Indigenous Leaders Hail Biden’s Proposed Chaco Canyon Drilling Ban as ‘Important First Step’

Indigenous Leaders Hail Biden’s Proposed Chaco Canyon Drilling Ban as ‘Important First Step’

Editor’s note: We would hope that this action would be a turning point where the United States stops its management planning philosophy of “natural resources” and focuses on the protection of all living beings. Yet how tenative only 10-mile buffer for only 20 years and does not include all extractive industries. Basically less than undoing what Trump illegally did. After all they still have the Gulf of Mexico.

This story first appeared in Common Dreams.

“We are most hopeful that this action is a turning point where the United States natural resource management planning philosophy focuses on the protection of all living beings.”

November 15, 2021

A coalition of Southwestern Indigenous leaders on Monday applauded President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland following the announcement of a proposed 20-year fossil fuel drilling ban around the sacred Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico—even as the administration prepares to auction off tens of millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction later this week.

“While there is still work to be done, these efforts to safeguard tribes and communities will be essential to protect the region from the disastrous effects of oil and gas development.”

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community,” Haaland—the first Native American Cabinet secretary in U.S. history—said in a statement Monday.

“Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations,” she added. “I value and appreciate the many tribal leaders, elected officials, and stakeholders who have persisted in their work to conserve this special area.”

Carol Davis, executive director of the group Diné Citizens Against Ruining Our Environment (Diné CARE), asserted that “the people in the Greater Chaco Landscape live by this maxim: What you do to the Earth; you do to the people.”

“Today President Biden is not just protecting and healing the earth and sky, he is protecting and healing the people,” she added. “We are most hopeful that this action is a turning point where the United States natural resource management planning philosophy focuses on the protection of all living beings.”

According to the Greater Chaco Coalition:

The Greater Chaco region is a living and ancient cultural landscape. A thousand years ago, Chaco Canyon in northern New Mexico was the ceremonial and economic center of the Chaco Cultural Landscape, an area encompassing more than 75,000 square miles of the Southwest in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah and sacred to Indigenous peoples.

Today, Chaco Canyon in northwestern New Mexico is a National Park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Americas, yet the vast majority of the area is leased to oil and gas activities. Indigenous people, primarily Pueblo and Navajo (Diné) peoples, sacred cultural sites, precious water resources, and the area’s biodiversity are all under a grave and growing threat from fracking.

“For over a century, the federal government has quite literally treated the Greater Chaco Landscape like a national energy sacrifice zone,” the coalition continued. “The region has been victim to large-scale resource exploitation, which includes a history of Navajo displacement and land repatriation that has carved the Greater Chaco Landscape into a complex checkerboard of federal, state, private, and Navajo allotment land.”

“A maze of federal and state agencies control the area, which has allowed oil, gas, and mining companies to exploit layers of law, regulations, and oversight agencies,” it added. “A recent boom of industrialized fracking across New Mexico has made it the second-biggest oil producer in the United States, with more than 91% of available lands in the Greater Chaco area leased for fracking.”

Diné Allottees Against Oil Exploitation (DAoX) said that “we and our heirs greatly welcome the action by President Biden to not just protect the 10-mile buffer surrounding the Chaco Canyon National Historic Park boundaries but to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape in its entirety. Our rights as landowners, our trustee relationship with the federal government, as well as our communities’ public health, has been greatly impacted by oil and gas industry fracking, alongside other extractive industries in the area, for decades.”

The group continued:

Because of the absence of free, prior, and informed consent, nearly all of the rubber-stamping actions from federal management agencies across the Greater Chaco Landscape are textbook examples of the absence of meaningful tribal engagement, and represent the impacts of environmental and institutional racism. We were not adequately informed and did not consent to more than 40,000 oil and gas wells that already litter the Greater Chaco region.

The oil and gas industry is second to none when it comes to disrespecting tribal communities, furthering institutional and environmental racism against our people and across this landscape. Most reprehensible was the fact that federal agencies facilitated the destruction and contamination of our communities while a global pandemic raged.

“This federal racist injustice cannot be forgotten. President Biden and Secretary Haaland’s actions today start to turn this racist status quo on its head,” DAoX added. “We feel that the racial injustice that has been perpetrated on our communities has caused the coming of an unavoidable reckoning to the people who knowingly permitted the destruction of our communities.”

