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Inner Southeast students gather in Sellwood to assist salmon survive and prosper in the Willamette River

DAVID F. ASHTON - Several students at a time came to the bank of the Willamette to release their classroom-hatched salmon together. Wind-blown rain didn't discourage some 150 students and their teachers from four Portland grade schools from arriving at Sellwood Riverfront Park on the morning of December 20, to release salmon hatchlings – called "fry" – into the Willamette River.

"Our seventh and eighth graders, as well many students from Creston School, some from St. Rose Catholic School, and some from Sunnyside Environmental School were given salmon eggs to raise during the fall, by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department (ODFW)," Sarah Anderson told THE BEE. She's the Fieldwork and Place-Based Education Coordinator at the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science.

"The Multnomah 4-H coordinated this in the schools, gave us tanks, and trained volunteers on how to raise fish from eggs into the 'fry' that they will release here this morning," Anderson continued. "This is in conjunction with an eight-week program at nearby Oaks Bottom, learning about water quality, native vegetation, animals, and restoration projects there."

Teaching youth environmental stewardship

"This project is important, because it gives students a meaningful way to understand their ability to be stewards of wildlife and of the planet, by connecting what they learned from raising salmon eggs to 'fry', to releasing these fish into the river," said Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H coordinator Courtney Lobo.

"More broadly," Lobo added wryly, "we're providing young people teaching-by-doing, and hands-on ways to love their Earth – even as our 4-H programs in Portland continue to be on the [county] budgetary 'chopping block'."

ODFW's "Salmon and Trout Enhancement Program" (STEP) representative John Cox was there to tell the gathered students, "We appreciate your raising the fish in the classroom; we realize it takes a lot of effort. And, we really appreciate your working in this program to help return salmon to the Willamette River."

Also at the park for the ceremony was Greg Archuleta, a tribal member of Clackamas Chinook, Santiam Kalapuya, and Shasta, and a member of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, who teaches history of the "Tribes of Western Oregon".

"Fish are really important to our tribal people; we also appreciate your interest in the water quality, which is important for the fishes' survival. It's nice to see your connection with the fish; one of these days, tribal people may be able to harvest one of the fish you released today."

As the students were releasing their fish into the water at the riverbank, Archuleta remarked to THE BEE, "This is really neat to see – that they took the responsibility to raise the fish, care for them, and now they get to see them released. It's pretty neat."

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