Kim McDonald is an environmental activist with a law degree, a PhD, and a fighting spirit. Her current project is leading Fish Not Gold, a nonprofit dedicated to saving Washington State’s salmon streams from hobby miners who use machines to dredge for gold.
How do you describe the work that you do?
As the founding director of Fish Not Gold I coordinate our legislative, scientific, and legal strategies. Specifically I work with our partners, such as Trout Unlimited, to direct our legislative work at the Washington State capital, coordinate our science work out in the field and collect evidence of Clean Water Act and Endangered Species violations by suction dredge miners.
Why does it matter?
Suction dredge mining is a form of recreational or hobby mining that destroys riparian areas critical to aquatic species. Washington State is the epicenter of endangered species listings for salmon, the iconic steelhead, and bull trout. This type of mining has been banned in Oregon, and California, and severely restricted in Idaho. But in Washington the state allows miners to suction dredge in streams that are critical habitat for these endangered species. Meanwhile, taxpayers spend hundreds of millions in salmon/steelhead restoration projects, which suction dredge mining can instantly destroy. Just stopping this horrible form of mining will help salmon and steelhead recovery enormously.
What do you see as your most significant, recent accomplishment?
Starting this campaign. No one else wanted to start it, so I decided to become a one woman band! Finally, we got a number of other organizations with a lot more heft to join us. We are getting significant media coverage–notably a story on PBS Newshour–key policy makers are paying attention to us, and we continue to grow in numbers of people active on this issue.
When you first began environmental work, what was the best advice you received?
When you work to protect the environment it is a long, long, long struggle. Celebrate the little wins or else you will never celebrate at all.
Now that you are an accomplished advocate, what advice would you give to a younger person eager to make a mark in your field?
Choose your issues wisely, but listen to your heart. Passion makes advocacy work much easier, so work on issues or causes that you feel in your heart. Take very good care of yourself because this kind of work can take a toll on health and your relationships. Last, don’t be above doing all types of work…it gives you empathy and empathy helps solve the issues you work on.