Raena Garcia, fossil fuels and lands campaigner at Friends of the Earth, called the administration’s Chaco Canyon announcement “an important first step towards permanent protection.”

“While there is still work to be done, these efforts to safeguard tribes and communities will be essential to protect the region from the disastrous effects of oil and gas development,” she added.

The Interior Department’s announcement arrives as the Biden administration—which has come under fire from Indigenous and environmental leaders for approving more fossil fuel drilling projects on public lands than either of its two predecessors—prepares to auction off more than 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for fossil fuel extraction on Wednesday.

The lease sale will take place just days after the president pleaded with world leaders for “every nation to do its part” to combat the climate emergency at the recently concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

“It’s hard to imagine a more dangerous, hypocritical action in the aftermath of the climate summit,” Kristen Monsell, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, told ABC News. “Holding this lease sale will only lead to more harmful oil spills, more toxic climate pollution, and more suffering for communities and wildlife along the Gulf Coast.”

Banner image: source (CC BY-SA 4.0)

“People vs. Fossil Fuels’’: Winona LaDuke & Mass Protests Call on Biden to Stop Line 3 Pipeline

“People vs. Fossil Fuels’’: Winona LaDuke & Mass Protests Call on Biden to Stop Line 3 Pipeline

This piece was first published at Democracy Now!




In response to the completion of the contested Line 3 pipeline, which is now reportedly operational, thousands of Indigenous leaders and climate justice advocates are kicking off the “People vs. Fossil Fuels’’ mobilization, an Indigenous-led five-day action of civil disobedience at the White House to demand President Biden declare a climate emergency, divest from fossil fuels and launch a “just renewable energy revolution.” “This pipeline doesn’t respect treaty rights,” says Winona LaDuke, longtime Indigenous activist and founder of Honor the Earth, a platform to raise awareness of and money for Indigenous struggles for environmental justice. “They’re just trying to continue their egregious behavior. It’s so tragic that, on the one hand, the Biden administration is like, ’We’re going to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we’re still going to smash you in northern Minnesota and smash the rest of the country.’” LaDuke faces criminal charges linked to her protest of pipelines in three different counties.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, as we continue to talk about Indigenous action to save our Earth. This week, thousands of Indigenous leaders and climate justice advocates are expected to participate in a historic five-day massive action of civil disobedience at the White House to continue to pressure President Biden to declare a climate emergency, divest from fossil fuels and launch a, quote, “just renewable energy revolution.”

The “People vs. Fossil Fuels” mobilization, led by the Indigenous Environmental Network,, Sunrise Movement, the Center for Biological Diversity and others, comes as Canadian pipeline company Enbridge has completed the construction of its contested Line 3 crude oil pipeline in northern Minnesota. The pipeline is reportedly now operational, violating the treaty rights of local Indigenous communities. Line 3 is set to carry over half a million barrels of tar sands oil every day from Alberta, Canada, through Minnesota to the tip of Lake Superior in Wisconsin, threatening sacred wild rice watersheds in Minnesota, local waters and lands, and doubling Minnesota’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Indigenous leaders and land and water defenders, who have been resisting Line 3 for years, often putting their own bodies on the line, vowed to continue the fight against the pipeline. Last week, a small group of water protectors confronted Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar at a fundraising event, where advocates say plates cost $1,000 a person, demanding her to take action against Line 3.

WATER PROTECTOR: We’re asking you to call on President Biden to stop Line 3. It has a higher carbon footprint than the entire state of Minnesota. And this climate crisis — I mean, you saw Hurricane Ida. You saw how many people died. And we just really need you to call on him and ask him to stop it.

AIDE: Excuse us.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: Thank you. Yes, I know about the concern.

WATER PROTECTOR: Because you have so much power. You have so much power.

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR: I’ve brought those concerns to him. Thank you.

WATER PROTECTOR: And as a young person, the climate crisis is a thing that really concerns me, and stopping Line 3. We can’t have climate justice without you stopping Line 3 and asking President Biden.


WATER PROTECTOR: I know that you don’t have a vote, and I know that you can’t vote in the Senate to stop Line 3. But President Biden has that power. And you have the power.

