This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
One cool September day, I visited a fish hatchery in Sweet Home, Oregon, a lumber town in the foothills of the Cascades east of Corvallis. I was there to see the year’s final holding of spring Chinook salmon collected, spawned, and ultimately were tossed into a local creek as “stream enrichment:” fertilizer for the ecosystem. I would follow them up the highway as they were delivered to a small tributary of the South Santiam River that had lost its wild fish and thus, for decades, been starved of the important nutrients that salmon gather at sea.
When I arrived at the hatchery, a group of teenage volunteers from Sweet Home High was busy helping technicians with the harvest of sperm and glowing, orange eggs to spawn the next generation of salmon fry. This miracle of procreation, orchestrated by hand in a few hundred square feet with the aid of knives, once occurred across hundreds of stair-stepped, free-flowing miles of tributaries along the upper South Santiam, which eventually flows to the Willamette River, the Columbia, and then the Pacific. But in... Read more