Tag Archives: liz hamilton

Oregon Senators’ Bill Aiming To Protect Owyhee Canyonlands Lauded


The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA) today praised the introduction of Malheur County Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act by Sen. Ron Wyden to permanently protect more than a million acres of public land in Malheur County, including Oregon’s spectacular Owyhee Canyonlands, as wilderness and some 14.7 miles of rivers as wild and scenic.  The conservation measure, which is cosponsored by Sen. Jeff Merkley, would also safeguard the most scenic and ecologically sensitive public land in the region from new mining claims as well as oil and gas development.


Renowned for wildlife-filled uplands and desert rivers that wind toward the Pacific, the Owyhee Canyonlands in the southeastern corner of Oregon is the largest unprotected, undeveloped area left in the contiguous United States. The region is well known for its blue-ribbon trout fishing and sport fishing.  It is also home to over 200 species of wildlife, including golden eagles, pronghorn antelope, elk, Greater sage-grouse and one of the largest herds of California bighorn sheep in the nation.

“People come from all over the planet to fish in our rivers and to hunt, hike, boat and explore the Owyhee Canyonlands,” said Liz Hamilton, executive director of the  Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.  “This remote, high desert river canyon teeming with wildlife and fish is a special place that deserves permanent protection. We commend Senators Wyden and Merkley for their commitment to preserving this natural treasure.

“This bill would help keep the water of the Owyhee River and its tributaries clear and pristine for all to enjoy for future generations,” added Hamilton.  “Protecting the Owyhee Canyonlands will help ensure a growing economy.”

Outdoor recreation in Oregon generated $16.4 billion in consumer spending and accounted for 172,000 jobs in one year alone.


Efforts have been underway for decades to permanently protect this natural treasure.  In April, Senator Wyden initiated an inclusive process for diverse stakeholders to identify solutions for future management and protection of the Owyhee region.  Participants included sportsmen and women, ranchers, tribal representatives, agency staff, conservationists, and elected officials. NSIA was honored to participate in the effort to nurture the way of life for these small communities, while protecting the grandeur of a region that boasts world class fish and wildlife resources, important cultural resources, unique plant species, unparalleled star gazing and breathtaking scenic views among its many attributes.

“We appreciate Senator Wyden’s commitment to finding a balanced way forward,” said Hamilton.  “It was a long process and not everyone got everything they wanted.  But today we have a conservation measure before Congress that will ensure that this special place will stay as it is for our future anglers, hunters, hikers, and paddlers.  We hope it will be acted on quickly.”

NSIA Reports A Successful 20th Annual Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge


On Friday, August 16th, nearly 200 sportfishermen from all over the region came out for the Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge to try their luck hauling in one of the large Chinook and coho migrating up the mighty Columbia. With a total of 89 fish weighed in by 5pm this was a very successful year for the derby; the competition was stiff! NSIA has hosted this derby for 20 years, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support sport fishermen and the sport fishing industry. This Astoria fundraiser is the biggest of the five events hosted by NSIA.


The Buoy 10 derby is made possible each year by the incredible support of the sportfishing industry, both through sponsorships and the product donations that allow us to offer some of the top brands on the market as prizes and auction items. This year’s silent auction items, door prizes and raffle offerings included products from Berkley, Brad’s Killer Fish Gear, Engel Coolers, Gamakatsu, Grundens, Lamiglas, Okuma, ProCure, Shimano, Smokehouse Products, Tempress and Yakima Bait to name just a few of the many companies who supported Buoy 10 with product donations.

The 2019 Big Fish Prize of $1000 went to Jim Johnson of Team Austin’s Northwest Adventures. The team captain, Austin Moser, got Jim on the winning fish that weighed in at 21.80 gilled and gutted pounds. NSIA’s longtime sponsor, North River Boats donated funds for the Big Fish winner. Other winners include:

2nd Place Big Fish: Jason Erickson with a close runner-up at 21.40 pounds.

3rd Place Big Fish: Cameron Black hard on their heels with a Chinook at 21.15 pounds.

4th Place Big Fish: Tanner Morton pulled in a 20.60-pound Chinook.

5th Place Big Fish: Joe Depweg was just a hair behind with a good-size fish at 20.45.

G Loomis, Lamiglas, and Berkley Air rods, paired respectively with Shimano, Abu Garcia Ambassadeur and Penn Warfare reels along with Maxima line packages were won by the following teams:

1st Place Team – Cameron Black’s Gone Catchin’ Team with an average weight of 17.88.

