Mission Beach Water Monitoring, Summer 2017

By Valerie Streeter, Tuallip Tribes Natural Resources Dept.

This summer, WSU Beach Watchers volunteers are monitoring the quality of water at Mission Beach each week until August 29. Harvey Eastman at the Tulalip Water Quality Lab analyzes the water samples. So far, the beach has been sampled eight (8) times.

The results show that bacteria levels in the water are low, well below the threshold limit for swimming, which means that the water is clean! The graphs below show the average result from the three beach sampling stations for this year as well as last year. The red line shows the bacteria threshold limit and the blue line is the amount of bacteria in the water at Mission Beach. If bacterial levels are above the threshold limit, there are more chances for skin infections or gastrointestinal illness from too much pollution.

* No samples were taken on July 4.

Approximate locations of sampling stations on Mission Beach


Adapting to Change: Tulalip Community Addresses Climate Change

Community members share their top five climate change concerns,.Natural Resources will utilize and refer to this data while developing the adaptation plan throughout the next six months.

 

“We’re going to be developing strategies to preserve tribal customs and culture first and foremost.”

– Colin Wahl,Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Scientist

 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

Countless studies have shown that since the 1900’s, the Earth’s heat has increased by about 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit. That is at an alarming rate considering that leading up to the Industrial Revolution, the planets heat only increased by about nine degrees over the span of 5,000 years.  Due to the burning of fossil fuels, excessive carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere over the last century. Carbon dioxide is produced by humans, animals and plants; but also by human activity such as generating electricity and using gasoline for vehicles.

Carbon dioxide traps radiated heat from the sun, at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the planet’s temperature to increase. The more heat that is trapped, the warmer the planet becomes. If the Earth’s population continues to burn fossil fuels at its current rate, over the next century, future generations will face extreme weather including draughts, floods and storms. Recent studies claim that in the year 2100, heat waves will last up to twenty days and will result in many deaths around the entire world.

Climate change is inevitable, however, many environmentalists believe the process can be slowed by means of conserving energy, utilizing other forms of transportation and recycling. The Tulalip Tribes are among the many tribal nations, environmentalists and scientists studying the cause and effect of climate change and how it will affect future generations.

Tulalip’s Natural Resource Department recently held a community dinner at the Tulalip Administration Building to discuss climate change and how it will impact Tulalip and its surrounding areas.

“It is a great honor to be here to start talking about climate change,” said Tulalip Vice Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “We are beginning to look at what we can do to help better the environment. I really want to see us building green, utilizing solar power and really ramping up our recycling efforts and the reuse of materials. There’s a lot of things that we’re talking about, in regards to climate change, and we need to start taking those steps in the right direction.”

The community dinner included presentations by Tulalip Natural Resources Environmental Scientist, Colin Wahl, as well as guest speaker Clarita Lefthand-Begay of the Navajo Nation, who is an Environmental Professor at the University of Washington.

Colin’s presentation provided a brief overview of climate change, explaining ocean acidification, sea level rise and how global warming will impact salmon runs in the future.

“Salmon is one of the major issues of climate change we’re concerned about,” explained Colin. “As Patti [Gobin] said, the Tulalips are fish people and the tribal culture really relies on fishing and maintaining the salmon populations. We’re going to have to maintain our protection and restoration strategies in the future, but we might have to adjust some of those strategies to consider how climate change impacts salmon. Some of these strategies might include things like protecting cold water habitat in streams and rivers as well as generally trying to slow the progression of climate change through policies that actually decrease carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere.”

Colin stated that due to the impacts from sea level rise, various areas of the reservation will experience beach loss. Areas that will be affected include Tulalip Bay, Hermosa Beach, Priest Point and the Qwuloolt Estuary. Colin used charts to compare and contrast the areas today and the same area eighty years in the future. He also explained that the Natural Resources Department is in the early stages of developing a Climate Change Adaption Plan which will take approximately six months to complete before the implementation process begins.

“We’re going to be developing strategies to preserve tribal customs and culture first and foremost,” Colin stated. “We’re also developing strategies to protect tribal property and infrastructure. We’re working with all the different departments within the administration, including Planning in particular, they’ll be an essential element throughout the process. We also need to protect and restore treaty resources, or continue to do so, so that the Tribe’s customs and culture can extend into the future.

“Historically, Indigenous cultures are very resilient in the Puget Sound area,” he continued. “The ancestors of the Tulalip Tribes, like the salmon, have adapted to the changing environments for thousands of years. This is a little more difficult now, because in the past the people could follow the species wherever they went. Since treaty times, the tribes are tied to place, tied to a reservation, tied to these legally defined boundaries. So, there might be issues with species shifts where there’s more salmon up north compared to south.”

Clarita spoke with the community before leading an open forum discussion. During her presentation she spoke in detail about the dangers of climate change, stating that by the year 2100, the earth will regularly experience extreme heat waves, air pollution as well as water and food borne illnesses. She also states that the food of future generations including shellfish, fish, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables will all be negatively affected by climate change. Clarita explained that the populations most affected by climate change will be elders, children, pregnant women, individuals with compromised immune systems as well as poverty-stricken families.

