For a long time, the Nez Perce Tribe has been leading the way in protecting the ecosystem of Hells Canyon. Recently, the tribe reached a settlement with the state of Oregon that will help improve the water quality of the canyon and return native fish to the area. Read on to learn how the Nez Perce fight to improve the water quality of Hells Canyon.

Understanding the 1855 Treaty

In 1855, the United States government signed a treaty with the Nez Perce Tribe, securing them the right to fish and hunt in Hells Canyon. For many thousands of years before colonization, the Nez Perce lived in the Hells Canyon region; they regard it as their aboriginal territory. The goal of the treaty was to make sure that the tribe can continues to enjoy access to the lands of their ancestors. It also ensures their ability to practice their culture in those lands.

The 2019 Clean Water Act

In 2019, Oregon passed the Clean Water Act, which included section 401, the water quality certification standards for the Hells Canyon Complex (HCC). The HCC is a hydroelectric power company privately owned by the Idaho Power Company. However, it’s also located in the Nez Perce territory. According to the tribe’s lawsuit, the certification section of the act completely neglects to address issues like water temperature, pollution, and fish passage in the river.

The Results of the Settlement

The Nez Perce Tribe recently reached a settlement with Oregon that will have a huge environmental benefit for Hells Canyon. According to the settlement, the state and the tribe will partner on initiatives designed to reduce toxic chemicals in the water produced by the HCC and return the local fish populations to healthy levels. These projects will keep important fish populations like salmon and sturgeon from going extinct. They’ll also keep the people who eat the fish from getting mercury poisoning.

The Future of Hells Canyon

The Nez Perce fight to improve the water quality of Hells Canyon has an immensely positive effect on the local ecosystem. By leveraging the tribe’s rights, the Nez Perce are able to advocate for local species that are already at risk and hundreds of others that could become endangered. Hells Canyon wouldn’t be the same without their environmental leadership.

If you’d like to see the beautiful ecosystem of Hells Canyon, check out the best Hells Canyon jet boat tours from River Adventures. We’re happy to help you learn even more about this unique environment.