2nd Place Team – Blair Johnson’s Team Double Trouble had an average weight of 17.82.

3rd Place Team – Josh Hughes Team with an average weight of 14.68

The $1,100 Mystery Fish Prize, sponsored by WeldCraft/Duckworth, was available to any angler that weighed in a fish. Dan Lawrentz was the 2019 lucky winner.

The Columbia’s Buoy 10 area is the largest salmon fishery in the lower 48 states. NSIA is proud to be fighting every day for the health of this magnificent river as well as every other watershed in the Pacific Northwest, and the critical ocean habitat they flow into. Events like this year’s Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge allow NSIA to be steadfast in its mission of preserving, restoring and enhancing Northwest sportfisheries and the businesses that depend on them.

NSIA Executive Director, Liz Hamilton says of the tournament, “The Buoy 10 Salmon Challenge has not only been the most exciting salmon fishing tournament on the lower Columbia for almost 20 years, but it is also our most important fundraiser. All funds will go toward protecting and restoring healthy river systems, defending hatcheries and the millions of smolts they release each year as well as working to increase angler access to fisheries across the Northwest.”

NSIA would also like to thank the Buoy 10 derby sponsors for making this event a success. Their support allows NSIA to have a strong voice in local, state, and federal governments, advocating for policies that keep the sportfishing industry thriving in the Northwest. Please remember these companies and brands when you’re gearing up for your next trip: Berkley, Brad’s Killer Fish Gear, Engel Coolers, Fisherman’s Marine & Outdoor, Frank Amato Publications/STS Magazine, Freshwater News, G. Loomis, Grundens, Luhr Jensen/Rapala, Master Marine, Maxima, North River Boats, Northwest Sportmans Magazine, Okuma, Pautzke/Atlas Mike’s, PENN, Raymarine, Shimano, Tom & Jerry’s Boat Center, and Weldcraft/ Duckworth.

NSIA also wishes to thank the many volunteers and companies that donated their products and services. And once again, Cody Herman of Day One Outdoor Adventures kept the evening’s festivities lively as Master of Ceremonies.

NSIA will host the next Buoy 10 derby in August 2020. We hope you can join us for what is always a fun and fantastic event!

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In Passing Out Of Committee, Washington Nontribal Gillnet Phaseout Bill Reduced To Columbia


Washington lawmakers reduced the scope of a bill phasing nontribal gillnets out of state waters, limiting it to the Columbia in passing it out of committee this afternoon just ahead of a crucial cutoff.

An amendment from prime sponsor Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) also shortened the timeframe for implementing SB 5617‘s ban from 2023 to 2021 and trimmed the buyout phases from three to one.


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Pointing to the volume of public comment both for and against the original bill during a hearing before the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) applauded her fellow senator for tweaking it and said it matched the policy WDFW already has in place for the big river.

Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim) agreed, saying it was essentially codifying those rules, and called for a vote on Salomon’s amendment and then for a do-pass recommendation, both of which passed on a voice vote with only one nay heard on the TVW broadcast.

Legislative staff did not return a call inquiring about the vote tally, but subsequent to this story being published it has been posted on the legislature’s webpage that four recommended it pass (Sens. Van De Wege, Salomon, Rolfes and Judy Warnick), two against (Sens. John McCoy and Shelly Short) and one without recommendation (Sen. Jim Honeyford).

This was the last scheduled meeting for the committee before tomorrow’s first legislative cutoff deadline of the session, so it was do or die for the bill.

“This has a long way to go, and we have to stay focused and keep working all the way to the end of session,” said Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, who had been rallying support for it in recent days.

She was also among the 47 who signed in on the bill one way or the other at that hearing earlier this month, and says that even though it was amended, it still “fulfills a critical component of the Columbia River harvest reforms by calling for an end to mainstem nontreaty gillnetting and providing for a buyout.”

State fishery managers in Washington and Oregon had agreed to reform fisheries on the shared river, but that has been thrown into doubt in recent years, with the southern state backing away and some elements not being as effective as expected. A recent letter from Oregon Gov. Kate Brown seems to indicate she is still supportive of the changes championed by former Gov. John Kitzhaber.