AMY GOODMAN: “You have the power.” More than 900 water protectors have been arrested over their resistance to Line 3, with some protesters facing felony charges as they were brutalized by police. Some water protectors also reported being denied medical care and being placed in solitary confinement after their arrests. Well, The Guardian newspaper revealed last week that Enbridge paid Minnesota police $2.4 million in reimbursements, all costs tied to the arrests and surveillance of hundreds of water protectors, including officer training, wages, overtime, meals, hotels and equipment for the local police, paid for by an international corporation.

For more, we’re joined in Ponsford, Minnesota, by Winona LaDuke, longtime Indigenous activist, who’s been organizing for years to block Enbridge Line 3. She lives and works on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, is executive director of Honor the Earth. Her piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune is headlined “Line 3 opponents can savor this defeat.” Her latest book, To Be a Water Protector.

Winona, welcome back to Democracy Now! So, if you can talk about these latest revelations of this Canadian company paying the local police to arrest you all, and also what it means that Enbridge says Line 3 is operational?

WINONA LADUKE: [inaudible] Enbridge’s Line 3 is operational will say that they’ve been hurrying really fast because the federal court has yet to rule on whether Enbridge has any ability to move forward. There’s no federal environmental impact statement on this project, which is why we want Joe Biden to stop it. I mean, they stole 5 billion gallons of water, fracked 28 rivers out, and then they have this broken aquifer losing 100,000 gallons a day of water. They have no idea how to fix this stuff, since January. You know, it’s really horrible up here. So, you know, Enbridge has been trying to rush to get this online before the court will rule against them, because, generally, courts have not ruled in favor of pipelines. That’s the status that we have seen, you know, in the federal court ruling on the DAPL, where the federal court ordered them to close down. This is the same company. Enbridge was 28% of DAPL. And when the federal court ordered them to close down the pipe, they said no. When the state of Michigan ordered them to close down a pipe this last May, they said no. So they’re just trying to continue their egregious behavior.

It’s so tragic that, you know, on one hand, the Biden administration is like, “We are going to have Indigenous Peoples’ Day, but we’re still going to smash you in northern Minnesota and smash the rest of the country.” Same thing, you know, Klobuchar and Smith, the two Minnesota senators, shameful their lack of courage, not only for Indigenous people but for the planet, you know?

So Enbridge is trying to get that oil out. In the meantime, it’s a disaster up here. I’m still up here monitoring the line and monitoring what’s going on, because it’s crazy. And just to say, they don’t have Indigenous Peoples’ Day apparently in Becker County, because have a court date today. So, you know, no break for Indigenous people. You could still go to court. You know, it’s just insane up here.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how does your activism change now that it’s supposedly operational, the pipeline? And what exactly does it mean? For people who aren’t familiar with Line 3, talk about its course, from Canada through the United States, and why you’re so concerned about this particular pipeline.

WINONA LADUKE: OK. Well, first of all, the pipeline is 915,000 barrels a day of oil. That’s a lot of oil that’s going to move through it, if they get their way. And that oil, like, this is the last tar sands pipeline. Now, how we know this is the last tar sands pipeline is that our alma mater — remember, Amy, when we were at Harvard trying to get them to divest in South Africa? No, but they just are divesting in fossil fuels. Everybody is fleeing the tar sands. And it’s an industry that’s at its end. Like, Canada needs to quit trying to breathe life into the tar sands and breathe life into boarding schools and residential schools. They need to just stop being the criminals that they are.

You know, so, forcing them — they’re four years behind schedule, if they get to oil. And in that four years behind schedule, the industry is falling apart. There’s no new investment in tar sands infrastructure. And it’s the dirtiest oil in the world. Then add to that the fact that the company can’t even get insurance for its pipeline. Like, I’m just trying to understand what kind of fiscal responsibility exists in the state of Minnesota, that Enbridge divulged a couple of weeks ago that they can’t get insurance for their pipeline. And so, you have an accident, it’s going to be just like Bhopal and Union Carbide. These guys are going to pack up and go back to Canada. You know, I mean, it is a really horrific situation. And, you know, the impact of it is so wrong. You know, I mean, it’s not only the equivalent of 50 new coal-fired power plants, but right now our rivers are dry. They took 5 billion gallons of water from the north. Enbridge and the Walz administration are climate criminals.

