Salmon at the Crossroads: Time is Running Out
Thirty years ago, the federal government determined Snake River sockeye were endangered, making it the first salmon population in the Pacific Northwest to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, 14 species2 have been listed in Washington. Determined to save this treasured icon, thousands of people across Washington State have worked tirelessly to increase salmon populations. Their efforts have slowed the decline of many populations and even brought some close to recovery.
However, too many salmon remain on the brink of extinction. And time is running out. The climate is changing, rivers are warming, habitat is diminishing, and the natural systems that support salmon in the Pacific Northwest need help now more than ever.
Today, Washingtonians stand at a fork in the road with a clear choice: Continue with current practices and gradually lose salmon, orcas, and a way of life that has sustained the Pacific Northwest for eons. Or, change course and put Washington on a path to recovery that recognizes salmon and other natural resources as vital to the state’s economy, growth, and prosperity.
We can change course and put Washington on a path to recovery that recognizes salmon and other natural resources as vital to the state’s economy, growth, and prosperity.
It will not be an easy road; tough choices will require that Washingtonians embrace their individual responsibilities and work together. This is a cause that needs neighbors to bond with neighbors to find solutions. If Washingtonians can rise to this challenge, success for salmon and for people will ripple through the economy, environment, culture, traditions, and lifestyle, enhancing this state’s proud heritage.
Washingtonians have faced unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic and have demonstrated the courage and the fortitude to persevere. This crisis has brought fundamental changes to how Washingtonians live, work, and recreate. Some of these changes will continue and will shape Washington well into the future.
In these unprecedented times, the recovery of salmon and southern resident orcas must remain a priority, one that also shapes the future of the region. Intentional choices will ensure salmon and people have the clean, cold water they need and that people can ply the waterways to earn a living, catch salmon to feed their families, venture to streams with classmates to see salmon returning home, or cast their first fishing lines in the ocean.
Salmon have an ancient and substantial role in the health of humans, forests, plants, and other animals. And Washingtonians have a substantial role in ensuring that salmon remain to enrich the spirit of the Pacific Northwest and the lives of those who call this place home.
Washingtonians have a substantial role in ensuring that salmon remain to enrich the spirit of the Pacific Northwest.
The banner photograph, taken by Ryan Hagerty with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is of a sockeye salmon spawning in the Little Wenatchee River near Leavenworth.