Mission Moment: Wonder and Respect for a Life-Giving System

by Bob Carey, Director of Strategic Partnerships

I recently volunteered on a restoration project up near Marblemount along the upper Skagit River, about 75 miles from Puget Sound.

After the restoration work was done, I bushwacked into a nearby slough, knowing it was a place salmon spawned—and boy was it!! Over the next hour or so I saw thousands of spawning and spawned out pink salmon…as well as lots of bear sign, who had obviously been enjoying a feast.

It was amazing to see such a display of life unfolding—a generation of salmon not only spawning the next generation of salmon, but feeding a myriad of other species of fish, wildlife, plants and people.

Someone wittier than I one said, “the Pacific Northwest runs on salmon”. Salmon have enabled Indigenous peoples to thrive in this region since time immemorial. Salmon die after they spawn and their decaying bodies drive the aquatic food web. Scientists have documented 137 species of wildlife that feed on them. And if that’s not enough, bear, other wildlife and floods spread the salmon carcasses—and the tons of nutrients they accumulated in the ocean—across the forest floor. The nutrient-rich salmon carcasses literally feed the trees that, in turn, protect and cleanse the waters on which their children and future generations depend. It is one huge, reciprocal web of life; so much in the Pacific Northwest is depending on them!

I’ve seen this phenomenon before. But every time I do my heart and soul are filled in wonder and respect of this intertwined, life-giving system.

And it was a reminder of the value of our work: it’s the kind of habitat and natural abundance we’re trying to protect and restore around the state.

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