A Very Berry Fourth.

This is the season wild creatures wait for all year. When we can walk in the woods and meadows stuffing our gullets with free food. It’s berry season.

It began with the salmonberry. That harbinger of the salmon named for its color, which reflects the varied colors of the salmon. The salmonberry is a taste of the woods, sweet, sour and mysterious.

Berry picking is a ritual practiced since the first people got here. It is a cycle that begins with the salmonberries in summer until the cranberries freeze in the fall.

Berries were one of the first items traded by the Native Americans to the invading Europeans.

In 1790, the Spanish Captain Manuel Quimper met some Elwha canoes off the mouth of the Elwha River, with whom he traded for berries and salmon.

Back then, mariners typically survived on a rationed diet chiefly composed of ship’s biscuits. This was a tooth-breaking bread made with flour and water that might be dissolved in brine or coffee in the morning so you could eat it. Soaking allowed insects infesting the biscuits to float to the top. That is, of course, if the bread wasn’t eaten by rats first.

A diet of biscuits, with wine or beer and some salted meat or fish ensured a rate of scurvy among seamen during the Age of Exploration that typically ran from 40 to 50 percent of the crew, ultimately killing an estimated 2 million sufferers.

Left untreated, which it usually was, scurvy left the sufferer with bleeding gums, madness and ultimately death by bleeding and infection. While cases of scurvy are unheard of these days, you can’t be too careful. Eat your berries.

While I would never use this valuable print space to spread fear, innuendo and conspiracy theories, it is my duty as a wilderness gossip columnist to warn of an impending berry crisis.

The salmonberries are small, few and far between. The thimbleberries and wild strawberries are only blossoms. The black caps are microscopic.

All of which adds up to a berry famine for the weeks to come. To the wild creatures, this is a devastating development that could affect the ability to hibernate.

For human berry pickers, this is a disaster.

The latest regional forecasts and windshield surveys have predicted that, due to climactic shifts, weather changes and other stuff, there will be no blackberry pie this Fourth of July.

The importance of blackberry pie in the celebration of the birth of this great nation cannot be overstated. It’s a message to the world that no matter how bad this great experiment we call democracy is failing, we can still sit down together at the end of the day and have a steaming hot piece of blackberry pie.

Picking a wild blackberry pie on the Fourth of July is a benchmark of what’s right with America.

This year, unfortunately, the berries are late.

By blackberries, we are not referring to the watery, seedy and invasive Evergreen and Himalayan berries ripening in late summer, no.

That’s not saying this journalist hasn’t, in the interest of journalism, sampled the various pies, crisps and tarts made from the tame wild blackberries just to be polite.

Sometimes, you have to go to the dark side to see how the other half lives and know, but for the grace of God, we’d bake a pie of bogus berries.

Not on my watch. You would have to pry the berry bucket from my cold dead fingers to get me to pick tame blackberries, but then I couldn’t because I’d be dead.

Happy Fourth anyway.

The Resiliency Plan

In last week’s episode, we followed the extinction of the salmon from Europe to the Eastern shore of the New World and across the Continent to the Pacific Northwest. It’s an extinction that represents a greater biomass than the estimated 60 million bison that roamed the Great Plains. Fortunes were made exterminating the bison. Fortunes are being made with the extinction of the salmon.

Witnessing this tragedy is like watching an old friend die from neglect while being assured they’re getting the best medical care. We’re watching our rivers die while being told questionable salmon restoration practices are the best available science.

A good example of this “greenwashing” of the environment is Jefferson County’s proposed “Upper Hoh River Resiliency Plan.” The county contends the Hoh River runs way too fast and wanders too far across the valley, and we can’t have that. Never mind that the Hoh Tribe’s name for the river is “Ohalet,” meaning “Fast Moving Water.” With the amount of your tax money they are spending, the county should be able to hire a consultant to come up with a new name in no time.

Apparently, the wrong trees are growing along the Hoh River, but the resiliency plan will fix that by cutting down the stream-side deciduous trees, the alder, willow and cottonwood, and replacing them with conifer trees that will grow large enough to stop the river. Just how large a tree must be to stop the Hoh is unknown since massive spruce 8 to 10 feet in diameter are toppled by the river every year. How long this will take is unknown because the resiliency plan does not answer questions.

