Our last Spinal Column Newsletter came out mid-summer; we are eager to share with you what we've been up to since then. It is thanks to the many ways you show up and support Backbone Campaign that all this is possible - so we want to start by saying THANK YOU for believing in and supporting this unique nonprofit. From volunteering to donating to taking action with us in the streets, we are grateful for our Backbone Family.
We must acknowledge the grief we feel, first for the shooting of our Community Supported Organizer Jacob Johns, and second for the escalating violence and war crimes in Israel - Palestine.
Jacob was in New Mexico at a prayer ceremony celebrating the postponement of the resurrection of a monument to Juan de Oñate. He was shot at point blank range and sustained several serious wounds. He continues his recovery in the hospital but is eager to get back to work. (He has been organizing an indigenous collective to attend COP28 in Dubai). Info about the incident and his work is HERE.
Fighting to Restore Salmon, Orca and Free-Flowing Waters
Backbone's work toward restoring a free-flowing and un-dammed Lower Snake River continues. We organized actions in communities across the Northwest, deploying banners on overpasses, ferry terminals and other key locations, to call for dam breaching. Earlier this month, we had banners in several Northwest communities, in support of Indigenous Peoples' Day (Oct 9) and Orca Recovery Day (Oct 14). Thank you to our new team member, Lucy, for organizing this action!
As part of that day of action, youth at Vashon Green School held banners and handmade signs, and distributed cards to over 100 commuters on Vashon Island, urging them to call policymakers to insist on breaching the Lower Snake River dams. These youth are committed to making a call every day. Will you join them?
At the end of September, Team Backbone partnered with Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment to support a flotilla on the Lower Snake River. Twelve Backbone kayaktivists and artful activists made the long trip to help our allies safely deploy land and on-water banners. The action was part of the All Our Relations Journey. We are grateful especially to Julian and Maria (at Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment) for all their work with organizing.
We are so proud of our incredible team. Thank you to Dana, Mary, Jeff, Rob, Karen, Kathy, Thomas, Alison, Steve, and Mike for all the ways you pitched in, as well as to Sue, Sheila, Laura, Lynn, Steve, and Mary for helping construct the 100 foot floating banner. We hope to get that enormous banner out on the water again soon, for another flotilla. We must keep up the pressure on our policymakers. To see more beautiful flotilla pictures by Jeff Dunnicliff, check out our Flickr Album.
Trains Can Save Salmon
As you know, at Backbone it's important that we not only stand up and say No to wrongs, but that we also offer solutions. Throughout our 20 years, Backbone's motto has been, Our "No" is only as powerful as our "Yes" is compelling. In the last two years we've been focused on proposing a solution to the transportation issue posed by dam breaching. We have demonstrated how to get wheat off the river barges and onto trains in order for wild salmon to thrive.
Amy and Bill shared the preliminary work about our Rural Rail Renaissance proposal at the recent Trout Unlimited conference in Spokane where anglers and conservationists from around the country share our passion for allowing wild salmon, a manifestation of nature's abundance, to feed humans, orcas, and all that depend of them.
In early September, Solutionary Rail convened a technical retreat in Pullman, WA to refine our transportation proposal and listen to stakeholders from regional port authorities and wheat co-ops. A rail planner, wheat farmer, rail bridge engineer, locomotive engineer, short line railroad owner, LSR expert, and others then put their heads together. Since then, a great deal of work has been done. A special thank you to rail expert Tom White for his skilled analysis and renderings. The outcome is a simpler path forward for achieving the critical transportation goals. We are calling it the Rosalia to Pasco Shortline Access Rail Corridor.
This Monday, Tom, Bill and many of the participants in the Pullman retreat met with administrators at the Port of Pasco to share this proposal and discuss the central role the Port of Pasco could play. The following day they met with other stakeholders and explored the route, including a fascinating walk through a 1000' tunnel.
We will continue to reach out and advance a plan that allows both farmers and salmon to thrive. If you want to help build the Rural Rail Renaissance in SE Washington, here are some ideas. (Start with reviewing the Rosalia to Pasco Shortline Access Rail Corridor slidedeck.)