And the Biden administration needs to stand up. You know, on one hand, I’m looking at Joe Biden, and I’m so grateful. Like, Bears Ears, that was the right thing to do, you know, to get back and to be the people that are supporting Indigenous people and Land Back. Let’s go, Joe. Let’s go. Let’s go, Joe. You know, 80 million acres of national parks stolen from Indian people, let’s start returning those, too, along with creating new national parks. We could just start returning land that was stolen. That would be a great step.

And then, actually, when you have Indigenous people in your administration, Joe, like Deb Haaland or maybe Jaime Pinkham at the Army Corps of Engineers, let them do their job, instead of having politics, oily politics, intervene. You know, I know that Deb Haaland does not support this pipeline. No sane person supports this pipeline. Only people who want to take oil money from Canadian multinationals support this pipeline. And I know that Jaime Pinkham, assistant in the Army Corps of Engineers, came up here, came up and visited, and saw what was going on and the disaster.

Our tribes have sued, you know, trying to stop this, sued in federal court. That federal court hearing is yet. And our tribes also have a tribal court hearing, where the federal courts have ordered Enbridge to come to our court, because we say that they’re climate criminals and they’re destroying the rights of wild rice. Actually, the state DNR has been ordered into tribal court.

You know, so, Joe, if you appoint Indian people, don’t just make them pretty Indian people that sit in your administration. Let them do their job. Indigenous thinking is what we need in the colonial administration. That’s when change happens.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, Winona, in August, you met with the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights defenders to share the police violence suffered by water protectors protesting the Line 3 construction site. And now we are learning just how much money the Canadian corporation gave to the local police to do the arrests, to do the training, etc. What happened with the U.N. rapporteur?

WINONA LADUKE: The U.N. rapporteur has asked the United States a bunch of questions and is expecting a response on what exactly the United States is planning to do to protect the human rights of Indigenous peoples, because this pipeline does not respect not only treaty rights, but, you know, when you get 900 people arrested and they’re brutalized with all kinds of — you know, I mean, it is torture. Some of what was done to these people is classified as it’s excessive force. So, the United Nations has called to task the United States on the Enbridge pipeline. And so, on Indigenous Peoples’ Day, that’s part of what we are saying, too, is it’s a time to account.

And I just want to say that this isn’t just like our problem, because the Enbridge model — like, first of all, Canadian multinationals kill people in Third World countries. That’s what they do. You know, that is known. Seventy-five percent of the world’s mining corporations are Canadian, and all through Latin America there’s human rights violations. This is no different. This is a Canadian multinational and Indigenous people. And two years ago, we told Attorney General from Minnesota Keith Ellison that this was going to be a problem. You know, we have had no action. And instead what we have is our rights continue to be violated. And, you know, I’ve got charges in three counties, more probably coming soon. I mean, this is like —

AMY GOODMAN: What do you face?

WINONA LADUKE: And this is a national problem, because the Minnesota model is being considered nationally, that corporations should finance your police. And that is — you know, in any way you look at it, that’s definitely a violation of the public trust, to have corporations financed by the police. And the Minnesota —

AMY GOODMAN: What charges do you face, Winona?

WINONA LADUKE: I’ve got trespassing, obstruction. I think I’ve got some public safety, you know, causing public safety problems because cops could have been doing something else instead of monitoring people on the pipeline. A lot of trespassing charges — Aitkin, Hubbard, Wadena County. I’ve got charges in three counties so far.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, best of luck to you today in court, Winona LaDuke, longtime indigenous activist, executive director of Honor the Earth, speaking to us from northern Minnesota.

When we come back, we look at the Russian journalist who was just awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday. Stay with us.

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‘Resounding’ Climate Win as Judge Blocks Alaska Drilling Project Defended by Biden

‘Resounding’ Climate Win as Judge Blocks Alaska Drilling Project Defended by Biden

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams.

“We must keep Arctic oil in the ground if we want a livable planet for future generations.”

