What a year it has been.
In spite of the setbacks, we saw growth in 2020. We succeeded in advancing our mission and fought for anglers and fish alike. If you haven't seen our annual report yet, I encourage you to check it out! As we start a new chapter, I look forward with hope, knowing that you are with us to tackle every challenge and seize each new opportunity.
Without you, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Thank you.
Thank you for believing whole-heartedly in our mission. Thank you for standing by us through the tough times. You offered your support when we needed it most, and we’re excited to return the favor with new fishing education and conservation opportunities. It’s going to be a big year, and I’m thrilled to continue working on behalf of all northwest fish and recreational anglers.
Happy New Year!
Chris Hager, Executive Director
Legacy Print Giveaway Ends TONIGHT
Thank you so much for continuing to support Northwest Steelheaders throughout this year. Are you still in the spirit of giving? Please help us launch into the new year with a donation! Now is your last chance to participate in our legacy print giveaway: If you give $200 before midnight, Chris will personally send you a limited edition print to commemorate your legacy of fisheries conservation. Under the CARES Act, you can claim up to $300 in above-the-line tax credits when you give to a 501(c)(3) organization like us before midnight. So if you’re planning to donate, NOW is the best time to do so.
Check out our major accomplishments in 2020 and get a sneak peek at some of our plans for 2021 in our first-ever Annual Report. Your generosity goes a long way toward achieving our goals. Word-of-mouth is still the best way to encourage membership, so please share this report with your friends and family and tell them why you support Northwest Steelheaders. Thank you again for making our work possible!
Remnants of the Glines Canyon Dam on the Elwha River.
By Betsy Emery, Advocacy and Campaign Manager
The Elwha. The story of the majestic river that bears this name, located on the northern tip of Washington’s Olympic National Park, is one that is all too common today. The only river on the Olympic Peninsula with all five species of Pacific salmon, the Elwha once teemed with an estimated 400,000 fish each year. Unfortunately, like so many western rivers, it succumbed to the pressures of rapid regional development and the burgeoning timber industry in the early 1900s. A timber company constructed the Glines Canyon and Elwha dams to provide energy for their mills in Port Angeles, WA. This action permanently blocked steelhead behind a cement wall and limited salmon access to a mere 5 miles of spawning habitat–resulting in the imminent extinction of the hefty Elwha Chinook (which could weigh up to 100 pounds).
In a story that echoes the decline of other legendary western salmon fisheries over the last century, every species of migrating fish in the river immediately began to plummet toward extinction. Dramatic and rapid decreases in salmon not only devastated the overall health of the watershed but the longstanding traditions of Native American tribes in the area as well.
The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the largest on the Olympic Peninsula, has relied on this river for tens of thousands of years as a source of nutrition, livelihood, and trade. Even more important: Salmon form the foundation of many of their cultural beliefs. The “Elwha people,” as the Tribe is known, never approved of the construction of the dams and have been leading the effort to remove them and restore this watershed for ages.
In 2014, everything changed when growing pressure led to the removal of two dams. Freed from the constraints of two giant cement walls, the Elwha River and its migrating fish have run free in its entirety, flowing 45 miles from its source high in the Olympic Mountains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Ten years after I first learned of this river, I finally had the opportunity to take a walk along three miles of its recently-restored banks to the Glines Canyon Overlook. It used to be accessible by car, providing National Park visitors an awe-inspiring glimpse of humanity’s ability to control mighty rivers behind massive dam walls. Now, visitors overlook the remains of Glines Canyon Dam, surrounded by educational signs about the significance of its removal — a signal of how our societal relationship with rivers is changing.
These dams stood for a century, but by removing them, the region collectively decided to write a new story for their river. Instead of accepting the tremendous loss of a healthy ecosystem and the benefits it provides, the community chose to rewrite the story of the river and to invest in resilience. Not only did salmon and steelhead quickly rebound from perilous lows, but the entire web of life surrounding the river also rebounded. America’s only aquatic songbird, the American dipper, has returned to the area in record numbers. A rush of new sediment expanded estuary habitat along the coast: Shorebirds, crabs, clams, oysters, and insects are thriving. In the floodplain, alder, cottonwood, maple, and willows have moved back, taking advantage of the rich, restored riverside habitat.
Standing at the overlook for the world’s largest river restoration project to date, I was surprised to see huge sections of the dam still standing, shocked by its sheer immensity. While I could toss a ball across the narrow canyon, looking down at where the dam wall used to be made my stomach curl — a whopping 210 feet to the rapids that had reemerged below. Yet, I can’t help but be inspired by the people who dedicated their lives to restoring this river – never once doubting that it could be healed.
