remember the impact he had on wild salmon and the people who care about them. His passion and wisdom will continue to guide us as we work to advocate for wild fish, healthy homewaters, and thriving local communities alongside them. Jim's legacy continues on in the rivers he loved and through the devotion of those who continue his important work.

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