Threat of Salmon Extinction Turns Small Tribe Into Climate Researchers
Gary MacWilliams wants to save his heritage. A member of the Nooksack Indian Tribe of northwestern Washington state and an occasional fisherman—a job at which he sheepishly says he did “reasonably well”—the 63-year-old has seen ups and downs in local fishing. Nonetheless, he says, there’s a clear trend: Salmon, the bedrock of his culture, are under increasing threat from climate change.
Located some 100 miles north of Seattle, the Nooksack Indian Reservation sits at the base of Mount Baker. Its traditional lands rise from sea level to nearly 11,000 feet in elevation, and what happens on the peaks affects the ground below. As the climate warms, mountain glaciers are receding. These glaciers feed the streams and rivers on which the tribe depends for annual runs of the endangered spring Chinook salmon. As the glaciers disappear, the fish are expected to follow.