Pacific Northwest

Fifty Years Ago:

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Kitsap and Olympic Peninsulas in Washington state played host to an ongoing conflict between the region’s native communities and state and federal officials. Determined to fish in their traditional territories – a right recognized in the 1855 Treaty of Point No Point, but hotly contested by non-native fishermen – indigenous activists staged ‘fish-ins,’ drawing the ire of the law and the celebrity attention and support of the likes of Marlon Brando and Buffy Sainte-Marie. In 1974 the Supreme Court upheld their treaty rights, granting tribes 50 percent of potential fishing harvests, and an equal voice in fisheries management. The Boldt Decision was perhaps the most significant ruling on tribal  treaty law in the past century, as it acknowledged indigenous rights to resources and resource management. Meanwhile, inland, different legislation was setting the stage for an eventual comeback: The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1967, included on its first roster several iconic species that had been eradicated from Washington: Grizzlies, wolves, Columbian white-tailed deer and bald eagles. 


Photo: Joel Rogers, Getty

Photo: Joel Rogers, Getty

While tribes continue to maintain treaty rights, new challenges exist: With dwindling fisheries returns, degraded habitat, changing commercial markets and the appearance of Atlantic salmon farms, treaty rights are only one of many concerns. Many of the state’s species listed in 1967 are rebounding: 22 wolf packs now roam central and eastern Washington, and grizzly populations are slowly growing in the North Cascades and Silkirk Range. But these success stories are not without controversies of their own, and many more new species are in decline: The state’s iconic salmon runs are a shadow of their former glory, orca populations are struggling, starfish are quite literally disintegrating, and shellfish are dissolving.  We’ll travel to the Salish Sea as well as inland Washington state to learn about these issues and others:

  • Pollution, runoff, bioaccumulation and ecosystem health in the Salish Sea

  • Endangered species, including resident killer whales

  • Climate change, ocean acidification, shellfishery health

  • Tribal rights, environmental justice, and traditional fisheries

  • Salmon ecosystems

  • Logging and forest management

  • Wildfires in both forest and rangeland 

  • Wolves, grizzlies, ranching communities, and collaborative conservation

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