The climate change dinner concluded with an open discussion for the community to voice their concerns regarding the impacts of climate change. Clarita and the Natural Resources team wrote documented the many concerns. Following the discussion, the participants were given five post-it stickers, each a different color, and asked to rate their top five concerns. Natural Resources will utilize and refer to this data while developing the adaptation plan throughout the next six months.

We need to do more to clean Puget Sound

 


By Lorraine Loomis, Chair Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

The health of Puget Sound is getting some much-needed help from efforts to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and a proposed new law that would prohibit sewage discharge from boats.

Polluted stormwater runoff from urban areas is the number one source of pollution entering Puget Sound. When it rains, pollutants such as brake-pad dust, oil and other toxics are washed from our roadways into the sound.

The poison soup can be lethal to salmon throughout their life cycle. Returning adult salmon can die in as little as 15 minutes after exposure to polluted stormwater runoff.

The good news is that most pollutants can be removed from the water by pre-treating it through a natural filtration system.

That’s why we congratulate the city of Seattle for its efforts to increase the use of natural rain gardens and biofiltration systems, or bioswales. You can watch KING-5 TV’s story about the project here: go.nwifc.org/1rk

Two bioswales are at work on Capitol Hill where polluted stormwater runoff pours into Lake Union and ultimately Puget Sound. The swales are situated in two block-long planting strips between sidewalks and curbs. Soil and plants inside the swales help trap about one-third of pollutants so they don’t wind up in the water.

These efforts should be expanded across the region. When added to other actions like increased street sweeping by local governments, they can be an inexpensive and effective part of the solution to the problem.

Salmon managers are working too hard and fishermen are sacrificing too much to get salmon back home only to see them die from polluted stormwater runoff.

We also applaud the state Department of Ecology for its work to establish Puget Sound as a no-discharge zone.

There are more than 150,000 recreational boats and more than 3,500 commercial vessels in the Puget Sound region. Most already have holding tanks for sewage, but until recent years there weren’t enough pump-out stations available to make the no-discharge zone possible.

Under current regulations, boats can dump partially treated sewage anywhere in the sound. Raw sewage can be flushed from boats at least three miles from shore.

The no-discharge zone would protect an area of more than 2,300 square miles and include lakes Washington and Union. Surprisingly, it’s the first no-discharge zone established in Washington although there are more than 90 in 26 other states.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to make a determination on the zone later this year.

The benefits to our health and the health of everything that lives in the sound are clear. It only takes a little sewage contamination to close a shellfish bed or make people sick.

We are encouraged by these efforts to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and prevent boat sewage from being dumped into Puget Sound. We need more like them.

UW Seminar: Preserving the Past Together

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and presidential appointed Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, was the keynote speaker.

 

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The University of Washington has created a new seminar and workshop series sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, Office of Research, and the Burke Museum. These two-hour luncheon events bring together tribal representatives, tribal historic preservation offices, representatives from local, state and federal agencies, and cultural resources managers to evaluate the contemporary needs and challenges of preserving heritage in the Salish Sea. The objective is to foster the development of collaborative approaches to heritage management and historic preservation that integrate the needs of these diverse stakeholders.

On Thursday, January 12, the opening seminar of the four-part series, titled Collaborating on Heritage in the Puget Sound, was held at UW’s ωəɬəbʔαltxʷ Intellectual House. Taking place was a facilitated conversation with representatives from local tribes, the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, UW Law, and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“We want to provide a forum for archaeologists, heritage professionals, and tribal cultural resource managers to consider the current challenges and future possibilities of managing heritage in our own backyard,” explained Sara Gonzalez, UW Assistant Professor and seminar moderator. “Our objective is strengthen and build upon existing methods of knowledge sharing from the diverse stewards and stakeholders who are sitting here today. We have the unique opportunity to think more deeply and creatively about how we can best use our resources to contribute to the capacity of tribes, as well as local agencies and cultural resource firms to manage heritage within the Salish Sea.”

Leonard Forsman, Chairman of the Suquamish Tribe and presidential appointed Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, was the key-note speaker and gave a heartfelt opening address that connected with many in the room. The following is an excerpt of his speech that explains the important of cultural resources and sacred site protection to Native peoples and how these topics apply to Standing Rock.

“Cultural resources has always been deep in my heart and remains a key pillar of my thinking as we move forward. There are a number of issues that face the tribes, from economic development to habitat protection to educating our children to justice and housing for our people. Many, many aspects of our tribal governments take into account the physical cultural resources unique to our respective nations and communities, as well as our spiritual culture.

One topic that there’s been a lot of talk about recently is sacred site protection, especially in regards to Standing Rock. We know natural resources is vital as a part of the context for identifying a sacred site. We are hearing a lot that cultural practitioners are being asked to step in and explain those elements that essentially tell us why a place is important spiritually. The Standing Rock – DAPL protest is an example of this, where there are a lot of different factors and influences to the protest. There’s a very strong argument based on sacred site protection. This highlights the importance landscape has to us as Native people, that we have these ancestral connections to the land.

Chief Seattle spoke of our interconnectedness with the land and nature in his most memorable speech. He explained how we live with our ancestors on a daily basis and how they are with us all the time. What happens to the land is permanent, and knowing this we are very concerned about what may impact the land because that in turn impacts our lives. That is why we are so adamant about protecting our cultural resources and sites we can preserve because we want to remain respectful of that constant presence in our lives.”