As a Southwesterner with a parched heart, I know the vital importance of healthy rivers and the lush life they support. I know that the Elwha’s story of restoration and resilience doesn’t have to be unique — we can use it as a road map to protect other rivers teetering on the brink.
Much like the Elwha, we need to examine the story of the lower Snake River and act quickly. Fifty years ago, the U.S. government built four dams along the lower Snake River in eastern Washington to connect the small town of Lewiston, Idaho to the Pacific Ocean via barge. Similar to the Elwha, salmon and steelhead returns immediately began to plummet toward extinction and in 1993, thirteen different runs were listed as endangered.
Just like the Elwha, regional tribes have been fighting to free the lower Snake River and hold the government accountable for their promise of providing abundant harvestable salmon runs for decades. Conservation organizations and the fishing community have also been vocal advocates for restoring a free-flowing Snake. Unfortunately, just as concerns about water quality and flood control drove opposition to restore the Elwha, concerns about energy production, transportation, and impacts to farmers have introduced formidable barriers to restoring the lower Snake River.
The Elwha illuminates that these challenges can be overcome, that we can shift the story. The future can be prosperous for both people and wildlife if we act intentionally and with urgency. Just as tribes, community members, municipalities, and agencies came together to find innovative solutions to address the varied and valid concerns about removing the Elwha dams, we can find comprehensive solutions on the lower Snake. We can develop innovative energy systems using wind and solar, systems that will provide more energy than the lower Snake River dams generate. We can invest in rail and road improvements to allow farmers to access markets without using barges. We can negotiate ways to ensure that river users are not impacted by dam removal. It is all possible if we work together.
Unlikely partners continue to express interest in finding a common ground solution, but only Congress will be able to determine the fate of lower Snake River salmon. In 1992, Congress signed the Elwha River Ecosystem and Fisheries Restoration Act, giving the Department of Interior green light to restore the Elwha River and its native anadromous fisheries. We need our regional congressional delegates to pave the way for similar legislation — authorizing a comprehensive package of projects that restores a lower Snake River that works for fish, farmers, and fishing communities.
The time has come to write a new story for the lower Snake River. Instead of a story of loss, we can write a story of community collaboration for restoration and recovery. We can write stories of resilience for our rivers: resilient fish, watersheds, and communities. We can write a story about how we found solutions to hard problems and saved ourselves along the way. The Elwha provides the roadmap — let’s put it to work and let it guide us.
One of the 36 redds found by Colville tribal fishery biologists in the Sanpoil River, a tributary of the Columbia River. (Courtesy of the Colville Tribe / The Spokesman-Review)
By The Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. — For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon have spawned in the upper Columbia River system.
Colville Tribal biologists counted 36 redds, a gravely nest where female salmon lay eggs, along an 8-mile stretch of the Sanpoil River, a tributary of the Columbia, in September, the Spokesman Review-Journal reported.
“I was shocked at first, then I was just overcome with complete joy,” said Crystal Conant, a Colville Tribal member from the Arrow Lakes and SanPoil bands. “I don’t know that I have the right words to even explain the happiness and the healing.”
The news is a step toward full reintroduction of the migratory fish and another watershed cultural moment for the region’s tribes. Since the Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams were built in the 1950s and 1930s, respectively, salmon have been blocked from returning to spawning beds in the upper Columbia River.
For decades, tribal leaders and scientists have dreamed of bringing the fish back to their native beds. Since 2014, the Columbia River tribes have worked on a plan that examines habitat, fish passage and survival among other things.
“It’s an exciting project. It’s been rewarding to work on,” said Casey Baldwin, a research scientist for the Colville Tribe. “The long-term process of reintroducing salmon above Chief Joe and Grand Coulee is going to take a long time.”
In 2019, about 60 salmon were released above the Grand Coulee and Chief Joseph dams in a cultural event.
As a continuation of that project, tribal biologists released 100 fish 35 miles up the Sanpoil River in August to see how well they survived. Each fish was outfitted with a PIT tag, a type of passive tracking device. Biologists checked on the hatchery-bred fish throughout the summer and in October started noticing that the fish were spreading out and spawning.
“Considering they weren’t from the Sanpoil, we were pleasantly surprised with the high rate of survival and the amount of spawning we were able to observe,” Baldwin said. “You never know if the fish are just going to turn around and swim away.”
