the film
Commentaries and editorials

It’s Time for Idaho’s Leaders
to Support 21st Century River Economics

by Stephen Pauley
The Idaho Statesman, December 12, 2003

Stephen Pauley In response to your editorial of Nov. 16, “Threat of salmon lawsuit undermines negotiations.”

  1. Nobody likes litigation, but the continued record of inaction by federal agencies on meaningful wild fish recovery measures forces salmon groups to ask the courts to enforce existing laws that, if followed, would protect salmon and steelhead: the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Northwest Power Act.

    At this moment, the reality is that the federal courts are the only friends in high places that the salmon have.

    Two federal biological opinions (1994 and 2000) have been found by the courts to be in violation of the ESA. Federal judges sent them back for revision.

    If the federal agencies (Army Corps of Engineers, Bonneville Power Administration, and NOAA Fisheries) seriously want native salmon recovery, they surely have no track record to show for it. The General Accounting Office found that 3.3 billion of taxpayer dollars were spent on “fish recovery” over the past 20 years, and native fish are still endangered. Despite recently improved ocean conditions and the returns of large numbers of hatchery salmon and steelhead, native fish counts are still below the numbers needed to remove them from the ESA´s endangered or threatened list.

  2. A large majority of independent fishery biologists and NOAA Fisheries´ 2000 Biological Opinion (the so-called federal salmon recovery plan) say that fall chinook need cool water and increased flows in the Snake River in summer to aid smolt migration and to assist adult fish in moving upstream to spawn. That means the 427,000 acre-feet of upper Snake River water are needed. But that will happen only when politics and subsidies take a back seat to sound science and prudent fisheries management.

  3. Sen. Mike Crapo´s idea of turning the ESA over to the states is about the worst idea yet to come out of his negotiation talks. It would be a final death sentence for wild salmon and steelhead.

    Of course, congressional delegates everywhere are driven by local politics. In the Northwest, re-election depends on continually delivering water, power and crop subsidies to farmers and ranchers. If salmon and steelhead recovery were to fall under Idaho´s politicians, the wild fish in the Snake and Salmon rivers would never receive the amounts of water nor the velocity of water needed to prevent their extinction.

  4. In his years as a U.S. representative, and now as a U.S. senator, Crapo has never put forward a plan that helped native salmon. He promotes the “paralysis of analysis.” He holds hearings, and talks about local control while native fish continue to decline. To expect Sen. Crapo to change his ways now is unrealistic.

    Sen. Crapo will continue to pose as a salmon recovery mediator when his true allegiances are to his electorate, the farmers and ranchers, and not to the recovery of wild salmon and steelhead.

  5. The economy of Idaho is not only farming and ranching, but also the growing millions of dollars spent on sports fishing and recreation.

    It´s time for Idaho´s Sens. Crapo and Larry Craig, and Reps. C.L. “Butch” Otter and Mike Simpson, to enter Idaho´s 21st century and give equal weight to both economic interests.

Stephen Pauley
It’s Time for Idaho’s Leaders to Support 21st Century River Economics
The Idaho Statesman, December 12, 2003

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