A weekly homage to endangered species, large and small
Earlier this year, we saw an unprecedented level of attacks on individual species orchestrated by politicians trying to undermine the Endangered Species Act for the benefit of special interests (see Defenders’ comprehensive report, Assault on Wildlife). So this summer, we interviewed several wildlife experts from outside Defenders during their recent visit to Washington, D.C., to talk about current threats to imperiled wildlife and the importance of upholding the Endangered Species Act.
Saving Pacific Salmon
Zeke Grader knows a thing or two about the importance of salmon. He’s been in the fishing business his entire life. And for more than 25 years, he’s been executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), an organization that represents some 25 different ports and commercial fishing groups up and down the West Coast.
As head of PCFFA, Zeke recognizes the direct connection between a healthy environment and the prosperity of independent fishermen and local businesses that rely on salmon and other fish for their livelihood. When the salmon start to disappear, so do the thousands of jobs that they support. That’s why the Endangered Species Act ends up protecting a whole lot more than just a few fish.
Salmon aren’t just the backbone of small-town fishing economies. They’re also an important cultural symbol for Native American tribes as well as thousands of Americans that grew up with the legendary Pacific salmon runs. Each year salmon return from the ocean to their historic spawning rivers and signal renewed abundance. Many communities still honor this tradition with annual salmon celebrations, like the Issaquah Salmon Days Festival near Seattle, which brings 200,000 people and $7.5 million to this small town each year. (Learn more about the economic benefits of salmon.)
But salmon are in real trouble because not everyone sees the direct benefit of preserving their habitat. Seventeen different runs of salmon, including four different subspecies, are currently protected under the Endangered Species Act. Many of those are at risk of being lost forever, and a few politicians are working to accelerate their demise.
At the behest of large agribusinesses and pesticide manufacturers, several members of Congress have proposed legislation to rollback protections for salmon and other imperiled species that are vital to the health of river systems from Seattle to San Francisco. Rather than protect wildlife and the streams they live in, these politicians want to allow corporations to profit from poisoning our waterways and running our streams dry.
With Zeke’s help, Defenders is fighting in the halls of Congress to make sure that doesn’t happen. We’re also fighting in the courts to uphold essential protections for imperiled species like salmon, steelhead and Delta smelt. (Read about two major victories for salmon and steelhead and Delta smelt). With your help, we will continue to stand up to powerful special interests in order to preserve our wildlife heritage for the benefit of all Americans.
Read Zeke’s latest commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle, defending protections for salmon and Delta smelt.