Environment | Opinion

Paul Lumley: Treaty tribes save salmon runs on Columbia River

"The impending decision by federal Judge James Redden on the Obama administration's Columbia River biological opinion has brought out a host of theorists who have reduced salmon to a series of abstract concepts. These are real fish, navigating a real river. Rather than pondering the theoretical perceptions, the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes have reversed salmon's decline and are doing real work toward a different goal: real and tangible returns of naturally spawning fish. For salmon in the Columbia River, actions speak louder than words.

The tribes' dedication to salmon restoration actions is leading to a reality for salmon that is significantly different than what is often portrayed. We're proud of our fisheries programs, which would not have been possible without federal support, including the Columbia Basin fish accords. Wild spring chinook salmon are returning to renewed ecosystems in the Umatilla, Yakima and Klickitat rivers. Coho in the Clearwater River are now abundant after being declared extinct in 1994. Salmon populations are rebuilding in the Columbia River Basin, and the success of these salmon runs is the direct result of more than 30 years of tribal efforts.

Grounded in our cultural responsibility to care for the resources that provide for us, the tribes' gravel-to-gravel management approach to salmon recovery is twofold: Put fish back in the rivers, and protect the watersheds where they live. Careful management of the tribes' sustainable fisheries, improvements to in-stream passage throughout the Columbia Basin, restoration of native vegetation, biologically appropriate salmon propagation and cutting-edge genetics research are just some of the areas in which we have demonstrated our leadership. The proof is in the numbers."

Get the Story:
Paul Lumley: Saving Columbia salmon: Reversing salmon decline one population at a time (The Columbian 4/4)

Join the Conversation