By Jake Johnson

A federal judge on Wednesday tossed out construction permits for a sprawling, multibillion-dollar Alaska oil drilling project that the Trump administration approved and the Biden Interior Department defended in court earlier this year, infuriating Indigenous groups, climate advocates, and scientists.

In a 110-page decision (pdf), Judge Sharon Gleason of the U.S. District Court for Alaska ruled that the Trump administration failed to adequately consider the climate impacts of the Willow project, which—if completed—would produce up to 160,000 barrels of oil a day over a 30-year period.

“We are hopeful that the administration won’t give the fossil fuel industry another chance to carve up this irreplaceable Arctic landscape with drilling rigs, roads, and pipelines.”
—Jeremy Lieb, Earthjustice

Specifically, Gleason deemed “arbitrary and capricious” the Bureau of Land Management’s failure to include potential greenhouse gas emissions from foreign oil consumption in its analysis of the project, which was planned by ConocoPhillips. Gleason also faulted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not detailing how polar bears would be protected from the massive fossil fuel initiative, which would include the construction of several new oil drilling sites and hundreds of miles of pipeline.

A spokesperson for ConocoPhillips said the company intends to weigh its options in the wake of the judge’s decision, which environmentalists hailed as a “resounding win” for the climate.

“We were very surprised to see the Biden administration, which has promised historic progress on climate change, defending this plan in court—but today’s decision gives the administration the opportunity to reconsider the project in light of its commitment to address the climate emergency,” Earthjustice attorney Jeremy Lieb said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the administration won’t give the fossil fuel industry another chance to carve up this irreplaceable Arctic landscape with drilling rigs, roads, and pipelines.”

“We must keep Arctic oil in the ground if we want a livable planet for future generations,” Lieb added.

Kristen Miller, acting executive director at the Alaska Wilderness League, said Gleason’s ruling vindicates environmentalists’ warnings that “the Trump bureau downplayed the significance of climate change, underestimated emissions, and ignored the concerns of local Indigenous communities toward increased oil and gas extraction in the region.”

“The Biden administration must now review Willow with a fresh eye,” said Miller. “The reality is that a massive oil project like Willow, so close to local communities and projected to emit hundreds of millions of metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere over the course of its lifetime, moves us away from our nation’s long-term climate and environmental justice goals and simply should not move forward.”

The Willow decision comes as the Biden administration is facing mounting criticism from lawmakers for shielding major fossil fuel projects from legal challenges. In recent weeks, scientists have made increasingly clear that oil and gas extraction must stop immediately if the worst of the climate crisis is to be averted.

On Monday, dozens of Democratic members of Congress sent a letter imploring President Joe Biden to revoke permits for Line 3, a major pipeline project that would damage the climate as much as 50 new coal-fired power plants.

“President Biden: please quit greenlighting fossil fuel projects!” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one of the lawmakers who led the Line 3 letter, tweeted last week. “This must stop.”

Biden Has a Chance to Oversee Biggest River Restoration Project in U.S. History

Biden Has a Chance to Oversee Biggest River Restoration Project in U.S. History

Editor’s note: Of course this proposal has to be framed with the usual politicians blabla and pledges about “prosperous agriculture”, “affordable, reliable clean energy” and “revitalizing the economy”, which are all bright green lies. Apart from that, any dam that will really physically be removed is a step into the right direction and an absolutely necessary measure to save the last remaining wild salmon.

This article first appeared on Truthout and was produced in partnership with Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute

Featured image: chinook and orca – NOAA Fisheries

By Amy Souers Kober

It’s hard to put into words what wild salmon mean to the Pacific Northwest. They are the heartbeat of the region’s rivers, and the annual return of salmon from the Pacific Ocean helps sustain a web of life in the Columbia River Basin that includes more than 130 species, from eagles to black bears to orcas. These incredible fish have been a cornerstone of Indigenous cultures for thousands of years.

“Our story, and that of the salmon, is one of perseverance and resilience and thriving,” said Dr. Sammy Matsaw, a Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, veteran and co-founder of the nonprofit River Newe. “We’re still here and we’re still strong. This is about who we are and who we want to be.”

