The Lostine River in Northeast Oregon.
The Lostine River in Northeast Oregon. courtesy of Pacific Rivers

The salmon population in Oregon has been on the decline for years, thanks in part to poor environmental stewardship. A new short documentary from Portland-based advocacy organization Pacific Rivers spotlights one effort to reverse that trend in Northeast Oregon.

In its quick five-minute runtime, Lostine highlights the work of fisheries from the Nez Perce Tribe—whose people have lived in the Pacific Northwest for thousands of years—to restore the salmon population in the Lostine River, a tributary of the Wallowa River in the Wallowa Mountains.

Adam Capetillo, a Nez Perce tribal member, opens the film by lamenting the dwindling number of salmon found in the river each season.

“The salmon—he’s like a brother to our people,” Capetillo says. “So I’d like to see us do more to protect these fish.”

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The film goes on to explore a partnership between the Nez Perce fisheries’ work to restore the salmon population through hatcheries, and their partnership with a local ranch to promote more environmentally friendly practices. But the main obstacle to restoring the Lostine’s salmon population, the filmmakers make clear, is a cluster of federal dams on the lower Snake River, which the Lostine eventually connects with. If those four dams were removed, the salmon population would likely rise dramatically.

“It’s a prime river,” Capetillo says. “I think it could make a real recovery, if we put in the extra time and effort.”

If you’re looking to educate yourself this Earth Day, you can learn more by watching Lostine—which also offers lush views of the river and its surroundings—and getting involved with Pacific Rivers.