Others who spoke up in favor before the committee on Feb. 12 included George Harris of the Northwest Marine Trade Association, who said that conserving and protecting salmon for starving killer whales was important, as well as representatives from Brad’s Killer Fishing Gear, Clark-Skamania Flyfishers, Coastal Conservation Association and Zittel’s Marina near Olympia, among others.

But there was also considerable pushback from gillnetters, seafood processors and several tribal nations too.

Otis Hunsinger, a commercial fisherman, detailed how he tried to move his operations from the Columbia to Puget Sound to get away from the issues there but they were now following him.

“You think we’re not going to fight. We’re going to fight,” added John Hunsinger of Astoria, who argued it would take away jobs.

According to a fact sheet from NSIA, the only nontribal gillnet fishery on the Columbia focuses on fall Chinook and occurs above the Lewis River to avoid impacts on ESA-listed lower river tules.

In pointing to the bill’s 27 cosponsors — more than half the members of the state Senate — Hamilton said she was grateful “for their recognition that nontreaty gillnets are a problem for wild salmon and steelhead, for orca and for the economy, especially when there are alternatives.”

As amended, SB 5617 also directs WDFW to:

  • “Establish a selective gear incentive program that seeks to avoid harvest of non-target species”;
  • And “develop a fee for permits issued for the taking of salmon under the trial or experimental fishery permits.”

Hamilton said that she appreciated the committee’s work on the bill, as most introduced in the legislature don’t receive a hearing let alone pass out of their crucial first committee.

(Tomorrow, time permitting, the Olympia Outsider™ plans to provide an update on how things stand, including a recently introduced bill that would require WDFW to review the status of wolves in Washington and determine whether a change was warranted at the statewide and regional levels.)

“Finally, we thank all of the NSIA members who took the time to phone and write the committee emphasizing the importance of this bill for their employees, and thank our allies at Northwest Marine Trade Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, The Associations of Northwest Steelheaders, and the Northwest Guides and Anglers Association for doing the same. It takes a village, and NSIA businesses are thankful for these partnerships,” she said.

To become law, the bill must first pass its next Senate committee, the full chamber, the House and be signed into law by the governor.

U.S. House Vote Against Spill ‘A Hard Pill For Businesses To Swallow’: NSIA

“Unfathomable.” That’s what the head of a regional pro-fishing group is calling yesterday’s vote in the U.S. House of Representatives that in part blocks spill through the Columbia Basin to help young salmon.

All of Oregon’s and Washington’s Congressmen representing the immense watershed voted for HR 3144, which passed 225-189 and would put off a federal judge’s spill order till 2022.

It also leaves it up to lawmakers whether to remove the lower four Snake River dams.


But Liz Hamilton of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association in Portland says blocking spill will “accelerate salmon’s demise, affecting every single species that has to travel down this industrial river.”

Just three weeks ago she’d heralded U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon’s ruling that because the Columbia’s numerous Endangered Species Act-listed stocks “remain in a ‘precarious’ state,” and that with decades worth of studies showing “spill volumes higher than those proposed in the 2014 BiOp will lead to higher survival rates” for young Chinook, coho, steelhead, this year’s program would go ahead starting April 2.

The bill must still pass the Senate and be signed by President Trump, but Hamilton said the House’s action was a direct shot at those benefits.

She called it a “hard pill for businesses to swallow, on the heels of the 2015 drought, the 2016 blob, a bad ocean, and the occasional flood.”

“Climate change, with the frequent, intense environmental changes it brings is hammering the fish and our industry. It is unfathomable that Congress would choose to do less at the exact moment in history when hydropower is needed less than ever. Particularly during the spring when there are over 200 major dams cranking out energy. There’s just no excuse,” Hamilton says.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Spokane Republican who consponsored the legislation, billed it as a way to “protect” the Columbia hydropower system’s dams.

She said the facilities and fish could coexist.

“When the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow, our dams provide critical baseload energy to power homes and businesses all across Eastern Washington and the Pacific Northwest,” McMorris Rodgers said in a press release. “Not only that, they provide transportation and irrigation benefits for our farmers, flood control for our communities, and recreational opportunities that fuel our economy. This isn’t about the merits of protecting salmon, we all agree on that. This is about providing certainty and letting experts and scientists in the region, who know the river best, work collaboratively to meet that goal. I’m proud to usher this legislation through the House.”

