Bring the Salmon Home! (2004-2020)
In 2004, SmartMeme Studios was brought into the Klamath dam removal campaign to facilitate a process of cross-cultural alliance building in California’s Klamath River basin. This campaign united four tribal governments, commercial fishing groups, and environmentalists in an effort to remove dams and restore extinct salmon species to the upper basin. Almost a hundred years ago the Klamath River was once the third largest producer of salmon on the West Coast, but four dams have since blocked salmon and steelhead from reaching the more than 300 miles of historic habitat, causing toxic algae outbreaks that have adversely impacted water quality.
Representatives of the tribes and other groups traveled to Scotland to protest Scottish Power’s 2004 annual shareholder’s meeting and attracted international media attention and public support to their cause. We followed up by designing a direct-mail piece for the campaign to build local support in California and Oregon that compared how high a salmon can jump versus the height of the dams. The comparison allowed the viewer to use their own values to place judgment on the whether the dams were good or bad.
In 2007, the campaign ramped up, and we worked with the Karuk Tribe to design a direct mail piece to target Warren Buffet and the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting, and a full side-panel bus ad to be placed on Portland-area Trimet buses. The audience was Pacific Power ratepayers, with the headline “Salmon should run up the river, not run up your electric bill. ” The ads were scheduled to run on buses that intersect with Pacific Power’s HQ in Portland, but were censored by Trimet. The pushback that ensued resulted in the ads becoming front page news above the fold in a time when news print still reigned supreme. In 2008, the Public Utilities Commissions in Oregon and California concluded that removing the dams would be the best option to meet today’s safety and environmental standards.
In 2010, we helped the Karuk Tribe with their ground-level restoration efforts in the Klamath Basin to support the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA). The agreement sought to restore the ecological integrity and economic vitality of Basin communities. We helped develop the overall message and brand for their KBRA public education campaign. Currently, the dismantling of the dams is scheduled to begin in 2020 and would be the largest dam removal project in US history.