Finally, an Honest Broker
by Editorial Board
Will Idahoans finally get serious about saving their wild salmon?
They will, if they heed the honest and courageous words of Sen. Mike Crapo.
On Friday, Crapo said he wants to help save the remarkable fish that have migrated to and from Idaho's mountain rivers for millennia - but have spent close to 20 years on the endangered species list. Rather than talking the salmon issue to death, he is talking about honest discussions to bring the fish back to health. "Does that mean dam breaching should be on the table? Yes. But that also means not dam breaching should be on the table."
It's amazing that it has taken so many years for an Idaho politician to speak the truth. For years, Idaho's duplicitous company line has gone something like this: We'll negotiate about almost anything, except breaching the four dams on the lower Snake River.
This is bad faith and bad science. Many biologists believe that breaching these four dams in eastern Washington will help young salmon migrate from Idaho to the Pacific, giving these fish their best and perhaps only chance of recovery.
Breaching must be a central part of the discussion. And should have been all along.
Crapo knows - from painstaking but rewarding firsthand experience - that true negotiation can get results. He and his staff spent seven years pursuing what seemed impossible at the start: a compromise that would protect open space and wildlife habitat in Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands, while maintaining room for long-established ranching operations, off-road vehicle use and U.S. Air Force training. The result, signed into law in March, is Idaho's first wilderness bill in nearly 29 years.
Crapo knows a thing or two about what will make negotiation a success, or what will doom it to failure. His belief in collaborative natural resource management approaches the reverential and is grounded in sound process.
When Crapo talks about collaboration, the rest of the region should listen.
Crapo's timing couldn't be better.
Just two weeks ago, the Portland-based U.S. District Court judge reviewing the feds' salmon recovery plan made clear that, in his influential opinion, breaching is on the table. In a letter to attorneys involved in the issue, James Redden urged the feds to develop salmon contingency plans, including a breaching plan.
And just last week, the Obama administration demonstrated that it values consensus-based resource solutions. While restricting road building on 49 million acres of national forest, the White House left Idaho's roadless plan intact. The plan, a centerpiece of Sen. Jim Risch's seven-month term as governor, is an artful compromise for managing 9.3 million acres of roadless forest.
Two decades into the Northwest's salmon debate, intellectual honesty has become nearly as scarce as the fish themselves. On Friday, candor made a long-overdue comeback.
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