Native American scholar John Mohawk (Seneca) defined culture as a learned means of survival in an environment. As tribes, our means of survival used to be finding what the need was within our community and then each member doing their part to fulfill that need.

In thinking about opportunities and challenges of caring for heritage and protecting our culture in the Pacific Northwest, there is a glaring need to better understand one another. We have to work together to communicate and understand each other’s viewpoints, instead of making assumptions about one another. There are assumptions made about the tribes, about the government, about federal agencies, and seemingly everything in between. Some of these assumptions may be true, but a lot of them aren’t. We have to make sure that we talk to each other and feel safe in doing that, even if it means being blunt in order to express how we feel.

 

 

In order to preserve the past together and continue protecting our cultural resources there must be an open dialogue that allows for questions and understanding. This UW workshop series is a promoter of such dialogue and looks to build upon all the knowledge shared and communicated by all those who attend. The next workshop in the series, Meaningful Collaboration and Indigenous Archaeologies, takes place on February 16 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the Suzzallo Allen Library (located on the UW campus). For more information please visit http://blogs.uw.edu/preserve.

 

Contact Micheal Rios: mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

“Being Frank” Climate Change is Damaging Treaty Rights

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commissiont

Climate change isn’t happening to some of us. It’s happening to all of us, and it’s going to take all of us to meet its challenges.

A recent report from the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington brings the issue of climate change home. Home to the ocean, beaches, rivers and forests that support our treaty-protected rights and resources.

Tribes are closely connected to the natural world and we are seeing the increasing effects of climate change throughout the region: Higher air and water temperatures, disappearing glaciers, decreasing summer streamflows, rising sea levels and stronger winter storms.

Climate change worsens factors that are already affecting our resources, such as the continued loss of salmon habitat faster than it can be restored. When we add projected population growth to the mix, the future looks grim.

Climate change is the most significant environmental event of our lifetime. That’s why we want to focus attention and work together with local, state and federal governments and others to address its effects.

We applaud the state of Washington for leading the nation by using the state Clean Air Act to establish a cap on carbon pollution that is the main cause of climate change.

We think Gov. Inslee’s call for a carbon tax is a good idea. It could provide a big boost to clean energy, forest health and other solutions to address climate change.

The tax would be levied on any company that generates or imports electricity, natural gas or oil, such as power plants and refineries. It would be the first of its kind in the nation, and would encourage other states to follow Washington’s lead.

In the meantime, tribes are conducting vulnerability assessments and implementing adaptation plans to protect tribal communities and resources from the effects of climate change.

Many of the actions needed in salmon recovery also reduce the effects of climate change. Stream buffers, functioning floodplains and adequate instream flows cool waters and protect water supplies. They help create resilience in salmon and other species by helping them adapt to climate change.

Tribes have always lived along the coast and in the watersheds of western Washington. We know these lands and waters better than anyone else.

We are committed to sharing centuries of traditional knowledge combined with today’s science to help others identify, track and adapt to climate change trends across the region and throughout the world.

To learn more about climate change, how it affects tribes, and what the tribes are doing about it, visit us on the web at nwtreatytribes.org/climatechange.

For Tulalips, protecting treaty rights means restoring habitat

From a research boat on Oct. 12, Tulalip Tribes treaty rights commissioner Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

From a research boat on Oct. 12, Tulalip Tribes treaty rights commissioner Terry Williams points out a steep hillside near Mission Beach that has been gradually eroding for years. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

 

By Chris Winters, The Herald, Oct 22, 2016

 

TULALIP — From the deck of a 30-foot research boat owned by the Tulalip Tribes, Terry Williams pointed out the remnants of a bulkhead along Mission Beach where not long ago there was a string of beach houses.

In 2013, the leases on the tribal property weren’t renewed and the homes were removed. The main concern was erosion of the beach and the bluffs overhead damaging the fragile marine environment below.

Williams, who is the Tulalips’ treaty rights commissioner, said increased rainfall and stronger windstorms would saturate the sandy bluffs and cause them to slide down onto the houses below.

“It gets to the consistency of a milkshake and tends to fall,” Williams said.

On a bright fall day, several parts of the bluff showed clear evidence of slides. Houses were visible above.

Coastal landslides tend to silt up the nearshore environment, which is considered a critical piece of the salmon ecosystem.

“Those areas are really important for forage fish for threatened and endangered salmon,” said Joshua Meidav, the Tulalip Tribes’ conservation science program manager.

The beaches were created and rejuvenated over millennia by the gradual erosion of the bluffs. Development along the shore, including bulkheads, docks and clifftop homes, interrupted that natural process.

Now when the bluff slides, it tends to come down all at once, Williams said.

“The reality is that this is all changing,” he said.

An issue of rights 

Climate change is a concern to Williams and the Tulalips in ways that go well beyond the usual worries about flooding and slides. It’s an issue of treaty rights.

While treaty rights are most commonly understood in the context of dividing the salmon harvest, their reach extends beyond the fishing grounds to tribal relationships with local, state and federal governments, said Ray Fryberg Sr., the Tulalips’ Executive Director of Natural Resources.

Most commonly that manifests in cooperative work with federal, state and local governments, and even private landowners, on many kinds of projects designed to restore salmon habitat.

On other occasions, the tribes have sought redress in the federal courts when they felt government wasn’t living up to its obligations.

