Northwest Tribes Maximize Steelhead Populations

Mar 28, 2013
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Steelhead in the Columbia River Basin are threatened. Current populations have dwindled to a fraction of the historic numbers a century ago. That has led two Northwest Indian Tribes to try something new to help this struggling fish survive.  Both tribes are learning from each other along the way.

The snow is almost gone in north Idaho. But it’s still cold, almost freezing on this early morning at the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery near Orofino.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday makes it harder for miners to gain access to Northwest rivers. Environmental groups hailed the decision as a major victory.


During the course of their lives some salmon travel thousands of miles - out to the open ocean to feed and mature. Then, after a few years, they head back to the exact river where they hatched, to spawn the next generation. Scientists don’t fully understand how salmon find their way home, but a new study might provide some more answers.

The answer is magnets - according to a new study in the journal Current Biology.

Seven fish biologists working in Southern Oregon filed a scientific misconduct complaint yesterday. They say the Bureau of Reclamation plans to disband their team because their studies were unpopular.

Four different federal agencies are all working to save threatened salmon and endangered suckerfish that live in the Klamath river and Klamath lake.

Biologists with the Bureau of Reclamation say some of their fish studies had unusual results.

In one example, they found a population of endangered suckerfish in a part of the river other agencies considered a dead zone.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Environmentalists, farmers and irrigators could play a bigger role in creating long term management policies for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. The government has asked two university programs in Oregon and Washington to act as mediators over the next six months, talking with more than 200 organizations, states and tribes in order to find a better way of managing fish.

Dams, overfishing, and development are among the reasons for a decline in Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. Seventeen of these fish species are now federally protected as endangered or threatened.

A state committee will move forward with inspecting two Salmon schools to determine whether a state fund can be tapped to repair or rebuild the schools. 

Salmon School District 291 is looking for new revenue after local voters have rejected seven separate bond levies since 2005.

Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Environmentalists, irrigators, and other stakeholders in the Northwest are being offered an expanded role in shaping the long-term recovery plan for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries is the federal agency in charge of salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The agency Tuesday sent letters to hundreds of stakeholders in the Northwest. It invites them to provide input on the plan it is working on to restore salmon and steelhead populations.

Working For Idaho's Extinct Coho Salmon

Dec 7, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

The Northwest’s declining salmon runs have spurred marathon legal battles and inspired billions in spending to save the iconic species.

But Idaho’s coho salmon were never listed as endangered before they went extinct in 1987. Few people noticed when the fish were gone. But the Nez Perce Indian tribe did. And thanks to its extraordinary efforts, coho are once again returning by the thousands to Idaho waters.

Salmon the Focus of Northwest Rivers Initiative

Oct 31, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Dams, agriculture, urban development -- they’ve all contributed to the loss of quality habitat for Northwest salmon.  Old time gold mining in one Idaho river has also left problems behind for salmon and steelhead.

The Salmon River is one of the longest free-flowing rivers in the Pacific Northwest. The mountains, clean water and abundant fish and wildlife have attracted hundreds of people like Jerry Meyers, who calls this place home.

Jerry Meyers is an outfitter - guiding summer visitors down the Salmon River in search of a good fishing hole.

Sea Lions At Bonneville Dam Kill Estimated 2,500 Sturgeon

Oct 16, 2012
Travis S. / Flickr

Biologists say the sea lions that scoop up fish at the foot of Bonneville dam on the Columbia river have killed more sturgeon this year than salmon.

Two different species of sea lions like to feast at Bonneville.  California sea lions only eat salmon.  But Stellar sea lions arrive earlier in the year. While they wait for the spring salmon run to start, they snack on sturgeon.

Biologists with the Army Corps of Engineers estimate that this year, the Stellar sea lions ate about 2,500 sturgeon.

Agencies Release Annual Salmon Report

Oct 1, 2012
Aaron Kunz / EarthFix

Federal agencies Friday delivered a mixed report card on their efforts to recover endangered salmon in the Columbia River.

The report was delivered to federal judge Michael Simon in Portland. He is overseeing the legal case involving salmon and dams along the Columbia. The Bonneville Power Administration says this year's report shows some improvement in returning adult salmon and steelhead numbers. In 2011, the number of adult salmon migrating past the Bonneville Dam was the fourth highest since 1938.

Rain Brings Some Breathing Relief in Salmon

Sep 24, 2012
Beale Monday / Salmon-Challis National Forest

Salmon has seen some of the worst air quality in Idaho this year.  This month, the town has had several “purple” or very unhealthy air quality days.  The Mustang Complex fire is still burning mostly uncontained near the mountain town.  Smoke from the blaze has plagued the area for weeks.   

But a trace of rain over the weekend and into Monday has given residents of Salmon some much-needed fresh air.

“We’ve never been so happy to see rain in I don’t know how long," says Salmon Public Library employee Anne Schwartz. "So we are thanking God for sure.”

Evin Oneale / Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The black bear cub - known as Boo Boo - is expected to make a full recovery. The bear was burned in the Mustang Fire north of Salmon. 

Boo Boo could be ready to leave the Idaho Humane Society, where he’s been recovering from his burns, in as little as two weeks.  The three-to-four month old cub has 2nd degree burns on all four of his paws. 

Salmon Air Quality Unhealthy Because Of Wildfires

Aug 30, 2012
Boise National Forest

Wildfire activity caused a purple air quality advisory for Salmon today.

Rensay Owen of the Department of Environmental Quality says that this advisory is more serious than previous ones issued this summer. “We have been issuing an air quality advisory for Lemhi and Custer county areas for the last three weeks now. The last week or so these advisories have been in the unhealthy category.”

Owens says that the purple warning is the second highest level on the air quality index. “The very unhealthy category – folks should stay indoors and limit any exertion.”


The Lemhi County Sheriff today warned homeowners near Butcherknife Ridge to be prepared to evacuate if the Mustang Complex Fire gets closer.  The 181,000 acre fire is threatening homes in the Highway 93 corridor north of North Fork.