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Highlights from around the Region

Pacific Region Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program

    FAC Program Promotes the Birds, Bees, Butterflies

Abernathy FTC Pollinator Garden

Youth Conservation Crew members help build Abernathy Fish Technology Center's new pollinator garden (Photo Credit: Judith Gordon, USFWS)

What do five National Fish Hatcheries, two Fishery Resource Offices, one Fish Health Center, one Fish Technology Center, and a Regional Office have in common with Monarch butterflies and native pollinators? Sounds like a punchline...right?

Except it isn't: in 2015 at least 10 Pacific Region Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program stations took on the Service's national Pollinator Challenge and a directive from Assistant Regional Director --FAC Roy Elicker to do more to support native pollinator and (Western) Monarch populations.

Four hatcheries surveyed their property to determine where and in what quantity pollinator-friendly, native plants like Showy milkweed could be planted in future to attract and support endemic or migrating Monarch butterfly, bee, bird, and other pollinator populations.
The Abernathy Fish Technology Center, Mid-Columbia Fishery Resource Office, and Lower Columbia River Fish Health Center installed or expanded on-site pollinator gardens both to improve habitat and serve as a model to others about the beneficial role pollinator-friendly habitat—and of course pollinators themselves, play in a healthy ecosystem. The Technology Center even enlisted youth volunteers, from an area Girl Scout Troop to Youth Conservation Crew members, for the muscle in creating and then expanding its garden footprint.

Not to be outdone, staff from the Idaho Fishery Resource Office and the Regional Office FAC program went into their local communities to pitch the importance of Monarchs and pollinator species. The FRO used Youth and the Great Outdoors money to fund an intern who built educational displays and interactive media for community center in a Salmon, Idaho, while in Portland, Oregon, Service staff helped an elementary school PTA purchase a greenhouse now used to propagate showy milkweed grown from the school's own pollinator garden.

But Hagerman National Fish Hatchery pulled off a trifecta: not only were hatchery grounds surveyed to inventory the hatchery existing milkweed plots and plan for additional pollinator-friendly plantings in 2016 and beyond, Hatchery Manager Craig Eaton used his own greenhouse to propagate native plants for his new on-station garden, then enlisted Gooding County Master Gardeners to both help with garden construction and then spread the word in the community about Hagerman NFH's commitment to help support monarch and pollinator restoration efforts in tandem with supporting area fish populations.

So one thing is clear: it's no joke when it comes to the Pacific Region FAC program's commitment to healthy ecosystems, healthy fish runs, and healthy pollinator populations. And it's proof that our facilities and staff can not only teach people about the importance of clean water, dynamic aquatic communities, and viable fisheries, we might even be able to teach people a thing or two about the birds, the bees (and the butterflies), too.

    Wenatchee River Salmon Festival Celebrates 25 Years

Wenatchee River Salmon Festival

Some of the more than 10,000 students and members of the public that attend the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival each year at Leavenworth NFH. (Photo Credit: Ryan Hagerty, USFWS)

Two and a half decades --it's a timeline roughly equivalent to 7-8 generations of Chinook salmon, Pacific Ocean super-migrators that begin their cycle of life as a tiny egg in river gravel --or a hatchery -- and cover thousands of river and ocean miles before returning to the waters of their birth to spawn and die.

It's also the longevity of one of America's largest and most well-established salmon festivals, the Wenatchee River Salmon Festival, which the Leavenworth Fisheries Complex has sponsored in coordination with Friends of Northwest Hatcheries every year since 1990.

Each September the Festival celebrates the return of salmon to central Washington's rivers, streams, lakes, and yes, hatcheries. Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery hosts the two-day event, which kicks off the third Friday of the month with visits by several thousand area third-sixth graders, and then opens to the public. At least 10,000 students and people from across the Northwest and Canada now attend the event.

Hatchery staff, the Friends group, and an veritable army of volunteers, sponsors, and partner groups collaborate year-round to create a community-oriented celebration that not only recognizes the importance of salmon to the region, but the historic, cultural, and current-day contributions area tribes and conservation partners are making to rebuild and restore wild runs while recognizing the importance of hatchery programs.

Event-goers have a range of activity options that expands every year, ranging from storytelling to guided nature walks to watching Native American dances and sampling tribal-smoked salmon, to kinetic activities such as archery and Gyotaku (the Japanese art of fish painting). And of course, touring a hatchery that itself turned 75 in 2015.

After months of keeping on-station salmon alive during one of the hottest and driest Northwest summers since the Festival began and successful completion of a lead removal project on a gun range once operated on hatchery grounds, staff and hatchery supporters were ready to celebrate in 2015. And once again the Festival brought color and spectacle to the hatchery: artwork by poster contest winners, professional chalk art, and a range of food vendors and educational displays has turned a facility already on the National Register of Historic Places into one of the most popular early fall destinations in the Northwest.

Like the very salmon the Festival celebrates, the return each of the next generation of students, the tribes that set up a village for three days and share their culture, and people affirms and reminds both the public and Service staff alike who we in the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program and National Fish Hatchery System are, what we do, why we do it, and why people should care. Planning for the 2016 Wenatchee River Salmon Festival has already begin, and new generation of spring Chinook are just now hatching out of eggs spawned at Leavenworth NFH in mid-August.

And that is worth at least 25 --or even 75 --more years of celebration.

 

Last Updated: February 9, 2016
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