Wanna Re-Wild your campus? U.S. Solidifies Idaho Salmon Protections, The Return of Oregon Sea Otters Could Revive Depleted Kelp Forests

by | Aug 30, 2022 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Wanna Re-Wild your campus? Here’s how. Plus U.S. solidifies Idaho salmon protections, and the Return of Oregon sea otters could revive depleted kelp forests.



As college and university students across the United States prepare for the 2022-2023 school year, Re:wild Your Campus – a new partnership bringing together global conservation organization Re:wild and student-founded Herbicide-Free Campus – is helping them make their campuses safer and healthier for people and wildlife. 

Herbicide-Free Campus started in 2017 as a student-led program working to reduce and remove toxic herbicides from college and university campuses that can cause disease and illness in humans and hurt native pollinators and other species 

The mission of Re:wild Your Campus is to harness the power of student action to create safer, more sustainable living and learning environments for all by starting locally and advocating for organic land care on college campuses. This movement empowers the next generation of environmental leaders to redesign their campuses as a solution to the climate, biodiversity, and human-wellbeing crises through eliminating herbicides and promoting pollinator health, native plants, and edible landscapes.

Mackenzie Feldman, project director of Re:wild Your Campus, first learned about the health effects and environmental consequences of herbicides while an undergraduate student-athlete at the University of California, Berkeley. After learning that the university was using carcinogenic herbicides to keep weeds from popping up around its outdoor volleyball courts, she organized student volunteers to help manually pick weeds and met with the administration to find alternatives to herbicides to protect groundskeepers, students, and the environment. 

Why does Re:wild Your Campus matter to those of us not living or working on a college campus? Colleges and universities enroll 19 million students each year, representing a bigger population than 46 of the 50 states–only California, Florida, New York, and Texas have more residents. These institutions spend upwards of $671 billion each year, positioning them as powerful economic drivers and trailblazers in the environmental movement.

Go on with your bad self! Rewild your campus!

DEEPER DIVE: Re:Wild Your Campus, Herbicide-Free Campus



A five-year review by U.S. officials has determined that Endangered Species Act protections for ocean-going salmon and steelhead that reproduce in the Snake River and its Idaho tributaries must stay in effect.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division review made public Thursday found that steelhead, spring and summer chinook, sockeye and fall chinook that return to Idaho in rivers from the Pacific Ocean still need their federal protections.

The protections include limits on fishing, restrictions on how much water can be used for irrigation, pollution controls for industries and dam operations on the Columbia and Snake rivers. The review said that threats from climate change increase the urgency of completing recommended fish recovery actions — including improving fish passage at hydropower dams, restoring their habitats, controlling predators and changing hatchery practices.

Those fish could be recovered by reintroducing them above above the Hells Canyon Dam complex. But Idaho officials have fought that option, fearing protections for fish above the dams could limit riverside farming and ranching operations.

The review found that the fish extinction risk has decreased for Snake River fall chinook, but “the implementation of sound management actions to address hydropower, habitat, hatcheries, harvest and predation remain essential to recovery.”

And why does permanently protecting Idaho salmon matter to us? Biodiversity, baby. The more biodiversity exists in any one place, the more resilient that place will be to climate change.




According to an article in High Country News, the last wild sea otter to grace Oregon’s coast was back in 1906. That’s because the popularity of its fur caused humans to hunt U.S. west coast sea otters to near extinction from Alaska to Baja California.

In the 111 years since the U.S., the U.K., Russia and Japan signed the North Pacific Fur Seal Treaty, which banned hunting the sea otter, conservationists have worked diligently to stave off extinction. Alaska, Washington and Central California can all claim some measure of success. Sea otter populations once again exist in their coastal waters. However, in Oregon, not so much. 

Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has turned its attention to that remaining 900-mile gap. The agency announced in an assessment published last month that returning sea otters to Oregon and Northern California is feasible and would also bring likely — if unequal — economic benefits. Scientists and tribal leaders say reintroducing otters would restore balance to degraded kelp forests, boost fish species, protect shorelines, generate tourist dollars and even capture carbon.

Why do sea otters matter to us? The loss of local ecosystem keystone species like sea otters spells doom for biodiversity, a key component in fighting climate change. Sea otters hunt shellfish, crab and kelp-devouring sea urchins. They’re at the top of the kelp-forest food chain. Without otters, those ecosystems have been slowly degrading, and in 2013 they hit a catastrophic tipping point: A mysterious disease — possibly triggered by warming ocean temperatures — caused a continent-spanning die-off of sea stars, which had filled otters’ role as the top predator of sea urchins. Unchecked, urchins proliferated, causing the widespread collapse of kelp forests: In Northern California, they’ve shrunk by more than 90%, replaced by urchin-filled barrens. Researchers believe reintroducing sea otters may be one of the only ways to save what’s left.

DEEPER DIVE: High Country News, Sea Otters, Oregon Coast Aquarium