Migrations are common among many species, but the journey that the salmon make is one of the most amazing. Salmon hatch from eggs laid in the gravel of clear, cold mountain streams. After hatching, the young salmon ride swift river currents downstream to the ocean. Their bodies undergo amazing physiological changes as they transition from living in freshwater to saltwater. And then they eventually go back to freshwater: After a couple of years in the ocean, the adult salmon find their way back to the same spawning beds in the same rivers where they were born.

Idaho salmon make one of the world’s most epic migrations, swimming 900 miles and climbing over a mile in elevation from the Pacific Ocean up the Columbia and Snake Rivers to mountain streams where they spawn and die, beginning the circle of life again.

Strong salmon runs power local economies and allow businesses to thrive.

But salmon runs in the Columbia and Snake Rivers are in trouble, in large part because of the damage to their natural habitat by hydropower dams.


The Snake River was historically the biggest salmon producer in the Columbia Basin, with an estimated “2 million to 6 million fish… [returning to] the Snake River and its tributaries” each year, according to Russ Thurow, a fisheries research scientist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Boise, Idaho, who was quoted in the Idaho Mountain Express. But “[b]y 1995, only 1,200 wild Chinook reached the Snake River basin,” said Thurow.

According to scientists, the steep decline in the wild Snake River salmon population can be attributed to the construction of the four lower Snake River dams in eastern Washington, built “between 1955 and 1975 to turn the inland town of Lewiston, Idaho, into a seaport.” These four federally owned and operated dams have caused a precipitous decline in wild salmon and steelhead trout in the Snake River Basin, driving some populations to extinction and landing the rest on the endangered species list. “Sockeye salmon from the Snake River system are probably the most endangered salmon,” according to the U.S. Geological Survey. “Coho salmon in the lower Columbia River may already be extinct.”

As Chinook salmon grow ever more scarce, they are pulling another Northwest icon—Southern Resident orcas—toward extinction. This population of orcas migrates back and forth between Puget Sound, the Salish Sea and the Washington and Oregon coasts. One of the main factors for the Southern Resident orcas being critically endangered is the lack of food, with Chinook salmon making up “more than 80 percent of their diet.” In the U.S., the Columbia-Snake River watershed is the most important source of salmon for orcas. The four lower Snake River dams not only interrupt the free-flowing water but also kill “millions of Chinook juveniles” as the salmon attempt to make their way to the ocean.

One orca mother, Tahlequah, made national news in 2018 when she carried the body of her dead calf for 17 days. The region mourned with her. The heartbreak galvanized people across the Northwest to demand solutions.

Over the past 20 years, the federal government and Northwest taxpayers have made massive investments in salmon recovery in the Columbia-Snake River Basin, totaling more than $17 billion. These actions, including modifications to dam operations, have been necessary to reverse the impacts of historic habitat loss, overharvest, and the damage caused by hydropower projects, but have not been sufficient to recover salmon and steelhead to healthy, harvestable and sustainable numbers.

In the short documentary film The Greatest Migration by Save Our Wild Salmon, Ed Bowles, who has run the fish division of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for the past two decades, said, “Historically, the Columbia River was the biggest salmon producer in the world… We are now struggling at around 1 percent of their historical potential. That is inexcusable for a system that is so iconic, a species that is so iconic, a system that is so magnificent.”

‘We Choose Salmon’

For decades, Northwest tribes have been spearheading salmon recovery solutions in the Columbia-Snake River Basin and regionwide. The Nimíipuu, or Nez Percé, Tribe adopted its first resolution advocating for the removal of the four lower Snake River dams in 1999. Removing these dams would restore 140 miles of the lower Snake River and improve access to more than 5,000 miles of pristine habitat in places like Idaho’s Salmon and Clearwater River systems.

In a 2020 statement, Shannon F. Wheeler, then chairman of the Nez Percé Tribal Executive Committee, said, “We view restoring the lower Snake River as urgent and overdue. To us, the lower Snake River is a living being, and, as stewards, we are compelled to speak the truth on behalf of this life force and the impacts these concrete barriers on the lower Snake have on salmon, steelhead, and lamprey, on a diverse ecosystem, on our Treaty-reserved way of life, and on our people.”

