Paul Lumley, executive director, Columbia River Inter Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) talked about how climate change research is showing their member tribes will be profoundly affected by these changes.
CRITFC member tribes are Nez Perce, Yakima, Warm Springs and Umatilla tribes all who live within the Columbia River basin.
Salmon populations declined from a high of more than 17 million in the 1850s to less than a million today as dams went in. “Many tribes lost access to any fish during those years and it was devastating to cultures.” CRITFC was established to protect the remaining resource beginning in the 1970s.
Lumley said each tribe needs to know their river basins and sub-basins intimately as each will be affected differently by climate change.
The average night and daytime temperature is now significantly higher. For CRITFC tribes, this means less snow and more precipitation falls as rain.
Lumley said water is now in the system earlier and leaves quickly. The new elevation where snow pack is retained is now above 4,000 feet.
Based on an evaluation of each tribe’s elevation, the Yakama Nation will be most affected as they have little elevation in their lands. There will be more drought and warmer temperatures will harm fish.