Nez Perce Tribe

Department of Fisheries Resources Management


Department of Fisheries Resources Management

"Protecting and Conserving Our Way of Life"

Over 150 years ago, the Nez Perce Tribe signed a treaty with the United States government. In the Treaty of 1855, the Nez Perce retained total fishing rights on all streams and rivers within the boundaries of the original 13.4 million acre reservation that extended outward to “all usual and accustomed places” including the mainstem Columbia River. Tribal ancestors maintained these rights because the once abundant salmon runs were vital to their way of life and future generations. Since then, salmon and steelhead runs have declined to crisis proportions due largely to hydroelectric power developments, habitat degradation, water quality impacts, and over-harvesting.

Today, maintaining a healthy 13-plus million acre watershed and improving survival of salmon and steelhead under the auspices of the 1855 Treaty, rests with the Tribe’s Department of Fisheries Resources Management program. Our vision is to recover and restore all species and populations of anadromous and resident fish within the traditional lands of the Nez Perce Tribe.

The Fisheries program works throughout the ceded lands and has offices in Powell, Red River, Grangeville, Orofino, McCall, Sweetwater, Lapwai and Joseph, OR. We coordinate and interact with State, Federal and Tribal agencies and committees and private entities in assessing and implementing fish recovery and restoration plans. We monitor fish populations and provide recommendations and overview on Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues. We also provide recommendations for restoration and protection of critical habitat for fish populations and protect fish and wildlife resources through conservation actions.

Honoring Nations 2015

Nez Perce Tribe's Fisheries Department Receives National Recognition

On October 21, 2015, the Nez Perce Tribe's Fisheries Department received the prestigious Honoring Nations award "with High Honors" at the National Congress of American Indians 72nd Annual Convention in San Diego. The award is from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government's Project on American Indian Economic Development.

"Salmon help define what it means to be Nez Perce. Yet this precious resource has been under grave threat for generations – not only from dams and habitat destruction, but also a contentious set of legal battles around fishing rights. The Nez Perce Fisheries Department has emerged as a key ally to the salmon. With 200 employees and a $20 million annual budget, the Fisheries department provides world-­‐class resource management over a three-­‐state area. For more than three decades, the department has been working tirelessly to keep the salmon coming home. And it’s paying off. As one of many examples, a Chinook run that had declined to only 385 adult fish has been rebuilt to over 60,000. When it comes to salmon, the Nez Perce are serious. And they’ve been seriously effective." ~Andrew Lee, Honoring Nations Board of Governors
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DFRM Management Plan

DFRM Management Plan


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Nez Perce Tribe Restoration Successes

Crooked River Valley Rehabilitation Project (CRVR)Crooked River Valley Rehabilitation Project (CRVR)
The Crooked River Valley Rehabilitation (CRVR) project is underway on the Red River Ranger District, near Elk City. The large restoration project is a partnership project with the Nez Perce Tribe Fisheries Department (Watershed Division), Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest and Bonneville Power Administration. read more ...

Snake River Fall ChinookSnake River Fall Chinook

To restore Snake River fall Chinook salmon, the Nez Perce Tribe, in coordination with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has implemented hatchery reform to bring back the fish from the brink of extinction.

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Clearwater River Coho RestorationClearwater River Coho Restoration

Coho salmon were officially declared extirpated, or non-existent, in 1986 in the Clearwater and other Snake River subbasins in Idaho. This was unacceptable to the Nez Perce Tribe. Understanding the cultural and ecological significance of coho to the Clearwater River, the Nez Perce Tribe worked hard and has been successful in bringing these fish back.

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Johnson Creek Summer Chinook SupplementationJohnson Creek Summer Chinook Supplementation

Researchers found hatchery-reared salmon that spawned with wild salmon had the same success as salmon left to spawn in the wild, according to a study of the Nez Perce Tribe’s Artificial Propagation Enhancement Project. The study focused on a population of summer natal stream is located in central Idaho, almost 700 miles upstream of the Pacific Ocean.

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Columbia Basin Steelhead Kelt ReconditioningColumbia Basin Steelhead Kelt Reconditioning

Unlike other anadromous fish, steelhead are able to spawn a second time.  Around 2% of the Columbia Basin steelhead population successfully spawns twice. These repeat spawners are called “kelts.” Thousands try to migrate to the ocean after  spawning but die before getting there. Limitations on downstream adult fish passage at the Columbia River hydroelectric dams pose serious barriers to out-migrating kelts. As a result, fewer kelts are found in the upper Columbia than elsewhere in the basin. By increasing their survival, more kelts have the potential to be a valuable contributor to ESA-listed steelhead populations.

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Lookingglass Creek Spring Chinook RestorationLookingglass Creek Spring Chinook Restoration

Emerging from the Blue Mountains in Eastern Oregon, Lookingglass Creek travels through the Umatilla National Forest then through private land before entering the Grande Ronde River, a tributary of the Snake River. With five major tributaries—Lost Creek, Summer Creek, Eagle Creek, Little Lookingglass Creek, and Jarboe Creek—the Lookingglass Creek watershed provides essential spawning habitat for spring Chinook salmon.

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