Today, tribal leaders are raising their voices again. In May 2021, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians—a group representing 57 Northwest tribal governments—passed a resolution calling for the breaching of the lower Snake dams. The resolution calls on Congress and the Biden administration to “seize the once-in-a-lifetime congressional opportunity to invest in salmon and river restoration in the Pacific Northwest, charting a stronger, better future for the Northwest, and bringing long-ignored tribal justice to our peoples and homelands.”

“Restoring the lower Snake River will allow salmon, steelhead and lamprey to flourish in the rivers and streams of the Snake Basin,” said Kat Brigham, chair of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) Board of Trustees in a February 8 press release. “This has long been a priority because these are the CTUIR’s ancestral traditional use areas, such as the Grande Ronde, Imnaha, Lostine, Minam, Tucannon and Wallowa Rivers and their tributaries.”

“We have reached a tipping point where we must choose between our Treaty-protected salmon and the federal dams, and we choose salmon,” Yakama Nation Tribal Council Chairman Delano Saluskin, was quoted saying in a press release.

‘America’s Most Endangered River’

My organization, American Rivers, named the Snake River “America’s Most Endangered River for 2021” because of the urgent need for action to save the salmon—and the opportunity to come up with a bold, comprehensive solution. In February, Congressman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) proposed a $33.5 billion package of infrastructure investments, including removing the lower Snake dams, to recover salmon runs and boost clean energy, agriculture and transportation across the region.

Showing his personal compassion toward the cause of salmon recovery, Simpson described salmon as “the most incredible creatures, I think, that God has created,” according to a 2019 article.

Meanwhile, a presentation titled, “The Northwest in Transition: Salmon, Dams and Energy,” on Simpson’s website states, “The question I am asking the Northwest delegation, governors, tribes and stakeholders is ‘do we want to roll up our sleeves and come together to find a solution to save our salmon, protect our stakeholders and reset our energy system for the next 50 plus years on our terms?’ Passing on this opportunity will mean we are letting the chips fall where they may for some judge, future administration or future [C]ongress to decide our fate on their terms. They will be picking winners and losers, not creating solutions.”

Since Simpson released his proposal, other members of the Northwest congressional delegation have joined the conversation. In May, Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) spoke in favor of a comprehensive solution, saying, “People in the Pacific Northwest [need to] engage with one another.”

“Let’s dive in and do it rather than pretend that somehow this is going to go away. … That’s just not going to cut it,” he said.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Washington Governor Jay Inslee also released a statement in favor of a collaborative, comprehensive solution for salmon and the region.

No matter which proposal ultimately gains traction, American Rivers and other salmon advocates believe that we need meaningful immediate action and funding to remove the lower Snake dams and replace their benefits. Prioritizing the following five goals is essential to long-term solutions for salmon recovery and improving the present Northwest infrastructure:

1. Healthy rivers, abundant salmon: Restoration of the lower Snake River, along with the funding and implementation of habitat restoration and fish protection projects, will provide the most favorable river conditions possible for salmon, steelhead and other native fish species.

2. Honoring promises to tribes: Restoring abundant, harvestable salmon will honor the promises made to Northwest tribes by upholding their right to access fish and will benefit tribes from the inland Northwest to the coast.

3. Prosperous agriculture: Infrastructure upgrades will ensure irrigation from a free-flowing lower Snake River continues to support the farms that currently rely on surface diversions and wells for their orchards, vineyards and other high-value crops. Investments in the transportation system will allow farmers, who currently ship their grain to market using river barges, to transport their products via rail.

4. Affordable, reliable clean energy: The energy currently produced by the four lower Snake River dams can be replaced by a clean energy portfolio that includes solar, wind, energy efficiency and storage. Diversifying energy sources will improve the electric system’s reliability. Funding for energy storage, grid resiliency and optimization would allow the Northwest to maintain its legacy of clean and affordable energy.

5. Revitalizing the economy: Infrastructure investments in energy and transportation would mean more family-wage jobs, the impact of which ripples out in communities throughout the region. A restored lower Snake River would strengthen local economies by creating new opportunities for outdoor recreation, which will help support local businesses, including outfitters, lodging and restaurants.

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Time is of the essence. Climate change is warming Northwest rivers, creating deadly conditions for endangered salmon. Meanwhile, the salmon runs continue to decline. Northwest tribes have called for a major salmon summit this summer to underscore the urgency of these issues.

