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Andrus Talks Environment

by Joel Mills
Lewiston Tribune, September 26, 2003

Former Idaho Governor addresses concerns of Salmon Recovery, New Director of EPA

PULLMAN -- The dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers may be the main obstacle to salmon recovery in the Northwest, former Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus said Thursday. But he said the time wasted fighting over dam breaching may be the final nail sealing the endangered species in the coffin of extinction.

"If the dams were not there it would be the best for the salmon, but they're there," Andrus said in an address to about 300 people at Washington State University. Originally from Orofino, Andrus served four terms as governor and served as secretary of the interior in the Carter administration. He was in Pullman to deliver the annual Lane Family Lecture in Environmental Science at WSU.

"Should they (the dams) be removed, is that the answer? I think not. We have to be practical," Andrus said, noting it would take an act of Congress to breach them. But if the two sides keep fighting, all the species threatened by the dams will soon be extinct, he said.

Andrus noted the increased numbers of returning salmon this year, but said it was a false sign of recovery for a species that needs nothing less than the retrofit of dams and different water management policies to ensure its future.

"We need a way to simulate a free-flowing stream," he said, noting that the good salmon numbers this year are due to a good snowpack two years ago that flushed a greater number of fish to the ocean. He chided those who now point to the numbers as a sign that salmon have turned their long slide around.

"'Gee, that's great,' they say. Baloney."

He was also highly critical of the Bush administration saying the President has repeatedly broken his campaign promise to be a uniter, not a divider, especially in matters of environmental protection.

"Time and time again this administration has precipitated a fight over ... well, you name the issue."

He cited environmental squabbles that have occurred over the Kyoto international global warming accords, water drawdowns in the Everglades of Florida, weakening of the clean air and water acts and chiefly, drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

"This is the only area that hasn't felt the industrial footprint of man," he said of the refuge. "It is a place that is so fragile it takes 100 square miles for a grizzly bear to forage. It takes 50 years for a tree to grow."

As secretary of the interior, Andrus was key to the passage of the Alaska Lands Bill in 1980 that created the 19-million-acre refuge and protected hundreds of millions of acres of land in the northeast corner of the state.

He listed four points he thinks the Bush administration should address to improve what he sees as a dismal environmental record. The first would be letting the newly appointed Environmental Protection Agency head run the agency as he sees fit.

"Give Mike Leavitt his head," Andrus said of the current Utah governor and Bush appointee. "I know Mike Leavitt, and he's a reasonable, intelligent man. Maybe he doesn't have the best environmental record, but don't let (presidential advisor) Carl Rove run (the EPA) from the White House."

He also noted the importance of addressing global warming, developing alternative energy sources and keeping air and water clean as the areas where Bush needs the most improvement.

Joel Mills
Andrus Talks Environment
Lewiston Tribune, September 26, 2003

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