“We’re like the last vanguard,” Fryberg said. “They have policies and procedures but there’s no enforcement.”

Most recently, that manifested in the “culverts case.”

In 2001, 21 tribes argued successfully that Washington state violated their treaty rights because culverts that carried streams under roads harmed salmon runs.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision in June, and ordered the state Department of Transportation to replace or fix 818 culverts at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion over the next 17 years.

It was a significant advancement of treaty rights into the realm of habitat restoration.

“The culvert case is the case that says there has to be a restoration so that ongoing harm doesn’t continue,” said Robert Anderson, a law professor and the director of the Native American Law Center at the University of Washington.

In this case, the state of Washington was found to have damaged habitat for salmon, and was ordered to make repairs.

Habitat protection and restoration were key elements in the second phase of a landmark decision by U.S. District Court Judge George Boldt.

In 1974, the first phase of the Boldt decision provided the basis for the co-management system, in which tribal and non-tribal fishermen divide the salmon harvest each year. The second phase, decided in 1984, focused on the habitat for the salmon.

“Phase II said that there’s not going to be a treaty resource of the salmon unless the environment is protected,” Fryberg said. “We get a certain amount of say-so in that.”

The part of the Phase II Boldt decision that obligated the federal government to restore habitat was overturned on appeal. However, the federal appeals court still said that the state of Washington and the tribes needed to take steps to protect and enhance the fisheries.

What those steps should be was left unstated.

“It’s difficult to argue that the federal government has an obligation to restore the ecosystem to, say, pre-treaty conditions, or treaty-time conditions,” Anderson said.

Some of the damage to habitat had already been done by that time, he said. Also, it’s a lot harder to assess the damage done by small changes, such as a single tide gate on private land, compared with the cumulative effects of the state’s culvert construction.

Momentum for restoration work can be created, however, when treaty rights are considered in tandem with the Endangered Species Act’s listing of various populations of salmon and steelhead.

“I think there’s a strong argument with the federal government to take steps to restore habitat,” Anderson said. “Maybe not a legal argument, but a treaty trust obligation to do it, and that they should do it.”

A seat at the table 

In practical terms, that means that the tribes have been aggressive in forming partnerships to pursue environmental projects.

Representatives from the Tulalips and the Suquamish Tribes were included in last week’s announcement of a new governmental task force to identify goals to protect Puget Sound.

Tribes also have broad leeway to take on projects of their own that help restore habitat, or at least halt the progress of degradation.

It’s not a blanket authority to do anything anywhere, but it means tribes have a seat at the table whenever a treaty trust resource is affected.

As a coordinating body among the 20 treaty tribes of Western Washington, the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission has a role supporting restoration programs to have a greater impact.

A lot of the commission’s work focuses on the marine nearshore environment, said Fran Wilshusen, the NWIFC’s habitat services director. That also means studying how the marine environment interacts with estuaries, river systems and the upland watersheds.

“We’re trying to pull the lens back and look at how the whole system is connected,” Wilshusen said.

That includes small projects, such as the Tulalips’ 2013 pilot study to release beavers in the western Cascades, where their activity of building dams is expected to help return the upper reaches of streams to their natural state, which happens to be better spawning territory for salmon.

Larger efforts include the Tulalips’ restoration of the 400-acre Qwuloolt Estuary in Marysville. A similar project was restoration of the 762-acre estuary in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge outside Tacoma by the Nisqually Tribe.

The ongoing Nearshore Restoration Project focuses on restoring beaches and marine environments damaged by beach erosion. It’s a Snohomish County project, and local tribes have a place at the table, serving on the boards of several organizations that provided money for the project, including the county’s Marine Resource Committee and the Northwest Straits Commission.

One project under way is an agreement between the Tulalip Tribes and the U.S. Forest Service to maintain a 1,280-acre tract in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest as a source of wild huckleberries.

There aren’t that many places left in the mountains that are accessible by road that still provide habitat for the berries, which are important to tribal culture, said Libby Halpin Nelson, a senior environmental policy analyst with the Tulalips.

“They are healthy and they are a traditional food that is always looked for in ceremonies,” Nelson said.

The project includes removing small conifers that could “shade-out” the berries. In essence, the tribe is mimicking the effect forest fires used to have before fire suppression became standard response, she said.

Rights at risk 

For all the work that’s been done to protect and restore salmon habitat, the fish runs continue to decline.

In spring, projections of low numbers of returning salmon, especially coho, led to a breakdown of negotiations between the tribes and the state. Tempers flared and fishermen protested when tribes were given permission to catch a small number of spring Chinook while the non-native sportsmen had to wait.

July report from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s “Treaty Rights at Risk” initiative pointed out just how dire the situation was for many watersheds, including the Snohomish and Stillaguamish rivers: Habitat was being lost faster than it could be replaced and nearly every single indicator of the health of salmon populations was trending downward.

The challenges looming on the horizon are even more formidable.

A poster on Fryberg’s office wall has a picture of the late Nisqually leader Billy Frank Jr. and his warning to all Native American tribes: “As the salmon disappear, so do our tribal cultures and treaty rights. We are at a crossroads, and we are running out of time.”

With each new study, it becomes clearer that changes are elapsing at an increasing speed.

“Ten, 15 years ago, what we said would happen in 50 years is already happening,” Fryberg said.