6 Tips For Repurposing Old Waders
By Norm Ritchie, Board Member
Most of us have been there. After using a pair of neoprene waders for several years, they reach a point where no matter what you do to try to patch them, they still leak. You finally get tired of wet pants and invest in a new pair. So what happens to the old leaky pair? Most probably end up in a landfill where they will likely stay intact till the end of time. But given the fact that this material is so durable and elastic, old waders can be recycled into a host of useful and durable items.
I now look upon an old pair of waders in the same way that some must look upon the hide of a dear. There are many parts to a hide and all can serve a purpose. Here is just a short list of what can be done with old waders.
- Neoprene Socks + Gravel Guards
Cut off the feet for a pair of neoprene socks to be used between wading boots and lightweight summer waders or without waders. Cut off the next 8 inches above the feet to make a pair of gravel guards.
- Protective Bag, Pouch, or Koozie
Many neoprene waders are made with a double layer at the knees. Cut out this double layer just outside the stitching. Once you open the top end, it becomes a protective bag for a camera or spare reel. Many waders also come with a pocket at the chest. This can be cut out in a similar manner to provide another protective pouch. If you want to take it a bit further, you can sew on a zipper or press in some snap closures. How about koozies for your drink or a protective sleeve for your flashlight?
Now you have a pair of waders without feet, knees, or chest. Generally this remaining part consists of three pieces joined by a common seam. This seam runs up the inside of each leg to a football shaped piece at the crotch. From here, the seams run up the center of the front and back. By cutting along either side of the seam, you will have two relatively large pieces of neoprene sheet and a small amount of scrap consisting of the piece from the crotch area and a few strips of seam material. The two large pieces are now raw material!
- Boat / Box Liners
Line the trays in an aluminum drift boat to cut down on noise and prevent scuffing your lures. Glue some to the bottom of your tackle and lead boxes to stop them from sliding around and scuffing the floor or deck.
- Spool Straps, Rod Storage, and Net Holder
The most versatile use is to cut the material into strips to form straps. Cut the neoprene into 5/8” wide strips about 16” long. Take the tab from a soda pop can and put both ends of a strip through the finger hole in the tab. Note how hard it is to move the tab by trying to pull the ends of the strap apart. But you can relatively easily pull the tab itself in either direction. The “one shot” spools of fishing line are a less expensive alternative to “leader” spools, but its hard to prevent the line from unspooling in the tackle box. Place a strap over the spool and cinch up the tab. Line will pull out from under the strap with ease but will not unravel on its own. Cinch a strap over the spool of your spinning reels to contain the line. A couple of shorter straps are great for holding the sections of multi-piece rods together for storage or transport. Ever have your net get snagged or tangled in a cleat or rod holder when getting ready to land a fish? A strap on your landing net handle will hold the loose netting from snagging on anything until moving the net in the water automatically releases the netting from the strap. There are a lot of other uses for these straps, just use your imagination.
- DIY Glasses Croakies
If you aren’t afraid of a needle and thread, there are a lot of other useful items for the thrifty angler. A 32” strip with the ends hemmed over to form small loops makes a great strap for fishing glasses (AKA: Croakies). At this length, the strap will keep most glasses afloat if they fall in the water. A pop can tab can be placed in the middle to allow the glasses to be cinched up tight.
- Wading Belt
Many waders are made with shoulder straps of nylon webbing. If this is the case, sew the back ends of these straps together to make a wading belt.
The uses for old neoprene waders are only limited by the imagination. When your waders start leaking (and won’t stop), try repurposing the materials instead of tossing them in the trash.
In partnership with NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program, the Association of Northwest Steelheaders is working to increase habitat for backyard wildlife species and protect pollinator populations and you can help by creating a wildlife habitat! Since 2017, when the Steelheaders first teamed up with NWF on the Garden for Wildlife program, 648 gardens and habitats have been certified and generated $3,240 for salmon conservation. You too can make a difference by inviting wildlife back to your own yard or neighborhood by planting a simple garden that provides 5 key elements: Food, Water, Cover, Places to Raise Young & Sustainable Practices.
As an affiliate member of the Northwest Steelheaders, Tim Wilson will donate $1000 if any Steelheader works with Tim or refers him to friends and family to purchase or sell real estate and the transaction closes. $500 will go to the procuring member's chapter and $500 will go to the association's general fund. To date, Tim has raised over $11,000 for the Northwest Steelheaders through this program. View Tim's webpage and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
When you visit https://smile.amazon.com/ and designate "Association of Northwest Steelheaders Inc" under the search bar before you make a purchase, Amazon will donate 0.5% to our organization. While this seems like just a small drop in the pond, it really adds up and is easy to set up.
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