The Cleanest Line

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    The Penobscot River Restoration Project

    by Topher Browne


    In September, 2011, The Cleanest Line reported the demise of two dams on the Elwha River in Washington State. Currently the largest dam removal project on the continent, the demolition of the 108-foot Elwha Dam and the 210-foot Glines Canyon Dam will allow five species of Pacific salmon – including a super strain of Chinook salmon topping 100 pounds – to access more than 70 miles of previously unavailable waterways. Salmon currently spawn in five miles of river below the Elwha Dam, which provides no fish passage.

    Dam busting is a hot commodity on both the left and right coasts of North America. On December 17, 2010, the Penobscot River Restoration Trust – a joint venture between American Rivers, the Atlantic Salmon Federation, Maine Audubon, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, the Nature Conservancy, the Penobscot Indian Nation, and Trout Unlimited – purchased the Veazie, Howland and Great Works Dams on the Penobscot River in Maine at a cost of 25 million dollars. Phase Two of the Penobscot River Restoration Project begins with the removal of the Great Works Dam in 2012 and the removal of the Veazie Dam over a two-year period beginning in 2013. Construction of a fish bypass at Howland Dam runs concurrently with dam removal. The estimated cost to implement this phase of the project is 30 million dollars.

    [Above: Great Works Dam, the first dam to be removed during the project. Photo: Bridget Besaw]

    Continue reading "The Penobscot River Restoration Project " »

    Elwha Eloquence - Yvon Chouinard & Dylan Tomine Speeches from the 2011 River Science Symposium

    Yvon Chouinard speaks at the 2011 Elwha River Science Symposium about the value of selectively harvesting salmon by species, a technique Patagonia Provisions is employing for our upcoming Wild Salmon Jerky. The Symposium was held in conjunction with the historic Elwha River dam removal ceremony.

    [Elwha River: Yvon Chouinard from Patagonia]

    Patagonia fly fishing ambassador Dylan Tomine also spoke at the event about the importance of letting the Elwha heal naturally instead of restocking the river with nonnative hatchery-raised fish.

    Hit the jump to see Dylan's speech.

    Continue reading "Elwha Eloquence - Yvon Chouinard & Dylan Tomine Speeches from the 2011 River Science Symposium" »

    A World of Rivers

    by Jason Rainey


    Water is life. Our bodies are about 60% water. Over two thirds of the surface of the Earth is covered by water, but only 0.006% of the Earth’s freshwater reserves is stored in rivers. As Patagonia's Our Common Waters campaign points out, the rivers of today’s world are broken. Roughly two-thirds of the world’s rivers have been dammed and diverted, and many major rivers of the world are tapped out before they reach the sea. Fifteen percent of the annual rainfall around the globe is now sequestered in reservoirs instead of replenishing floodplains and carrying nutrients to the sea.

    The Colorado, the Indus, the Nile and the Yellow are just a few of the rivers that have had their perennial connection to the ocean broken. And nations that are rapidly industrializing threaten the remaining great rivers of the world with new dam-building schemes.

    Continue reading "A World of Rivers" »

    Mokelumne River – Filming and Fighting for Wild and Scenic Designation

    by Mike E. Wier

    Mokelumne River 2

    For years, my brother and I had to sneak into one of our favorite sections of our home river, the mighty Mokelumne. The land surrounding both sides of this section of the river is owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. They had big “No Trespassing” signs up along their barbed wire fences.

    We, however, strongly considered the river to belong to everyone. So every once in a while we would float down through the rapids on inner tubes and stop in the beautiful and secluded pools to swim or try catch-and-release fly fishing. Along the way we’d check out the old miners’ trails and wild flowers, or stop at the ruins of the historic mining town of Middle Bar, or imagine we were Mewuk people catching Salmon in the river and admiring the giant blue oaks that produce so many acorns.

    Continue reading "Mokelumne River – Filming and Fighting for Wild and Scenic Designation" »

    Grand Canyon Wins New Protections From Uranium Mining

    by Taylor McKinnon


    The Obama administration rang in the New Year with a gift to wildlands and wildlife: a 20-year ban on new mining on 1 million acres of public lands around Grand Canyon National Park. The move, in the face of a rash of new uranium-mining claims, bans new claims and prohibits exploratory drilling and mining on existing claims lacking “valid existing rights” — the vast majority of claims in the area. It’s a historic decision for an iconic landscape that will save streams and rivers from pollution and protect scores of species from the scourge of industrial mining waste.

    Editor's note: We're late getting this good news posted, but it's worth celebrating nonetheless. We asked you twice to take action on this issue — first in February with a special video from Jonathan Waterman, then again in April — and your voices have been heard. Thank you. Photo: James Q Martin

    The decision is clearly popular. Nearly 400,000 people from 90 countries wrote the Interior Department urging the ban. And since it was enacted, it’s won praise from Indian tribes, businesses, elected officials, scientists and outdoor enthusiasts who value the canyon’s environmental health and its economic value as a tourist attraction.

    Continue reading "Grand Canyon Wins New Protections From Uranium Mining" »

    Patagonia Sin Represas (Without Dams), a New Video from Environmental Documentarian, Bridget Besaw

    [Video: Bridget Besaw]

    News on the five proposed dams in the heart of Chilean Patagonia has been slow lately as we wait for an Environmental Impact Report on the 1,200-mile power transmission lines and a decision from the Chilean Supreme Court. One item of note: The Santiago Times reported a few days ago that Argentina's minister of planning is open to the idea of the electrical transmission lines passing through Argentine territory, another setback for those of us -- in Chile and abroad -- who vigorously oppose the dams.

