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List of Skagit River Field Reports

Teacher fellow Mike April records Dr. Liebow in a practice session.

by Patricia Green, Earthwatch Teacher Fellow, Washington

Today we were up bright and early and after breakfast started our orientation and training. Dr. Liebow briefed us on our roles and the purposes of the project. He reminded us that an environmental problem is also a people problem. You cannot try to solve any problem without including people as part of the equation.

As background we learned about the history of the valley. The Skagit River is one of the last and best fishing rivers in North America. The river still has all five of its original salmon species. The species include chinook, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink salmon. However, the numbers of salmon have been declining. The causes for the decline are complex, and not altogether clear. Human activities such as cutting down trees to clear land for farming and building hydroelectric dams have changed the river habitat. Ove-fishing has depleted salmon stock. Different groups blame each other for the decline.

Our job will be to help interview tribal elders, fishermen, fishers, and farmers, and record their stories about fishing the Skagit River. By collecting these personal histories, we will learn more about what traditions were valued in the past. This process will help show changes over time as well as inform the public, and build community support for protecting and restoring the watershed.

As part of our training, Dr. Liebow also explained how the interviews would work. We would be visiting interviewees in their homes, offices, and outdoors. He or Sara Breslow would start the interview by asking open-ended questions. Our role would be to listen carefully. One person would take notes, another would act as the sound engineer and monitor the tape recorder. We would be using state-of-the-art digital audio recorders.

We concluded by doing practice interviews. Each of us performed one of the roles: notetaker, sound engineer, interviewer and interviewee. The mock interviews took quite a while, but they helped to boost our confidence for the next day.

Photos courtesy of Earthwatch