In its 50-year-plus history, Northwest Steelheaders has many accomplishments for fish and fishing, including the successful ballot measure to make steelhead a game fish which removed steelhead from commercial fisheries, banning high seas drift nets to end the practice of ocean strip mining off Pacific Coast shores, obtaining fish protection language in the Northwest Power Act, passage of stream-side riparian buffer zone rules, passing in-stream water rights law to provide minimum stream flow, successfully defending the public’s right to use the beds and banks, and educating thousands of Oregon children annually on the beauty, wonder and importance of salmon and their habitats, among many others.
Northwest Steelheaders programs and services include advocacy for fish, their habitats, and fishing opportunity at local, state and federal levels; environmental education of youth, anglers, and veterans; and protecting public access to waterways. Volunteerism is one of the Steelheaders greatest strengths, with members contributing thousands of volunteer hours annually in education, habitat restoration, propagation, and monitoring. As an independent, moderate angling group that is able to work well with both sides of the aisle, environmental groups, the sportfishing industry, and natural resource agencies, Steelheaders is the leading nonprofit voice for anglers in the Pacific Northwest.[/one_half]
Steelheaders’ current campaigns and projects include:
Improved sportfishing and conservation in Lower Columbia River fisheries:
The ODFW and WDFW Commissions made historic votes to move non-tribal gillnets off the mainstem Columbia River and to prioritize mainstem Columbia fisheries for sport opportunity. The decision is the start of the biggest change to Columbia River fisheries since 40 years ago when the Steelheaders succeeded in making steelhead a game fish, and many Steelheaders lead the charge to make it possible. The Commission’s decision was historic, but the process is far from over, and Steelheaders are working ensure these changes are implemented wholly and smoothly.
Support hatchery reform while at the same time ensuring our hatcheries are funded and utilized to enhance sportfishing:
Our hatcheries are at the most risk they have ever been from recent lawsuits. Steelheaders led the way by providing comments on Hatchery Genetic Management Plans, and successfully defended the Sandy River Hatchery’s programs in the courts. We are currently conducting our a legal and public education campaign in an attempt to get favorable legal rulings should similar cases be brought to the courts.
Conservation areas on Oregon state forests:
The Oregon Board of Forestry recently made a historic vote to revise the Forest Land Classification System to create high value conservation areas on state forests. This represents a first in the state of Oregon, and means better protections for fish habitat on revered North Coast salmon and steelhead rivers like the Nehalem, Wilson, Trask, Kilchis, Salmonberry, and Miami, as well as Tillamook Bay and North Coast off-shore fisheries. Steelheaders led the effort, hiring grassroots organizers in Tillamook and Clatsop counties to raise a strong local voice in support of fish habitat. We are now working to ensure the conservation areas remain durable and are fully in agency operating plans.
River Ambassador Program:
The River Ambassador Program helps active duty military who recently returned from a war zone develop new skills and ways of responding to the inevitable stress that accompanies returning back to civilian life, helps participants feel respected and valued, and teaches about preserving wildlife and natural habitats. Steelheaders are now doing two RAP events a year, and in 2013, we expanded the program by taking wounded warriors on one-day fishing trips on the Columbia River.
Protecting the prey base:
Thanks in large part to our “Protect the Bait” forage fish campaign, the Pacific Fishery Management Council recently voted to adopt a Fishery Ecosystem Plan, which is an historic accomplishment for little fish and the larger fish that depend on them. We are now working to make sure this plan is implemented and that states of Oregon and Washington incorporate ecosystem-based management into state plans.
Expanding into Washington:
The Columbia River (Vancouver) Chapter was started in 2011, and has grown quickly to now more than 100 members. In 2012, we structured the Association’s Board of Directors to include a Washington Government Affairs Director, and in 2013 we hired a lobbyist for Washington to work on Columbia River issues in the Emerald State. We understand that many of the issues we work on have regional implications and often involved regional policy. We now have an experienced lobbyist to champion our issues before the WA Legislature, WDFW staff and commission, and WA Governor’s Office.
True Cost of Coal report:
Steelheaders are concerned that the coal export terminals proposed in the region pose a direct threat to the health of Oregon’s salmon and steelhead runs. In cooperation with the National Wildlife Federation, the Steelheaders coauthored a report outlining the potential negative impacts to Columbia River salmonids. Our efforts have borne fruit, as the Army Corps of Engineers is conducting Programmatic Environmental Impact Statements to get concrete scientific answers regarding the impact of coal dust on the Columbia River before the proposed projects move forward. We continue to work to ensure the effects of coal dust on our salmon and steelhead runs is fully understand before moving with proposed coal projects.
Connecting kids and families with the resource:
Steelheaders is a leader in connecting kids and families with the outdoors and salmon. We expanded our involvement in the Eggs to Fry Program by purchasing equipment to add schools in Eugene, and recently completed a project with ODFW STEP to create a volunteer guide, videos and materials to expand volunteer participation in the program. In addition, Steelheaders regularly host numerous kids fishing events, river cleanups, nutrient enhancement, tree plantings, and other volunteer activities to engage the younger generation.
For more information on our current campaigns and projects, please click on the links in the drop down menu under Conservation on the homepage.