The resiliency plan has also decided there are too many rocks in the Hoh River. They’re going to fix that by lining the river with log jams that will stop the river from “avulsing;” that is, changing its channel like it’s done for the last 15,000 years. Past log jam construction has been hard on the fish. The shock waves caused by pile-driving steel I-beams into the river burst the air bladders of fish and killed them. Now, they are dumping concrete in the river which crushes the fish and spawning beds instead.

Log jams are a threat to human life. The last two fatalities in the Hoh River were in log jams, including the hereditary chief of the Hoh Tribe, David Hudson Jr. Log jams can move the river in unexpected ways, causing property loss to landowners, but the resiliency plan assumes no liability so they don’t have to worry about it.

After cutting down the trees and plugging the river with log jams, the resiliency plan will give it a good dose of glyphosate to control invasive species. Glyphosate is a key ingredient in the herbicide Roundup™ made by Monsanto. The resiliency plan contends that glyphosate is harmless to people, fish and amphibians, but they had better hurry up and spray it quick.

Monsanto’s owner Bayer AG, a company that once paid Nazis to collaborate with Dr. Mengele on toxic chemical experiments in concentration camps, announced it would remove glyphosate-based herbicides from the U.S. by 2023 due to tens of thousands of lawsuits from people alleging they developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma from glyphosate herbicides.

That is the goal and the dream of the resiliency plan. To transform the most beautiful river in America from a wilderness stream into an industrial experiment to see just how much money they can spend. Unfortunately, all the state money and all the consultants, nonprofits and their bureaucrat buddies will not bring our salmon back again.

A Short History of Extinction.

FOR SOME, THE new year begins in January. Out on our rivers, the new year begins now with the warming temperatures and the emergence of the baby salmon from the gravel, where they were buried by their parents last fall.

Most everyone is familiar with the water cycle — how water evaporates from the ocean, forming clouds that travel inland, dropping water and forming rivers that flow back into the ocean.

The salmon cycle operated in the same way, exchanging energy from the ocean to the mountains and back, sustaining all life along the river from the smallest bug to the largest tree with the spawned-out remains of their bodies.

The salmon also supported humans. On the Sella River in Spain, there is a 17,000-year-old cave painting of a salmon.

The first written reference to salmon came from the Roman invasion of England in 55 B.C. when Julius Caesar described the salmon fishermen’s boats, made of skins stretched over a wooden frame.

The Thames River was the salmon fishing capitol of the ancient world.

Shore nets filled with salmon until they burst. Shoals of juvenile salmon were used to feed hogs.

The Middle Ages saw the first fishing laws that made it illegal to feed the peasants salmon more than three times a week. The year 1030 saw the first closed season on a salmon river.

Richard the Lionheart made it illegal to block a salmon stream.

A description of fishing in 1590 gives a picture of a war on the fish with “fire, traps, weirs, handguns, cross bows, oils, pellets, poisons, powders and sundry nets,” being used.

This continued until the Industrial Revolution when pollution and over-harvesting eliminated most of the salmon in Europe. The Thames, a river the Elizabethan poet Edmund Spenser once called, “The silver-streaming Thames,” for its fat and noble salmon, was dead.

By then, Europeans were exploiting the New World.

The Norse saga of Eric the Red describes the great fishing at a Viking fishing camp in Newfoundland at around 995 A.D. The salmon were said to be larger than the ones found in Greenland.

Five hundred years after the Vikings disappeared, the Italians John and Sebastian Cabot described the rich fisheries of the eastern seaboard of North America.

Lake Ontario and its tributaries were once the salmon fishing capitol of the world. There were so many salmon they could be killed with canoe paddles. Farmers pitch-forked the salmon onto their fields for fertilizer.

By the 1890s, the salmon were endangered. By the 1930s, no one even remembered them.

By then, Washington state was the salmon fishing capitol of the world.

Salmon were caught with fish wheels, weirs and a flotilla of commercial fishing boats. Sport fishermen trolled spoons with hand lines out of row boats. Salmon was the poor man’s tuna fish.

With the post-World War II economic boom, both the salmon harvest and environmental degradation were affecting salmon populations.

In 1974, the Boldt Decision restored the Native Americans’ treaty rights to half the “harvestable” salmon. This set off a fish war where each side tried to catch the last one.

By the 1990s, many populations of salmon were declared endangered. In the new millennium, the government has spent billions trying to restore salmon.

Then, there is the human cost of the extinction of the salmon that has largely eliminated the culture of fishing among the people who depended on salmon for their food, livelihood and identity.