It is time for bold action from Northwest leaders. The region’s congressional delegation has a strong history of crafting innovative, bipartisan solutions to challenging water and river issues. And we’ve seen powerful, collaborative dam removal efforts come together on other rivers across the country, from Maine’s Penobscot to Oregon and California’s Klamath. Now, with President Biden considering a national infrastructure package, the government has an opportunity to secure significant regional investment—and advance the biggest river restoration effort the world has ever seen. A well-crafted solution on a swift timeline would benefit the nation as a whole by restoring salmon runs, bolstering clean energy and strengthening the economy of one of the most dynamic regions in the country.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“The salmon are a life source that we all depend on. Just as we are united with each other, we are also united with the salmon,” said Samuel Penney, Nez Perce chairman. “We are all salmon people.”

Amy Souers Kober is the vice president of communications for American Rivers.

Biden Budget Fails to Address Extinction Crisis

Biden Budget Fails to Address Extinction Crisis

Editor’s note: The Biden administration’s budget to address the extinction crisis for the year 2021 is $22 million ($22,000,000). That is $60,273 per day, $2,511 per hour, and $41 per second.
The Biden administration’s military budged for the year 2021 is $705.39 billion ($705,390,000,000). That is $1,93 billion per day, $80,527 million per hour, and $1,34 million per second. The US military is also the single largest polluter in the world, burning about 269,230 barrels of oil per day.
The numbers alone show the preferences of this “culture” very clearly. (In my view, the term “culture” seems inappropriate to describe a societal structure that follows the logic of a cancer cell.)

Featured image: “We Live Here Too” by Nell Parker.

This is a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, May 28.

WASHINGTON— With today’s (May 28) release of President Biden’s first full budget, the administration signaled that stemming the wildlife extinction crisis and safeguarding the nation’s endangered species will not be a top priority, despite the warnings of scientists that one million species are at risk of going extinct around the world without intervention.

The Biden administration is proposing just $22 million — a mere $1.5 million above last year’s levels — to protect the more than 500 imperiled animals and plants still waiting for protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is at the same level as what was provided for in 2010.

The budget proposal increases funding for endangered species recovery by $18 million. While this represents a modest increase from last year’s budget, the Endangered Species Act has been severely underfunded for decades, resulting in species waiting years, or even decades, for protection and already-protected species receiving few dollars for their recovery.

Based on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own recovery plans, at least $2 billion per year is needed to recover the more than 1,700 endangered species across the country. The proposed budget fails to even come close to closing the gap in needed funding.

“It’s distressing that President Biden’s budget still ignores the extinction crisis,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “What’s especially tragic is that restoring abundant wildlife populations would also reap huge benefits in helping to stop the climate crisis, reduce toxic pollution and protect wild places. This was a missed opportunity.”

During the presidential campaign, President Biden touted his early support for the Endangered Species Act when the law was passed in 1973. In January President Biden launched a review of the Trump administration’s rollbacks of the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act and decisions to weaken protections for the monarch butterfly, spotted owl and gray wolf.

To date, however, the Biden administration has not moved to alter or reverse any Trump-era policies or decisions related to endangered species. With today’s budget, President Biden is adopting the measly funding levels of the Trump administration.

Over the past year, more than 170 conservation groups have asked for additional funding for endangered species. This request echoes similar pleas from 121 members of the House of Representatives and 21 senators.

“Every year, more of our most distinctive animals and plants will vanish right before our eyes. Perhaps for the sake of his grandchildren, President Biden will reconsider this disastrous budget proposal,” said Hartl.

Around 650 U.S. plants and animals have already been lost to extinction. Some of the plants and animals that have been deemed extinct in the United States since 2000 include: Franklin’s bumblebee from California and Oregon; the rockland grass skipper and Zestos skipper butterflies from Florida; the Tacoma pocket gopher; the Alabama sturgeon; the chucky madtom, a small catfish from Tennessee; a wildflower named Appalachian Barbara’s buttons; and the Po’ouli, a songbird from Maui. Scientists estimate that one-third of America’s species are vulnerable to extinction and 12,000 species nationwide are in need of conservation action.

Contact: Brett Hartl, (202) 817-8121,

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.