By Tamsin Fleming, Operations Manager
October 25, 2021
W ith your nose to the grindstone, it’s easy to lose track of the progress you’ve made. As we work toward our next goal and solving the next problem, it is important to look back on what we have already accomplished in the past year. Working hard to advocate for conservation efforts that have meaningful impacts on the angling community and our access to fishing isn’t easy, but when progress is made it’s incredibly rewarding.
Our main priority has always been creating angling opportunities for everyone. Now, more than ever, that priority hinges on restoring salmon and steelhead populations to the healthy, abundant runs that historically swam in Pacific Northwest rivers. We believe that restoring the Snake River to its former glory will be the pivotal shift that allows salmon and steelhead to flourish once more. When wild populations have fully rebounded from their nose-dive, angling opportunities will rebound with them. Here are some of our accomplishments and ongoing campaigns that get anglers closer to abundant fish runs and increased angling access:
Hosting our Rally for the River gained national attention by showcasing the devastation to our salmon runs since building the four lower Snake River dams. It was a great way to get out on the Willamette River to educate Portlanders about the importance of salmon and steelhead to the Pacific Northwest. The impact of declining salmon runs is felt all over the region, prompting rallies with counterparts from Seattle, Washington to Boise, Idaho. While the dams provide irrigation, energy, and transportation for goods, alternatives exist that are less costly to our salmon, steelhead, and the ecological integrity of the region that should be considered.
Photograph from our Rally for the River
A key win for the Northwest Steelheaders came from amending the Columbia River endorsement bill, Senate Bill 59A. This amendment incentivizes the commitment to keep non-tribal commercial gill nets off the mainstem of the lower Columbia River by removing the Endorsement Fee from angler license holders if the ODFW Commission places them back on the river. Despite the fact the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission has broken its agreement with Oregon and allowed non-treaty gillnets back on the Columbia River, if Oregon deviates from the Columbia River Fisheries Policy Reform package, anglers will be refunded. We at the Northwest Steelheaders consider this to be a real win for recreational anglers as it motivates the ODFW commission to act in the best interest of salmon, steelhead, and the angling community.
Earlier this year, the incredible work of Northwest Steelheaders volunteers and organizational leaders, Tim Lenihan and Bob Oleson, to champion Senate Bill 320 finally paid off. Their incredible leadership advocating to allow group fishing licenses for nonprofits serving veterans will significantly reduce the cost barrier that can discourage people from getting involved in the angling community. Senate Bill 320 eliminates the need for many veterans and active-duty military to purchase the cost of an individual Oregon fishing license, which can cost more than $100 for out-of-state visitors. Our events are many veterans' first experience fishing. They allow veterans to learn a new skill while fostering a sense of community among service members. By reducing the financial burden of angling, we’ll be able to host events that reach a wider range of veterans and invite those who wouldn’t have been able to get involved in the angling community otherwise.
While calling attention to the importance of restoring and conserving our salmon and steelhead populations is important, it means nothing without action. That is why we will continue working just as hard to encourage our legislators to come together on the issues we care about most, that will make the biggest difference for wild fish populations and for recreational angling opportunities. We are proud of our accomplishments over the past year and we are excited about all that is to come. A future with increased fishing seasons is not out of reach, and we are here to make sure that we reach it.