Next week, we’ll see how the best available science is profiting from the largest extinction since the slaughter of the bison of the Great Plains.

_________

 

Does It Always Rain Here?

With the blustery weather we have been experiencing lately, it seems like either the mildest January or the coldest June we’ve ever had.

Rainfall events are not a bad thing. We need periodic gully washers to hatch the slugs, sprout the mushrooms and make the skunk cabbage bloom. Where do you think the rivers and lakes come from?

I think it’s time we all developed a more positive attitude toward our wet weather.

While scientists and health care experts have warned us for years about the effects of the sun’s harmful rays, no one ever developed a malignant skin tumor while lying out in the rain, fog-bathing.

Prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight will make the woods tinder dry. One little spark could turn the Olympic Peninsula into a fiery holocaust.

Sunshine can bring another threat to our health, safety and emotional well-being — tourists. All we need is one day of sunshine for the tourist migration to hatch.

As with any natural disaster, it’s best to have a plan to cope with the tourists. Leave.

What if you’re too broke and ignorant to go anywhere? Maybe you can learn from my wealth of experience in dealing with the problem. Lie.

This last Memorial Day weekend was a good example. It was a perfect storm where a westerly Pacific frontal system met an easterly outflow of tourists in a soggy monsoon of misery. Once the tourists show up, it’s easy to remember why we put a season on them.

People come here from all over the country to complain about the weather and ask the craziest questions like, “Does it always rain here?”

As a general policy, it is a good idea to assure the tourists that a lot of the time it rains much harder. All of which could go a long way to keep the tourists from moving here.

The Olympic Peninsula has been a magnet for tourists since the Bering Land Bridge, when groups of stone-age hunters crossed from Siberia to Sequim, a paradise of big game ripe for the slaughter.

We’re talking Pleistocene mega-fauna, the mastodon and woolly mammoth. You could feed your clan for weeks on a mastodon and make a tent from the bones and hide, and heat it with the creatures’ fat — until the mastodon were gone.

A dozen millennia later, a vast armada of European tourists visited our fair shores seeking souls for their churches, treasure for their banks and the bogus Northwest Passage.

These tourists all had one thing in common: No one believed them when they got home.

Juan de Fuca said he found gold, silver and pearls in the straits that bear his name back in 1592, but he was flat broke by the time he got back home.

All he had left was a bogus map of his mythical strait that took another 200 years for others to discover.

When they did, the Spanish Captain Manuel Quimper blabbed about buying some 100-pound salmon. This set off an invasion of tourists that have been coming here looking for these mythical fish ever since.

It’s always been a proud pioneer tradition to bait tourists with tall tales about the great mineral wealth that was waiting to be discovered in the Olympics. Mountains, lakes and streams were named after the precious metals that were waiting to be found. Promotions like these put Oil City on the map.

Ever since then, it’s been a good idea to say whatever works to keep the tourists from moving here.

Just remember, the Peninsula you save could be your own.

Does it always rain here? Yes!

 

Does It Always Rain Here?

With the blustery weather we have been experiencing lately, it seems like either the mildest January or the coldest June we’ve ever had.

Rainfall events are not a bad thing. We need periodic gully washers to hatch the slugs, sprout the mushrooms and make the skunk cabbage bloom. Where do you think the rivers and lakes come from?

I think it’s time we all developed a more positive attitude toward our wet weather.

While scientists and health care experts have warned us for years about the effects of the sun’s harmful rays, no one ever developed a malignant skin tumor while lying out in the rain, fog-bathing.

Prolonged exposure to excessive sunlight will make the woods tinder dry. One little spark could turn the Olympic Peninsula into a fiery holocaust.

Sunshine can bring another threat to our health, safety and emotional well-being — tourists. All we need is one day of sunshine for the tourist migration to hatch.

As with any natural disaster, it’s best to have a plan to cope with the tourists. Leave.

What if you’re too broke and ignorant to go anywhere? Maybe you can learn from my wealth of experience in dealing with the problem. Lie.

This last Memorial Day weekend was a good example. It was a perfect storm where a westerly Pacific frontal system met an easterly outflow of tourists in a soggy monsoon of misery. Once the tourists show up, it’s easy to remember why we put a season on them.

People come here from all over the country to complain about the weather and ask the craziest questions like, “Does it always rain here?”

As a general policy, it is a good idea to assure the tourists that a lot of the time it rains much harder. All of which could go a long way to keep the tourists from moving here.

