Local documentary gives us reason to celebrate and appreciate our salmon
A stunning new video has just been released that may help change the way we think about salmon in North Central Washington. The film, “The Way Home,” is a product of several talented individuals and organizations in the Wenatchee Valley. It reminds us that the place we live is salmon country and our responsibility to care for this treasured species.
It is surprising that salmon are not widely celebrated as part of our culture. It’s true that anglers and local businesses dedicated to the outdoors understand the importance of salmon. We also have the annual Wenatchee River Salmon Festival and various Native American ceremonies and rituals that celebrate return of these fish. But for many of us, the story of salmon has been dominated by legal and political machinations.
We need to be reminded of the majesty of these creatures.
The annual annual return to spawn in our rivers after an epic 500-mile journey up the Columbia River past multiple dams, predators and other challenges is an astounding feat of endurance and worthy of veneration.
The Way Home shorty documentary may help us change the way we think about salmon. It was produced for the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board, an organization supporting habitat restoration efforts regionally.
Progress on improving habitat is being made, according to the UCSRB and some runs are being strengthened. The number of wild steelhead returning to the upper Columbia has more than doubled from 2007-2015 but there is still work to do as and the wild Spring Chinook are struggling.
The video captures the essence of the heroic journey that salmon make against incredible odds to perpetuate the species…to come home.
The film is the result of a collaboration of talented individuals from our valley. Charlie Voorhis, who a master of using visual imagery to connect people to the land we love, produced the film. The script was developed by Jessica Raley, who runs Bantam Designs, a tiny Leavenworth marketing enterprise. Wenatchee Valley native Anne Hessburg provided the narration and film aficionado Russ Ricketts provided spectacular underwater imagery.
LightHawk, a worldwide organization of volunteer pilots, flew Voortex Production crew to produce the aerial photography. The film was put together with a shoestring budget, but you would never know it given the quality of the work.
The film gives us powerful reasons to celebrate the fact that we still have wild salmon in our rivers. Salmon are part of our culture and a symbol of the resilience and determination that characterizes the spirit of the people who live here.
Joy Juelson of the Salmon Recovery Board told me she finds it odd that salmon are more closely identified with Puget Sound tribes and Pike Place Fish Market than with NCW.
Juelson coordinated the work on this project, wanted to change the way people perceive salmon in our region. Raley coined the phrase “This Is Salmon Country” in a UCSRB flyer that reminds us of how closely we are connected to salmon.
The video was launched at last week’s regional Salmon Recovery Conference, which brought together scientists and nonprofit organizations working to improve habitat by bringing people together to find common ground, to highlight our region and its importance to salmon.
The work of salmon recovery in North Central Washington is one of local solutions based on collaborative arrangements with willing landowners, rather than top-down, one-size-fits all regulation. These efforts are building community, supporting the local economy and making our communities more resilient.
Our history with salmon is a rich heritage to be celebrated. We can and should have it all — salmon, steelhead, agriculture and industry.