The Tulalip Tribes hosted two summits this year, one in April concerning rising sea levels, and another in September that looked at adapting to climate change in general. Fryberg said the tribe is planning a third focused on the state of salmon recovery.

“Collectively, we have to be making some effort,” Fryberg said. “We have a responsibility to the future to try and do something.”

The quote from Billy Frank was from an essay he wrote in 2012, and it’s the next sentence that points to what needs to be done: “That’s why we are asking the federal government to come to align its agencies and programs, and lead a more coordinated recovery effort.”

Williams’ entire career has been focused on building bridges between tribal, state and federal governments.

Shortly after the Boldt decision, he was involved in setting up the co-management regime in the state, and then negotiating the Pacific Salmon Treaty with Canada and its First Nations, backed by research developed by Tulalip staff scientists.

In the 1990s he was tapped to open the Indian Office in the Environmental Protection Agency. But many efforts to restore salmon runs were coming up short.

“We were putting tremendous amount of money into restoration and we were losing ground,” Williams said.

He realized that many federal and state agencies operated in their own silos, and often they might set regulations that aren’t in line with each other or broader goals.

“It’s the authority of each individual agency, federal, state or local, that gives them the ability to create rules and standards,” Williams said. “Eleven agencies have independent programs and authorities in Puget Sound. Most are not geared toward Puget Sound recovery goals.”

At the climate change summit in September, Williams noted the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other federal agencies to temporarily halt work on the Dakota Access Pipeline after months of protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. He said that was recognition that regulators were out of alignment with the Obama Administration’s agenda.

While a court has allowed some of that work to start up again, the government’s order came with an announcement that the federal government would consult with tribes on major infrastructure projects in the future.

The consultation process already existed since President Obama created a cabinet-level position to coordinate government-tribal relations, Anderson said.

“Here the Obama Administration seems to be signaling that, ‘Hey, maybe we ought to be doing more,’” he said.

That may lead simply to more federal agencies talking to each other and more often with tribal governments, which is still a step forward.

From the Tulalip research boat, Williams pointed out a section of Hermosa Point where he’s lived since the 1970s. Here too, the bluffs have slid, and some of the houses are perched on the edge, hanging over the lip.

“When I bought my house we were looking at getting closer to the bluff, but decided that wasn’t a good idea,” he said.

If stronger regulations are enacted, it would prevent some houses from being built, and that would translate into lower insurance costs for government. That would also help protect fragile ecosystems.

“The more we can understand it, the better we can prepare,” Williams said.

“What we’re seeing in climate impacts right now is just the beginning.”

 

An eroding hillside near Hermosa Point on the Tulalip Reservation. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

An eroding hillside near Hermosa Point on the Tulalip Reservation. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Evidence of a recent slide along a hillside near Arcadia Road on the Tulalip Reservation on Oct. 12. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Evidence of a recent slide along a hillside near Arcadia Road on the Tulalip Reservation on Oct. 12. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Fishermen in Tulalip Bay with the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Fishermen in Tulalip Bay with the Olympic Mountains looming in the background. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

 

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Being Frank: Hatcheries Bridge Gap Between Habitat, Harvest

 

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By  Lorraine Loomis, Chair, NWIFC

 

Despite their unbreakable connection, salmon harvest and habitat restoration continue moving down separate roads in western Washington. Many people either don’t see or choose to ignore the fact that habitat determines harvest, and that we continue to lose habitat faster than it can be restored.

Indian and non-Indian harvest has been cut to the bone this summer because of expected historically low returns, especially coho. Yet habitat loss and damage – the root of the problem – continues every day throughout our watersheds and nearshore marine waters.

Poor ocean survival conditions certainly played a role in the low salmon returns of the past several years. But even when we can restore or protect salmon habitat, we aren’t helping ourselves enough.

You might be surprised, but fish really do grow on trees. Trees keep water temperatures low, the way salmon like it. Their roots help to prevent soil erosion that can smother salmon eggs. When they fall into a river, trees provide diverse rearing habitat for fish. When the salmon spawn and die, their nutrients feed the trees.

Yet from 2006 to 2011 we lost the equivalent of two Seattle-sized forests or about 170 square miles, according to the treaty tribes’ 2016 State of Our Watersheds Report. The report can be viewed at nwifc.org/sow.

When we lose habitat, we also lose the natural production of salmon it provides. The collapse of our fisheries is simply mirroring the collapse of the eco-systems that support them.

For more than 100 years, hatcheries have tried to make up for that loss, but hatchery salmon depend on the same declining habitat as naturally spawning salmon.

About half of the salmon harvested in western Washington are hatchery fish. Continued habitat loss means we will have to depend on hatcheries for as long as lost and damaged habitat continues to restrict natural salmon production and threaten treaty rights.

Hatcheries are simply a tool. Some provide fish for harvest while reducing harvest pressures on weak stocks. Others serve as nurseries to protect threatened salmon stocks. All are essential to salmon recovery and should be integrated in our salmon recovery efforts for every watershed. We need every tool in the box to reinforce remaining salmon populations as we work to restore habitat.

The importance of this tool should be reflected in its funding, but as the need for hatchery fish has increased, state funding for hatcheries has declined or remained flat. Treaty tribes have stepped up to fill the gap in recent years and provide more salmon for everyone by picking up the costs at a number of state hatcheries where production was threatened by budget shortfalls.

The connection between harvest and habitat is clear. We cannot expect to harvest salmon – either hatchery or naturally spawning – as long as we continue to destroy salmon habitat. In the meantime, hatcheries must continue to help bridge that gap and be included as the essential part of salmon recovery that they are.

 

 

 

 

Lorraine Loomis is the chair of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission.

 

Quinault Indian Nation hosts crude oil protest rally

When tribes stand together is when we are strongest

 

Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, along with many tribal members and Grays Harbor community member rally in protest of crude oil in their county. Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Grays Harbor County is the vacation destination for Washingtonians who are looking for a relaxing affordable getaway. Grays Harbor is the home to popular beach towns like Ocean Shores, Seabrook, and Westport. Hikers and nature lovers who visit the Hoh Rainforest and Lake Quinault frequently admire the northern borders of the county because it shares the Olympic Peninsula with Jefferson and Clallam Counties. This county with breathtaking views almost everywhere you look is in danger of jeopardizing its greatest tourist attraction: it’s natural resources.

Westway Terminal is seeking to build and operate oil terminals in Grays Harbor. The company wants to bring in large amounts of oil via train, store it on the shoreline, and ship it out of the harbor in tanker vessels. Westway is the third company attempting to bring crude oil business into the Grays Harbor community in recent years. Imperium Terminal Services and Grays Harbor Rail Terminal have both attempted and failed largely due to the communities’ opposition. Westway argues that the company will create thousands of job opportunities in a community that is economically struggling, and that Washington State has one of the best oil spill prevention and response teams in the country, so if a spill were to ever occur, the damage would be significantly less than other states.

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

Grays Harbor recognizes the point the company is trying to make and although some citizens find the possibility of an economic boost appealing, the majority of Grays Harbor feel the risk is greater than the reward. The Quinault Indian Nation (QIN) is the most prominent among the many active voices in the community regarding this issue.

QIN hosted a march and rally in the city of Hoquiam on Friday July 8, protesting crude oil in Grays Harbor County. Hundreds of tribal and community members united in an effort to save the county from Westway’s purposed oil terminals. The rally began when traditional canoes docked at the Hoquiam River. Once everybody was ashore the protesters, with banners raised high, marched onto Hoquiam City Hall.

 

Quinautl_oil-1

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

“Our ancestors gave up so much when signing the treaties. They worked to ensure that our generation, and we are the seventh generation since the Quinault Nation signed our treaty in the 1800’s, would be secured by treaty rights. This generation is standing up for our treaty rights to ensure that our natural resources are preserved for the next seven generations to come,” stated QIN President, Fawn Sharp, as the large crowd began to chant “No crude oil!”

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

President Sharp commissioned an economic study in regards to what would happen to the community if the county approves the oil terminals. The study found that in the case of an oil spill, approximately 10,000 jobs would be threatened including 700 tribal fisherman, 400 non-tribal fisherman, and over 4,000 tourism based jobs. According to the study, more jobs would be lost in the community in the event of a spill than the jobs that would be created by approving Westway’s move to the harbor. Not to mention the damage a spill would cause the environment.

Sharp stated, “We are at a critical place in Grays Harbor. A decision is going to be made soon. The future of this harbor is going to go in one direction or the other. We need it to go in the direction of no crude oil forever!”

Several community leaders gave testimonies opposing Westway at Hoquiam City Hall that afternoon. Tribal leaders from Lummi, Neah Bay, and Quileute were in attendance to show support for Quinault. With the majority of the community on the same page, the purposed oil terminal seems to facing a losing battle. The QIN’s effort to preserve its natural resources for it’s future tribal members is a battle that the Nation is always prepared for. The protection of treaty rights is a fight that all tribes throughout Native America are familiar with, and when tribes stand together is when we are strongest. No crude oil!

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

 

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

Photo/Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

A sign of progress for the recovery of salmon habitat

Billy Frank Jr. stands on top of a culvert in 2008. photo/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

Billy Frank Jr. stands on top of a culvert in 2008. Photo/Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission

 

U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals rules in favor of the tribes in culvert case 

 

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

A culvert is a tunnel carrying a stream or open drain under a road or railroad. Currently, there are hundreds of culverts in the state of Washington that are in need of repairs. This issue has been an on-going problem for the tribes of Washington State for a large amount of time. The reason this is an issue for northwest Native Americans is because the blocked culverts are preventing salmon from swimming into spawning areas and from swimming back to the ocean, thus diminishing the salmon runs in Washington.

The original case began over 15 years ago; in 2001 the 21 federally recognized tribes of Washington filed a complaint against Washington State in the U.S. District Court regarding the damaged culverts. In 2007 the court ruled that building the culverts put the state in violation of the treaties the state signed with the tribes, and in 2013 the court made it a requirement for the Department of Transportation to replace the culverts with more efficient and salmon friendly culverts. The court gave Washington 17 years to replace the culverts making this the second victory for the tribes regarding this issue.

Washington State found this ruling a bit harsh and filed an appeal stating that the ruling was too expensive. The estimate given by The Department of Transportation was around $1.9 billion for the replacement of approximately 800 estimated culverts over the next 17 years. The court did find these estimations to be over-calculated for both the cost as well as the number of culverts that need to be replaced.

