Infrastructure bill essential to protect salmon and their way of life

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The world is out of balance. Every week we seem to hear something described as “recording”. Record rainbow trout returns to the Columbia River. Record temperatures endangering our vulnerable seniors. Record population declines in our sacred orcas and endangered salmon populations.

We of the Lummi Nation have been on this land and these waters since time immemorial. We are the survivors of the flood that nearly destroyed our people. We have experienced imbalance before and survived to tell our children.

But we survived, not because we sat down and waited to see if the flood would wash away our families. We survived because we took action. We moved quickly to move our children in canoes before the floodwaters flooded our villages.

Today we need our federal government to tackle the climate crisis while there is still time.

Lummi are salmon, and our whole way of life is in danger.

Climate change is warming the rivers on which fish depend. Salmon cook in the waters that should feed them. In the Nooksack River, home of Lummi since time immemorial, drought conditions and the resulting low river flows create deadly temperatures making the arduous journey of the salmon back almost impossible.

Lummi has increased production from our two salmon hatcheries to help feed our salmon-dependent communities, ecosystems and wildlife, including Southern Resident Killer Whales. But hatchery fish, along with our wild salmon, need functional habitat, so we need to restore the habitat and deal with the climate crisis.

Across the Northwest and the Salish Sea, we are heading for an environmental devastation we have never seen before – and Congress should not hesitate to act.

We are grateful for the actions of Senator Maria Cantwell and Senator Patty Murray in helping to create an infrastructure bill that prompts us to tackle one of the greatest challenges of our generation.

The package includes $ 1 billion for the removal, replacement and restoration of culverts to support the passage of salmon in northwestern waterways; $ 572 million to correct and remove barriers to fish migration, improve salmon habitat and open areas where salmon move from freshwater to saltwater and back; $ 492 million in grants for coastal improvements to mitigate climate change; and nearly $ 1 billion in other habitat investments.

The tribes played an important role in the development of this ensemble. We have managed these lands and waters for millennia. The dangers we face now, we have seen them coming for a long time.

The tribes of Washington who depend on salmon need this funding. Climate change is wreaking havoc in our region. The warm waters not only kill the salmon, but starve the killer whales and decimate our shellfish. And as the salmon go, the impacts reverberate through all the other plant and animal species they touch. Our commercial fishing operations are in trouble.

This crisis affects all of us in the Northwest. We are all connected.

The infrastructure package is now awaiting a vote in the House. We call on all representatives in Washington to vote in favor of this bill. These investments are essential for the Lummi Nation, the Washington Tribes, and all who depend on Washington’s resources.

Passing the infrastructure bill is the immediate next step we need to take. But we need to do more, including providing additional funding for salmon habitat restoration and salmon hatcheries in the next budget reconciliation package.

Disaster mitigation is necessary, but not sufficient. We must do more to deal with the overwhelming crisis of climate change. Just like before, we cannot stand idly by and watch the tides rise without doing something to protect our future. Leaders in Congress, the Biden administration, states and tribes must unite to create a sustainable future, one that heals the earth and keeps it healthy for generations to come.

We live in an era that breaks all records. We do not hesitate to protect our salmon, our Shelangen, our way of life.

We need to pass the infrastructure bill. And then we must continue to act. We must plan, invest and act with a vision for the generations to come, with the urgency that this crisis demands. To do nothing endangers our families, our livelihoods, our culture. Doing nothing risks everything.

Lawrence Solomon is President of the Lummi Indian Business Council.


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