    Yet, even while the approval process plows forward, those in opposition to the dams continue to make their case that the Pascua and Baker Rivers can run free indefinitely while Chile's energy needs are met through abundant, less-destructive renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.

    Environmental documentarian, Bridget Besaw, recently created this video to illustrate what's at stake. She captured the images while on assignment for the iLCP's Patagonia RAVE (Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition) last year. The still images were first presented in March as a traveling exhibit to help raise awareness about the threat of the dams. Bridget is a member of 1% For the Planet and continues to use her photographic talents to highlight the depletion of natural resources around the planet.

    Take_actionPresident Piñera can still pull the plug on this project. Please take a moment to write the Chilean embassy and voice your opinion against the damming of Patagonia's wild rivers.


    Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline: Join Hands Around the White House, November 6th

    [Demonstrators in front of the White House protesting a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil through the U.S. from Canada. Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images]

    From mid-August to early September this year, concerned citizens gathered at the White House to protest the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Over 1200 people were arrested during this peaceful protest, and their act of civil disobedience, along with similar events and petitions nationwide, sent President Obama a simple message:  Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.

    The Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline would originate in Alberta, Canada and pass through the West and Midwest of the United States ending up in Houston where most of the oil will be shipped overseas. Six companies have contracted for three-quarters of the oil. Five are foreign.The New York Times in an editorial opposes the pipeline

    Nebraska Cornhusker football fans booed when a Keystone ad showed up on the Jumbotron at a recent game. The next day the university ended their sponsorship deal with Trans-Canada Pipeline.

    Continue reading "Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline: Join Hands Around the White House, November 6th" »

    We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum


    On Saturday, September 17, demolition started on two Elwha River dams – the largest dams to be taken down in our nation’s history. And this is just one example from a movement that is gaining momentum and traction across the country this year.

    Communities are evaluating local dams that block free-flowing rivers, altering the natural ecosystems and species that rely on the flow. Dams kill fish and prevent migrating species like salmon from spawning, and they block nutrients and needed sediment from being transported downstream to coastal beaches and wetlands. These impacts ripple throughout the local environment, but also have huge social and economic consequences.

    [Above: Fletcher Chouinard, Malinda Chouinard, Yvon Chouinard, Claire Chouinard and Matt Stoecker have a message for President Obama. Elwha River, Washington. Photo: Michael Hanson]

    Continue reading "We're Just Getting Started: Elwha and Condit Establish Dam Removal Momentum" »

    The Great Salmon Run - running the route of one of nature's great migrations

    Ty Draney, a member of the Patagonia Ultrarunning Team, and friend Luke Nelson recently completed the Great Salmon Run in partnership with Save our Wild Salmon. The pair were inspired to trace over 120 miles of the Snake River sockeye's migration route, motivated by facts like these:

    • Thirteen populations of salmon and steelhead are officially in danger of extinction. The four remaining Snake River stocks are either threatened or endangered.

    • The Columbia Basin was once home to the largest salmon fishery in the world — supporting tens of thousands of jobs, providing a nutritious food, and generating billions of dollars in economic activity each year.

    • Up to 30 million wild salmon and steelhead once returned to the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Today, it is less than one percent of the number.

    Snake River sockeye salmon migrate higher than any salmon in the world: Adults swim 900 miles and climb 6,500 feet in elevation — from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho.

    • With more than 200 dams, the Columbia Basin today is among the world’s most dammed landscapes. Removing four costly dams will restore salmon, create jobs, save money, and establish a clean energy blueprint for the future.

    Here’s Ty’s report:

    [Bighorn Crags, deep in the heart of the Columbia Basin. Central Idaho. All photos: Matthew Irving]

    "I think we're taking this whole salmon metaphor way too far...." 

    That's all I could think at the time. We had been wandering off course for hours, trying to get up to the Bighorn Crags. As it turns out the 78 miles we ran along the river was the easy part. We had left Boundry Creek at first light, hoping to make good time while the weather was cool. The trail was very runnable and we were in high spirits.

    Continue reading "The Great Salmon Run - running the route of one of nature's great migrations" »

    The Writing on the Wall

    Amy Irvine McHarg is a beautiful writer. We asked her to write a post about what she cares about and to remind the readers of the Patagonia catalog to look for her essay “Seeing Red” in your mail soon. "Seeing Red" is one of a series of essays written by fine writers as part of Patagonia's current environmental campaign, Our Common Waters.

    From Le Midi-Pyrenees region of France, September 2011

    [Painting from the Chauvet cave. Photo: HTO, via Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons license.]

    I am standing in a cave that one enters from a steep and riotously lush hillside in the southwest of France. I have been to this region before, then as a nomad climber, to scale (or flail on) its steep and sublime walls of limestone. This time I am here to explore beyond the surface - a kind of descent in place of ascent - into subterranean concavities opened up over millenia by the persistent passage of water. Come to think of it, the process is not unlike how the finest one-finger pockets, or mono doigts, were created on the exterior walls - that is, if you don't count the ones drilled out by climbers who fancied themselves, debatably, as great sculptors of stone. 

    Here in Grotte de Niaux, there are paintings of animals that undulate on walls, shimmer in shadows. Horses, bison, and ibex move as if they are emerging from some other, even more interior, kind of realm. About the master craftsmanship of such ancient paintings, dated back to the Upper Paleolithic, Picasso said something to this effect:

    Since then, we have learned nothing. 

    Continue reading "The Writing on the Wall " »

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