Joining her in voting for the bill were fellow Washington Reps. Dan Newhouse, Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert, all Republicans, Oregon’s Kurt Schrader (D) and Greg Walden (R), and Idaho’s Mike Simpson (R). The Gem State’s Raul Labrador (R) did not cast a vote as he was reportedly campaigning for governor.

Hamilton says she watched a hearing on the bill and came away “appalled” at what she’d heard bandied about from the other side of the issue.

She adds that walking away from even looking at removing Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose and Lower Granite Dams “could mean extinction for many Snake River stocks in the future.”

According to the Idaho Statesman, the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate due to opposition from Washington Senator Patty Murray (D).

“There is an ongoing legal process intended to account for all uses of our critical river system and a court-mandated comprehensive review that everyone can participate in, so I oppose this legislation that would cut off and politicize what should be a robust and transparent process,” Murray said in a statement.


Editor’s note: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler’s first name was misspelled in the initial version of this story. Our apologies.

NSIA Lauds Judge’s Decision On Increased Dam Spill: ‘Vital’ For Fish, Industry


Today, United States District Court Judge Michael Simon (Portland, OR) approved a plan for increased spill at eight federal dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

This plan for Spring 2018 dam operations was jointly submitted to the Court last month by plaintiffs and defendants in the long-running legal case to protect wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin. It was developed in response to the Court’s April 2017 Order requiring the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide more voluntary spill (water released through the spillways) to protect salmon and steelhead at risk of extinction.


Todd True, lead attorney for the plaintiffs: “There is no real scientific dispute that voluntary spill to the level required by the Court will avoid harm to juvenile salmon. In addition, this spill order has been carefully crafted to avoid any unintended negative consequences to navigation and other resources. In fact, it is very likely that spill at higher levels would afford additional salmon survival improvements.”

Plaintiffs include conservation organizations, fishing associations, the Nez Perce Tribe and the State of Oregon. Defendants include the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries.

Voluntary spill was first required during the spring and summer months at the eight federal dams in 2006 under the order of Judge James Redden after he had invalidated a plan from the federal agencies in 2004. The new spill plan approved by the Court today requires as much spill as is allowed under current state water quality rules for total dissolved gas (or “TDG”) unless there are compelling reasons to reduce it. Higher levels of spill help juvenile salmon migrating to the ocean in the spring and summer move past the dams more quickly and safely, and results in higher adult returns in the years that follow.

Liz Hamilton, executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association: “Increasing the proportion of spill is vital for the protection of salmon and steelhead, and for fishing businesses and communities across the Northwest. This order for additional spill will divert baby salmon away from powerhouses, increasing the survival of juvenile fish migrating past dams to the ocean, enhancing the numbers of adult fish returning in the years that follow.”

Rhett Lawrence, conservation director for the Sierra Club in Oregon: “Increased spill levels in 2018 will provide a much-needed boost for our struggling salmon and steelhead populations. Conservation and fishing groups are grateful for our partnership with Oregon and the Nez Perce Tribe – working together for the Northwest’s iconic fish and holding the federal agencies accountable to the law and the people of the region.”

Joseph Bogaard, executive director of Save Our wild Salmon: “This order for additional spill in 2018 is a near-term life-line for our region’s endangered wild salmon and steelhead until we have a legally valid, science-based plan in place. This order gives our fish and the communities that rely on them some breathing room in 2018 while our region comes together on a long-term plan that improves the health of these rivers and recovers our struggling fish populations.”

Last fall, Washington State also clarified how it applies its water quality standards relating to total dissolved gas in the lower portions of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. This clarification by the state will allow incrementally higher levels of spill to occur in the spring and summer, leading to higher juvenile and adult returns than would have occurred previously.

In May 2016, Judge Simon ruled the federal agencies’ 2014 Columbia Basin Salmon plan is inadequate and illegal. This is the fifth consecutive federal plan (Biological Opinion or “BiOp”) deemed illegal by three different judges across two decades. Over this period, despite the federal agencies spending more than $10B on a series of ineffective, illegal plans to protect salmon and steelhead from a deadly federal hydro-system, not a single at-risk population has recovered.

While the federal agencies jointly submitted this proposed plan with the plaintiffs to increase spill, they also filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last fall challenging the court’s decision to further expand spill. The appeal is on an expedited schedule and is expected to be resolved before the official beginning of the juvenile out-migration in early April of 2018.

You can read the signed order requiring more spill from the Court here: