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A Salmon Plan for Rural Idaho

by Steven Bruce
Idaho Statesman - June 5, 2003

Western leaders emphasize need for cheap power

Steven Bruce The four Northwest governors are scheduled to meet today in Boise to discuss Snake River salmon and steelhead.

This meeting is happening because U.S. District Judge Thomas Redden ruled a month ago that the current federal plan to restore these salmon and steelhead is illegal. He ordered the Bush administration to rewrite the plan by May 2004.

Redden said the rewrite must address two issues. First, the original plan relied too much on measures that don´t focus on the primary problem for Idaho´s salmon — the federal dams and reservoirs in the lower Snake River. Second, the original plan contained too many measures the federal government could not guarantee would ever occur.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne and Idaho´s members of Congress, as Republicans, should be major players in influencing the administration´s rewrite.

On behalf of Idaho´s economy, communities, and future, here´s what our governor and delegation should tell President Bush:

  1. The goal of the Bush salmon plan must be to restore abundant, harvestable wild salmon and steelhead, for use by the people of Idaho, to the rivers of Idaho. This is what communities, economies and rural areas in central Idaho need. Salmon restoration will create jobs, increase incomes, build communities, and provide some ray of hope to the many small towns in our state that are now struggling.

    An example of how valuable salmon can be to rural economies can be found in the recently released report, The Economic Impact of the 2001 Salmon Fishing Season in Idaho, prepared for the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation. That study, based on data collected by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game from anglers, found:

    Gov. Kempthorne must insist on this as a first principle, because it is not where the administration or its agencies are headed now. In court, the administration argued that all it must do is keep Idaho salmon and steelhead from going extinct, not restore them to harvestable levels. The governor and delegation must insist that this policy be changed.

  2. Salmon and steelhead recovery is not an “environmental” issue — it is a community issue. It´s about jobs, rural economic opportunity and protecting Idaho traditions.

  3. The administration must stop the Bonneville Power Administration from its drastic and misguided efforts to cut investments in salmon and steelhead restoration by 25 to 40 percent. This is terrible policy for Idaho, because BPA´s funds are needed to make the investments, in Idaho and at the dams, that will ensure salmon are restored.

  4. The largest damage to Idaho´s wild salmon and steelhead comes from the federal dams and reservoirs. Reducing the destruction of both juvenile and adult salmon by those federal facilities must be the cornerstone of the new Bush salmon plan. If the dams aren´t going to be removed any time soon, that means our fish will need plenty of clean, cold, flowing water. Salmon and steelhead need water.

  5. Finally, newspaper reports have indicated that the main purpose of this governors´ meeting is to “take lower Snake River dam removal off the table.” If that is the main purpose, it´s a mistake.

Lower Snake dam removal will be on the table until and unless Snake River salmon and steelhead are restored without it. The only thing that will take dam removal off the table is successful restoration of abundant, harvestable wild salmon.

Gov. Kempthorne should make the main purpose of today´s meeting the creation of a solid, enforceable plan (with enough funding to make it happen) that restores abundant and harvestable wild salmon to Idaho´s great rivers and streams.

Steven Bruce
Governors: Don’t Stop Process on Salmon Recovery
Idaho Statesman, June 5, 2003

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