Zooming INW Salmon

June 17, 2020

Zoom: Bring Back the Salmon!

The Conservancy’s second “Zoom with a View” presentation (video conference) on June 2nd, “Inland Northwest Salmon,” featured an important collaboration between the Spokane Tribe of Indians and INLC. Conor Giorgi, fish biologist with the Spokane Tribe, explained a ground-breaking program to re-introduce salmon, and the Conservancy’s Todd Dunfield detailed an important potential land acquisition.

Dunfield narrated drone footage of the Little Spokane River area near the 114-acre Waikiki Springs property (owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife). The Conservancy hopes to buy an adjacent 95-acre parcel. The new area, to be named the Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve, would be open to the public, forming a seamless haven for wildlife and recreation. Great Blue Herons take flight over the water, coyotes hunt for prey, and Bald Eagles nest in the majestic ponderosa pines.

Best of all, the Little Spokane River borders the new land for 1,700 feet. Giorgi explained an initiative for the Spokane Tribe (a member of the Upper Columbia United Tribes) to bring back salmon. These are anadromous species, or fish that are hatched in freshwater, spend most of their lives in saltwater, and return to freshwater to spawn. It is a long-overdue plan because, as Giorgi points out, “these are the ancestral lands of the Spokane Tribe of Indians.” The waters at Waikiki Springs are rocky, shallow, and cool. . . perfect for fish. The mighty Rathdrum Prairie Spokane Valley aquifer erupts nearby, filling the river with boundless supplies of cold clear water needed by salmon. In ancient times, hundreds of thousands of salmon filled the river each year.

The Conservancy and the Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources will partner in the salmon-reintroduction project. The Tribe will take the lead on issues related to fish, and the Conservancy, on issues related to land.

The joint presentation concluded with the inspirational story of a fish named “Nucucšnetkw” (she who retraces her steps), who was reared and released on the Spokane Tribe’s Reservation, swam all the way to the ocean, and almost all the way back to spawn. She escaped predators and survived the plunge over several dams without fish-passage, including Grand Coulee, foraged throughout the western Pacific Ocean, only to be stopped on her way home by Chief Joseph Dam. Unfortunately, this dam does not currently provide passage for adult or juvenile salmon.

Thanks to help from Conor Giorgi and the Spokane Tribe, as well as to all of the Conservancy’s supporters, the day will come when fish such as Nucucšnetkw may abound again in their ancestral waters of the Little Spokane River.

Be sure to register for the upcoming “Zoom with a View” on June 23rd, “Saltese Flats Restoration with Ducks Unlimited.”