If you have a yearning for good news, take yourself down by the riverside and gaze at the waters of the mighty Columbia. Somewhere beneath the surface swims a spring chinook salmon run that may be the fifth most abundant on record. Consider that salmon are so plentiful that the state Department of Fish and Wildlife has opened the Wenatchee River to chinook fishing for the first time in 20 years. About 20,000 spring chinook salmon have passed Rock Island Dam, every one a full-fledged member of a federally protected endangered species. Forecasters expect more than 243,000 spring chinook to enter the Columbia.
Salmon of course are not mere incidental visitors. They symbolize nature’s bounty. They are at the very heart of the Northwest native culture, and we collectively have spent decades trying to rectify the damage modern society has inflicted upon them. Regional investment in salmon runs may be more than $1 billion a year. Scientists can’t tell you exactly why this year’s run is so strong, but it very well may be an indication we are doing something right. It is crucial to our well-being that our investment pay off in the form of returning salmon. This year, maybe it has.