Fish Out of Water

A Guide to Global Warming and Pacific Northwest Rivers

03-23-2005 // Patty Glick
Fish Out of Water Report Cover

The great rivers of the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, and Idaho) and the wild salmon and steelhead that inhabit them truly are an American treasure. Celebrating the sight of healthy populations of sockeye returning to the Salmon River to spawn reminds us that the benefits these rivers bestow upon us all are priceless.

Unfortunately, the diminishing vitality of the Pacific Northwest’s salmon and steelhead runs is a wake-up call and foretells the trouble facing our watersheds and the people and wildlife they support. We have damaged or altered the natural function of many of our rivers so severely that their natural inhabitants are struggling to survive. Many stocks of salmon and steelhead either are extinct or so depleted that they are near extinction.

At the same time we have taken the rivers away from fish to build cities, grow crops, transport products, and generate power, humans have added billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases to the Earth’s atmosphere from power plants, motor vehicles, and other sources, resulting in a global warming trend that could devastate the region’s already-fragile watersheds and fisheries.

Removing unnecessary and harmful dams and improving water quality will ensure that salmon and steelhead have the best chance of adapting to our warming environment caused by too much global-warming pollution. We must plan ahead and manage our rivers and our fisheries in ways that compensate for the loss of habitat that already is occurring.

This report is meant to describe the challenge global warming poses for many of the Pacific Northwest’s rivers.

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