By joining a coalition of over 40 regional organizations working to save wild salmon,
the Sierra Club helped plaster Pacific Northwest neighborhoods with informational
doorhangers this spring.
For years, Club activists have been in the forefront of efforts to save wild salmon.
But as a weakened reauthorization of America's premier wildlife protection law came down
the congressional pike in 1995, and habitat protections foundered, salmon advocates
realized that success would require a new level of collaborative effort.
Salmon are more than an indicator species; as economic, cultural and natural icons in
the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, they signify healthy watersheds and a
distinct regional heritage. And Club volunteers are forging alliances across communities
with this in mind. From public mobilization initiatives to gather support for the
Endangered Species Act to working to make hydropower dams less deadly to migrating salmon,
they are reaching beyond more traditional environmental interests to preserve species and
a way of life.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Sierra Club is one of the founding members of Save Our
Wild Salmon -- a coalition uniting conservation activists, commercial fishers, sport
anglers and fishing business owners to save wild salmon. This past spring, Club staff and
chapter volunteers took the lead by organizing over 40 environmental and community groups
in a major public outreach campaign.
On a Saturday in April, hundreds of salmon activists in Oregon, Washington and Idaho
hit the streets to put doorhangers on 100,000 doors in their communities. Julia Reitan,
associate representative in the Northwest office, designed the doorhangers with
pre-addressed, tear-off postcards so that recipients had an easy way to take action and
tell federal officials to modify hydropower dams and protect stream habitat. Also, the
inclusion of a toll-free number -- (800) SOS-SALMON -- allowed residents to get further
involved. Over 4,000 cards were mailed.
"Working with a coalition like Save Our Salmon is a tremendous way to reach beyond
the Club to other people who care about salmon," said Reitan. "The doorhanger
project took the message about saving wild salmon even further into our communities,
neighborhood by neighborhood."
"People were very responsive and the first-termers we've targeted in Congress have
noticed our reactions to their votes," said Harrison Grathwohl, chair of the Cascade
Chapter Salmon and Rivers Committee, whose door-hanging skills were highlighted by a
Seattle TV news crew. "Now we're working more and more with local tribes and the
fishing community as our interests obviously overlap -- and gearing up to fight salvage
logging," he added.
To the south, the Club's fledgling Salmon Forever project has begun coordinating
restoration efforts in Northern California with groups like Friends of the Garcia River,
the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisherman's Associations and the Sinkyone Intertribal
Council. "Small watershed groups and local restoration organizations are very
knowledgeable," added Kathy Bailey, who comes to the salmon project through her work
on forest protection. "By helping provide an overview of what's going on, we can work
out a regional approach together."
Following a half-million-dollar grant from the Japan-based Takara Sake company last
summer, secured through the work of the Centennial Campaign, project activists quickly
proved the value of teamwork by achieving a major success at two regional hearings on
proposed listing of the coho.
"With only a few days notice from the National Marine Fisheries Service, we
prepared testimony, accessed all available phone trees and networks, made press calls and
helped pack two hearings," said Josh Kaufman, also of the project's steering
committee. "Most of the groups we contacted hadn't even heard about the
hearings," added Elyssa Rosen of the Calf./Nev./Hawaii field office. "But the
short notice lit a fire under everyone's chairs -- we all wanted to send the clear message
that we would not be excluded."
At an October hearing near Santa Rosa, Calif., 30 representatives from more than 15
groups dominated the three-hour session with testimony urging the listing of the coho
salmon as endangered, while another 70 supporters cheered them on.
"The challenge is to counter Congress' attempt to place a moratorium on all new
listings under the Act, prevent California's attempts to water down protection, and get
all the groups that are already doing great work on the same page," said Kaufman.
Along with strengthening habitat protections and stepping up public education efforts,
salmon activists view coalition-building as a primary objective for 1996. "We aim to
achieve meaningful salmon protection through joint projects," said Kaufman. "The
bottom line is we won't settle for anything less than complete recovery."
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