How to Take Action:
- In Washington State or in the great Palouse region:
Contact your Washington State Legislators, Governor Inslee, and WSDOT to ask that steps be taken immediately to make the Rosalia to Pasco Shortline Access Rail Corridor a reality. Much work needs to be done, and we must not wait for 2026 when Washington State's Transportation Replacement Study is finally due. And make sure candidates for Governor know about and support this work.
- Write a Letter to the Editor or OpEd in support of a Rural Rail Renaissance in SE WA through building out the Rosalia to Pasco Shortline Access Corridor.
- Outside the Washington State area? Urge the Biden Administration to invest in the rail connectivity, as described by Solutionary Rail. Provide Washington State $200 million to build out the Rosalia to Pasco Shortline Access Rail Corridor.
Want to volunteer to help with this work? Contact us at info@solutionaryrail,.org and let us know the ways you are interested in helping out.
Lastly, if you're in the area next week, we'd love to see you at the upcoming Rise Up in NW in Unity convening by the Nez Perce Tribe, November 1-2 at Tulalip Resort, in Everett, WA. Bill will be there to speak on the Trains Can Save Salmon Plan, and there is a robust agenda.
Free, RSVP HERE.
Showing up for Progressive Issues you care about
Earlier this summer, Backbone revamped our Vulture props and showed up at the Stop Raiding our Medicare Rally, on Medicare's anniversary, at the Federal Building in Seattle. The event was in collaboration with health care advocacy organizations, including Physicians for a National Health Program - Washington State.
In September, one of our projectionists in the midwest projected outside the Republican debate in Wisconsin, to support parents standing up to MAGA hate.
Our friend Carl and the crew from the Block Corporate Salmon campaign traveled to Farm Aid with Backbone props to protest genetically engineered salmon and to call for native-led solutions to the salmon crisis. (Carl Wassilie is a Backbone Campaign Community Supported Organizer. You can learn more about his good work HERE.)
And Backbone collaborated with organizations like Code Pink, Move to Amend, and others to deploy several images in the NYC Climate march, where 75k people took to the streets to call for a Climate Emergency Declaration, the end to fossil fuels, and a healthy planet. Code Pink deployed our inflatable prop to expose the elephant in the room - the US Military, the #1 climate emissions polluter. "As the U.N. holds a climate summit, we're exposing the elephant in the room - the Pentagon's pollution."
Backbone's Instagram page has been getting a serious upgrade, thanks to Lucy. If you're on that platform, please follow our page and like/share our posts and stories!
Solutionary Rail Update
In addition to focusing on our Trains Can Save Salmon campaign above, Solutionary Rail has been involved in some exciting work. After our Spring webinar that brought together environmental justice and labor leaders to discuss rail in the public interest, several of those same leaders were invited to testify before the Congressional Committee on Environment and Public Works this summer. Bill Moyer, Backbone ED and Solutionary Rail Lead, was invited to join the meeting, chaired by Senator Ed Markey.
Since then, we've been in communication with Senator Markey's office, providing information on rail electrification, the urgency of electrifying railyards and switcher locomotives, and issues around rail in the public interest. We are beginning to plan a Rail in the Public Interest Symposium, in early 2024 in DC. Stay tuned for more info.
In other SR News, we organized a petition to Secretary Buttigieg and FRA Administrator Amit Bose, calling on them to deny the grant for the Washington State Bullet Train Boondoggle and to urge WSDOT to Implement the Existing Amtrak Plan for 110mph trains & hourly service on Amtrak Cascades. 15 allied organizations and over 300 people signed the petition, which we sent to Buttigieg and Bose, as well as to the NW Congressional delegation. If you haven't yet added your name, we hope you will, so we can continue fighting for common sense regional rail, NOT boondoggle projects that will take 25+ years to build, a timeline that lacks urgency and will not make an impact on the climate crisis.
A variety of regional work continues - from building a 2nd giant inflatable salmon, to block printing workshops in our warehouse, to working with rail advocates for sensible rail in Washington State. Across the US, projections are taking place at key locations, calling for Ceasefire Now. Thank you for all the ways you support this work; we are coming up on 20 years of Backbone creative actions and solutionary ideas. We couldn't do this without you!
Bill, Amy, and the Backbone Team