As the Executive Director of the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association (NSEA) since 2008, Rachel Vasak has served in a variety of capacities in order to help with salmon restoration. Her work has had a positive influence throughout the region from her first tree planting project in Ferndale in 1996 to her current work ensuring that wild salmon will be present for future generations of all species, whether it be orca, humans, or eagles. As an apolitical organization, NSEA focuses on finding common ground to work together with different groups so that they can be most effective at helping salmon, since “salmon don’t care what our beliefs are or who we vote for, they just need a good habitat.” NSEA is currently working to educate, inspire, and engage people to take action for wild salmon.
Rachel stresses how important salmon are as a keystone species, noting that without them there would be a major disruption to the food chain, a trophic cascade that is beyond comprehension. Orcas would be one of the first species to be significantly impacted. However, she wants to focus on hope, and that’s why watershed restoration is so important and central to NSEA’s work. “Restoration of salmon habitat creates the strongest chance of success for salmon and therefore creates the strongest chance of success for our resident orcas.” She credits the Lummi Nation, the Nooksack Indian Tribe, as well as other salmon recovery partners in Whatcom County as leaders of the efforts to recover salmon.
With so many opportunities to get involved and do work to help salmon, Rachel stresses the importance of getting active. “It’s one thing to care, it’s another to take action… The first step is learning, the second step is caring, and the next step is doing something. Whether it’s volunteering to plant a tree with NSEA, calling your legislator, or sending a contribution to an organization that is doing the on-the-ground restoration work. There are so many opportunities for people to get involved.”