Washington agrees that blocked culverts are one reason why salmon runs are on the decline. The state corrected 23 culverts since the ruling in 2013, and looks to fix several more before the year ends. However, the state did file the appeal claiming that the treaties did not require the state to restore the salmon habitat, there is no minimum requirement of salmon for the tribes, and that the project is too time consuming and expensive. The states appeal was heard in October of 2015.

On Monday June 27, 2016 the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals ruled yet again in favor of the tribes. The state can still file for a rehearing and petition for the U.S. Supreme Court. Washington State attorneys are currently reviewing the case and deciding whether or not they would like to proceed with a rehearing,

Once the culverts are replaced they will open over 1,000 miles of streams for salmon to pass through. Tribal leaders are looking to Washington for a sit-down to create a co-management plan that is financially realistic as well as time efficient. The decision is definitely a sign of progress for the recovery of the salmon habitat. However, many believe that there is still much work to be done, citing the culverts as just one of many problems. John Sledd, the primary attorney for the tribes believes that this is a major step in the right direction.

“Treaty fishing rights mean nothing without fish to catch, and you can’t have fish if they can’t get to their habitat to reproduce.  The Court of Appeals made it absolutely clear – the treaties promised the tribes more than the right to set their nets and bring them up empty.  They promised enough fish to meet the people’s needs.  This decision is a big step to fulfilling that promise. It’s a great decision for the tribes, the fish, and everyone who values wild salmon.”

The Choctaw v climate change: ‘The earth is speaking’

In the US, members of the Choctaw nation fight to reclaim their relationship with the land in a world without seasons.

 

Wilson Roberts, an elder member of the Choctaw nation, believes the earth is out of balance [Nicholas

Wilson Roberts, an elder member of the Choctaw nation, believes the earth is out of balance [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera

By Emily Crane Linn, Al Jazeera

 

Durant, Oklahoma – It’s nearly June. Every day, the Earth brings Darryl “Grey Eagle” Brown closer to the Sun, to heaven, to the Creator. That means it’s nearly time for the Eagle Sun Dance ceremony, a 12-day communal gathering of fasting, thanksgiving and prayer that takes place around the summer solstice, when the Creator is especially near.

Fifty-six-year-old Brown is a member of the Choctaw tribe of Oklahoma and a spiritual leader for a band of tribal members seeking to practise their indigenous religion. He learned the Sun Dance from another Choctaw elder who learned it from a tribe in the northern Great Plains. It is a pan-Indian dance – a blend of traditions and historic knowledge passed between the tribes of the Great Plains.

Brown has held this ceremony on his family’s land outside Durant, Oklahoma, each summer for 20 years. Every year, it seems to get hotter, he says, and the weather less predictable. Some years, they dance on parched ground under a cloudless sky. At other times, they’re nearly blown away by hot, angry winds. Last year, they were drenched in torrential floods. But regardless of what the weather holds, Brown must dance anyway because he feels the Choctaw – and the earth – needs him to.

 “Our ceremonies help keep life in balance,” he says.

‘The earth is speaking, but man won’t listen’

 

Brown believes that both his people and the earth they inhabit are deeply out of balance, damaging one another as a result. “Man’s pollution has altered the earth,” he says. “The earth is speaking now, but man won’t listen.”

In Oklahoma, the earth seems to be shouting. From 2010 to 2015, the land plunged the state into a punishing drought, bringing the Choctaw nation to the brink of a water crisis. In 2011, it was the second-hottest summer on record, with more than 35 consecutive days of temperatures above 37 degrees Celsius. Then last summer, the missing rains arrived, but in devastating 30cm deluges. The seemingly incessant floods tore through the state all summer long, destroying houses and wiping out crops.

Brown knows the outside world has a term for these catastrophic weather shifts: climate change. He knows there have been summits and debates and policies on the matter. But here in Choctaw nation, Brown doesn’t place much stock in what the federal government or the United Nations have to say. The earth is speaking – speaking through thunderous rains, violent tornadoes and scrambled seasons.

“The seasons aren’t in order any more,” Brown says. “I remember winter in Oklahoma. I remember the ponds freezing up and staying that way for months. Now, we get a few days of cold, but no real winter.”

 

Volunteers gather their wild gardening tools to cut back and clear out other plant species that are currently out-competing with the fragile river cane for resources [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera]

Volunteers gather their wild gardening tools to cut back and clear out other plant species that are currently out-competing with the fragile river cane for resources [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera]

Historically, the Choctaw have proved to be adaptive to whatever nature has given them, says Scott Ketchum, a Choctaw member and PhD candidate studying Choctaw cultural history at the University of Oklahoma. “But now, you have a thunderstorm in January that normally marks the change of a growing cycle, and then the next week, you have a snow storm. What do you do with that?”

The earth is out of balance, Brown says, and his people are partly to blame. “It’s written in our teachings, the knowledge of how to take care of the earth,” he says. “We’re out of balance with that teaching.”

The Choctaw cultural identity has always hinged on an intimate connection with the environment, says Wilson Roberts, a tribal elder and spiritual teacher. “In my mother’s teaching, I was always taught that all animals and life-bearing things are just like us,” he says. “We’re a part of them, they’re a part of us. We’re supposed to take care of each other and look out for each other.”

The Choctaw have forgotten this, Roberts says. And what’s worse, they’ve failed to impart their knowledge to the settlers who now control much of their ancestral homeland. The Choctaw were forcibly removed to Oklahoma from their lands in Alabama and Mississippi in 1831. Twenty-five percent of the population died during the journey, and those who remained were converted to Christianity. “The government came in and took away everything,” Roberts says. “I’m talking about everything …. They burned our pipes and whatever we had that they thought might have some sort of ‘energy’, anything that was sacred to us.”

For Roberts, 76, this isn’t some far-flung part of his history – these are his grandparents’ stories.

The removal marked the beginning of the imbalance, Roberts says. “I always tell people that our downfall as a Choctaw nation is that we gave up what the Creator gave us,” he says. “We didn’t fight hard enough to keep it, and because of that, we’ve lost our continuity with the Creator.”

Healing the earth

 

Roberts and Brown believe that the only way to bring healing to both the earth and their tribe is for the Choctaw to reclaim their traditional relationship to their environment – and then spread those teachings to the rest of the US.

In a modest trailer that serves as a government office building, Ryan Spring labours to do just that. As the director of historic preservation for the Choctaw nation, it is Spring’s job to study his tribe’s past, relearn its traditions and help people like Roberts and Brown pass it on.

“The more culture and heritage we give back, the more we become whole again,” Spring says.

For Spring, a good place to start is by re-teaching traditional gardening. Historically, the Choctaw were adept farmers whose ceremonies and gatherings revolved around the growing cycles. Since their removal, however, they’ve become highly dependent on processed foods handed out through state welfare programmes. A return to traditional gardening will help members regain independence from state handouts, reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke brought on from the unhealthy foods they are given – and reduce their imprint on the environment.

There is a growing interest in learning traditional gardening, Spring says, but climate change poses a formidable challenge.

 
Volunteers join Cain for a day of 'wild gardening' in the Sequoya National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Oklahoma [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera]

Volunteers join Cain for a day of ‘wild gardening’ in the Sequoya National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Oklahoma [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera]

“The growing seasons are getting more and more unpredictable,” Spring says. “We’ll have longer cold snaps or six-year droughts. There’s no average.”

Spring teaches members to keep small gardens that are easier to manage, regardless of the weather. Brown has one, and he has learned to shift his planting and harvesting year-to-year and season-to-season, depending on what the weather appears to be doing. He can’t depend on regular, consistent cycles like his grandfather taught him to do, but by paying close attention to the weather – by listening to the earth – he can grow his food anyway.

Likewise, he has learned to perform his ceremonies not according to the seasons but according to the cycles of the Sun and Moon. This too is a departure from the Choctaw’s ancestral ways, Ketchum says, which revolved entirely around growing cycles. “You used to know to start a particular ceremony in June when a certain plant bloomed,” he says. “But now, it might be June and the plant won’t bloom at all or maybe it will have bloomed early.”

This sort of creativity and adaptability is a good thing, though, Brown says – perhaps even a divine thing.

“The weather will do what it does and we have to be adaptable,” he says. “We have to get creative, we have to find new ways to keep [ceremonial items] dry, which normally would already be dry or to hold a sweat lodge even when it’s chilly outside. But creativity is part of the [Creator], we have that creativity in us.”

Creativity is an essential feature of religious ceremonies like the one Brown is preparing to host. In preparation for such a ceremony, traditional families would historically have spent weeks weaving beautiful, brightly-coloured baskets to hold food for the dancers and sacrifices for the Creator. There will be no baskets this year, however: climate change and industrial agriculture have all but wiped out river cane, the plant used to make the baskets.

 
Roger Cain is one of a handful of academics studying river cane. A Cherokee, Cain is working on a project to map what remains of the river cane on Cherokee land [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera]

Roger Cain is one of a handful of academics studying river cane. A Cherokee, Cain is working on a project to map what remains of the river cane on Cherokee land [Nicholas Linn/Al Jazeera]

The bamboo-like plant used to cover Oklahoma, growing in kilometre-wide swaths called “cane breaks”. Now, as much as 98 percent of it is gone, says Roger Cain, a river cane specialist from the nearby Cherokee Nation. “We had a massive die-off in 2011,” he explains. “We had two weeks in February where it was below [-17C]. I haven’t seen that kind of weather in my whole life.”

Flooding in 2015 further emaciated the river cane population. “We had floods wipe out entire cane breaks,” Spring said. “It’s grown back some since then; it’s surviving, but not on the level where we can use it to make baskets.”

Cain has worked with the Cherokee nation to declare river cane a culturally-protected plant species and has begun a project to map what populations remain in an attempt to preserve them. He holds regular “wild gardening” sessions where he visits these cane breaks and weeds out any invasive species that pose a threat to the plants. He is hopeful that with time and care, he will be able to restore these cane breaks to a level where tribes can resume regular large-scale basket weaving.

As Brown prepares to host the Sun Dance ceremony, he is keenly aware that everything he is doing is different from the ways of his ancestors. So much has changed. So much has been lost. But he will dance anyway. He will dance with what he has. “[Because] our ceremonies are helping,” he says. “They’re helping the cycles, they’re helping the earth.”

Funding for this article was provided in part by the Earth Journalism Network.