We are #Grateful For Awesome AmeriCorps Members!

People power the conservation work we do. We are #GratefulFor their service to America’s fish, wildlife, and habitat. Today we shine a spotlight on Kylee Butler, an awesome AmeriCorps intern serving through American Conservation Experience.

AmeriCorps member Kylee shows off a smile and a huge salmon
Photo: AmeriCorps member Kylee Butler shows off a big smile and an even bigger steelhead at Makah National Fish Hatchery, Credit: USFWS

baɫu·ɫšiƛ (Welcome)! My home is the Makah Indian Reservation of which I am a proud tribal member. I am serving as an Americorps intern stationed at the Makah National Fish Hatchery (MNFH) in Neah Bay, Washington. I’m excited about this opportunity to both serve and gain experience, whether that is assisting in the spawning and rearing of fish or supporting education and outreach at the hatchery and in the community.

The Makah National Fish Hatchery was built in 1980 with the purpose of upholding federal treaty responsibilities to conserve Pacific Salmon that are essential to the Makah. My people depend on the Chinook Salmon(c̓a·wiɫ), Coho Salmon (cu·wit), and steelhead (qi·wax̌), which are raised and released at the hatchery. This dependence is as much true today as it was hundreds of years ago. The National Fish Hatchery continues to ensure a healthy abundance of these three culturally significant salmon species.

Kylee focused on weaving a traditional mat
Photos: (left) Kylee works on weaving a traditional cedar mat for display in the Makah NFH visitor center, (right) the finished product, Credit: USFWS

These fish make their way up the Tsoo-Yess River each year and are directed into the MNFH facility. The fish are then “spawned” (sperm and eggs removed) and their fertilized eggs are then housed safely within the hatchery away from predators and unfavorable river conditions. After hatching and enough development (it is different for each fish species), juveniles (fry) are placed into “raceways” (large fish tanks). The large concrete outdoor raceways can hold upwards of 100,000 juvenile salmon each and the smaller indoor tanks can hold 50,000 depending on fish size! The fish are fed about 4 times daily and are very ‘excited’ each time as if they have never been fed before. The water looks as if it is boiling with fish! The fish tanks are cleaned just about every day because 3 million fish can produce a lot of poop in a hurry. It is the responsibility of the Fish Culturists on site (and Americorps interns like me) to make sure these fish rearing duties are done on a consistent basis to ensure fish survival.

Photo: AmeriCorps member Kylee Butler takes a sample from a large salmon at Makah National Fish Hatchery, Credit: USFWS

Pacific Salmon survival goes beyond the active labor required to raise fish at a hatchery. Education and outreach are also important because it provides information and encourages people to make more environmentally/fish friendly choices. I look forward to assisting in creating a better sense of community and outreach education at the hatchery while serving in this position. I will be contributing to educational content at the hatchery visitor center, which is currently under renovation. A lot of work has been done, including developing interpretive panels and cultural content. However, more work still needs to be done, especially considering that we have to think about the world that the next generations will be and are inheriting.

In our changing world, and climate, hatchery management has become increasingly challenging. Warmer spring and summer water temperatures cause decreased oxygen levels and increased potential for disease. This has led to necessary hatchery research to find different ways to raise and release fish. While serving my position here, I want to become more familiar with management strategies while assisting with some of the on-site research. One of my long-term goals is to become more accustomed to current management strategies while remaining creative enough to help address any future environmental or fisheries related problems. I also have goals that go beyond my own personal success.

Kylee smiles in the great outdoors around Makah National Fish Hatchery
Photo: Kylee smiles in the great outdoors around Makah National Fish Hatchery

Going above and beyond my career there are goals that I share with my community in our commitment to passing on important traditions to future generations. One of the most important communal goals is to nurture our collective and individual relationships with our local ecosystems and environment by direct interaction. It is important that we continue to maintain and encourage that relationship through harvesting, processing, and conserving resources such as salmon in a respectful and reciprocal way. That process of relationship development encourages stewardship, which I have experienced by engaging in traditional subsistence activities.

What fuels my desire to pursue this field of work is my personal and communal relationship with my home land, what is now called Neah Bay, Washington, and my (our) responsibility for the environment, and the protection of culturally significant natural resources (such as salmon). My identity, work, education, and goals are rooted in the way of life of the Makah Tribe of which I am a proud member. Our entire homeland is surrounded by the ocean. This makes the ocean just as much apart of our homeland and just as important to our way of life as Makah People.

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Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

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USFWS Columbia Pacific Northwest Region

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Conservation stories from one of the world’s most ecologically diverse regions.

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