Puget Sound’s Southern Resident Orca whales are critically endangered. The single biggest threat to our local Orca population is lack of their primary food source. Chinook salmon make up 80% of the orca diet, and because of loss of habitat and increasing pollution, local salmon populations are a fraction of what they used to be.
Accustomed to being boots on the ground organizations, Washington Conservation Districts saw the need to mobilize people to action and created Orca Recovery Day, a day of action that featured 65-events that restored habitat, reduced stormwater pollution, and educated the public about things everyone can do to help save one of the most iconic creatures of the Pacific Northwest.
The effort grew from only 17-events in 2018, to include over 100 partner organizations in 2019. Events were organized across Washington, British Columbia, Oregon, and California. Governor Jay Inslee declared his support for the effort, officially proclaiming October 19, 2019 as Orca Recovery Day. All told, over 2,300 people throughout the Pacific Northwest came out to celebrate and honor the critically endangered Orca whales, helping install nearly 17,000 native plants and restore over eight acres of salmon habitat.
Locally, over 110 volunteers joined Whatcom Conservation District, the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association, the Lummi Nation, and Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife at the Nooksack River in Ferndale for a habitat restoration work party.The tree planting took place adjacent to the Nooksack River and Kwina Slough, a critical habitat salmon pass through on their way to and from the Salish Sea. The goal of the event was to educate community members of the threat the orcas are facing and effective actions we can all take to improve riparian habitats while getting conservation on the ground.
Volunteers were welcomed to ancestral lands of the Lummi nation by tribal members and fisherman. The rain held off as volunteers rolled up their sleeves to dig, plant, and mulch over 800 native plants in just three hours—what a success! Once the new trees establish, they will help reduce erosion, increase shade, and help keep the water cold, clean, and clear for our local salmon.
We all need clean water--habitat restoration is not only a win for the entire Nooksack watershed, salmon, and orca, but also Lummi Nation fisherman who have fished these areas since time immemorial and continue to do so today.While Orca Recovery Day was a great success both locally and regionally, no one is under the impression that one day is going to fix this. Rather, one day can connect us in action and connect people personally to this issue in a way that nothing else can. It’s our collective impact that has caused this, but it’s our collective impact that can fix it.
Whatcom CD offers community members a variety of different opportunities to make a difference for salmon and orca.
The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a salmon habitat protection program that pays landowners to establish buffers of native tree along salmon bearing waterways. Buffers of native vegetation help protect water quality, stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, and create shade that lowers water temperature, critical for fish habitat.
Want to get your hands dirty?
Join Whatcom CD, NSEA, and Whatcom Land Trust on Saturday, November 16th from 9:00am-Noon at California Creek for the next Habitat Restoration Work Party.
After the work party, make your way over with us to a Salmon Sighting event at Haynie Creek from Noon- 3PM to celebrate the return of our Pacific salmon!
Thank you to our generous 2019 Orca Recovery Day sponsors:
Better Ground, One Tree Planted, Puget Sound Energy, Washington State Conservation Commission, The Ruth Foundation, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Boeing, and the The Russel Family Foundation.