The Olympic Peninsula has been a magnet for tourists since the Bering Land Bridge, when groups of stone-age hunters crossed from Siberia to Sequim, a paradise of big game ripe for the slaughter.

We’re talking Pleistocene mega-fauna, the mastodon and woolly mammoth. You could feed your clan for weeks on a mastodon and make a tent from the bones and hide, and heat it with the creatures’ fat — until the mastodon were gone.

A dozen millennia later, a vast armada of European tourists visited our fair shores seeking souls for their churches, treasure for their banks and the bogus Northwest Passage.

These tourists all had one thing in common: No one believed them when they got home.

Juan de Fuca said he found gold, silver and pearls in the straits that bear his name back in 1592, but he was flat broke by the time he got back home.

All he had left was a bogus map of his mythical strait that took another 200 years for others to discover.

When they did, the Spanish Captain Manuel Quimper blabbed about buying some 100-pound salmon. This set off an invasion of tourists that have been coming here looking for these mythical fish ever since.

It’s always been a proud pioneer tradition to bait tourists with tall tales about the great mineral wealth that was waiting to be discovered in the Olympics. Mountains, lakes and streams were named after the precious metals that were waiting to be found. Promotions like these put Oil City on the map.

Ever since then, it’s been a good idea to say whatever works to keep the tourists from moving here.

Just remember, the Peninsula you save could be your own.

Does it always rain here? Yes!

 

Traffic Jam Blues.

It was another tough week in the news. When plans for the biggest traffic jam in the history of the Olympic Peninsula were made public. This new traffic jam will be bigger than Sequim’s Lavender Festival and Irrigation festival traffic jams combined. At least it will be for a good cause, fish passage beneath our roads. It is a worthy cause we all support, don’t we? We all want to save the starving Orca. Who could argue with that? Read on.

Beginning in 2023 and lasting anywhere from 12 to 24 months the fish passage projects on Lees, Ennis and Tumwater Creeks will be not unlike enduring, “dental pain” according to a Washington Department of Transportation spokesperson at a recent meeting in Port Angeles.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that unlike dental pain, where you might spend your way out of the problem, removing fish passage barriers doesn’t mean the fish will passage. The D.O.T. spokesperson did not want to sugar-coat the coming challenge and there was no danger of that. Instead, we are asked, “to keep a positive perspective of helping the fish.”
That is a challenge. We need only to look at streams on either side of these projects to observe the effectiveness of fish barrier removal. To the West we have the famous Elwha Dam removal, the largest habitat restoration project in the country that opened up over 70 miles of pristine spawning habitat for the 400,000 imaginary salmon that were predicted to return, someday.

Unfortunately, the salmon returning the Elwha are failing to utilize this habitat. This is a situation in common with other Peninsula rivers that have never been dammed. Our salmon are failing to use their available habitat because they are dead, extinct or just plain gone.
We have only to look to the east of Port Angeles at Morse Creek, a stream once famous for runs of Spring Chinook, Pink and Coho salmon and Steelhead. There was never a fish passage problem on Morse Creek. The formerly abundant Morse creek Spring Chinook were raised at the Dungeness Hatchery. When they stopped planting salmon in Morse Creek the salmon disappeared. Then along came the Elwha Dam Removal experiment. A multi-million-dollar king salmon hatchery was built at Morse Creek to act as a gene bank for the Elwha Chinook in case they didn’t return to the Elwha. They didn’t. Then it was decided not to use hatchery raised salmon to restore the upper Elwha and just let the salmon restore themselves on their own. They didn’t.

The Morse Creek king salmon hatchery was eliminated. Runs of hatchery raised salmon always fail once you shut down the fish hatcheries. Instead, the State did a “salmon restoration” project, building engineered log jams and buying streamside property for a homeless encampment with predictable results. Morse Creek is as dead as a ditch.

The Dungeness River has no fish passage barriers. It was once the best spring steelhead river in Washington. The Spring Chinook fishery in Dungeness Bay was legendary. With effective co-management and the best available science, the Dungeness Spring Chinook and steelhead have achieved threatened and/or endangered species status. This has opened the floodgates of federal funding for even more salmon restoration projects like building log jams and buying property. With predictable results. The Dungeness River is currently closed to fishing most of the year.

So, you see this new traffic jam really is a lot like dental pain with a dentist who says, “this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me.” But it’s all for a good cause.