Bring Salmon Back From the Brink,
WASHINGTON, DC, -- Seventy Members of Congress sent a letter to President George W. Bush Wednesday asking for drastic changes in recent federal salmon policies that they say jeopardize the survival of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead. The administration's current policies appear to abandon the recovery of self-sustaining, fishable populations of wild salmon and steelhead in the Northwest, the lawmakers say.
Led by Representatives Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, Jim McDermott, of Washington, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Sam Farr of California, all Democrats, congressional members from across the nation recognized the importance of protecting the unique Northwest sport and commercial fishing industry dependent on salmon and steelhead.
Steelhead and four species of Pacific salmon are now federally listed as endangered or threatened.
Recently released policies and decisions by the Bush administration include an up to 80 percent reduction in critical habitat safeguards for wild salmon and steelhead and a proposal to combine wild and hatchery fish numbers when determining whether a species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The revised federal salmon plan treats dams as if they are part of the natural landscape and refuses to reverse the decline of salmon populations. The plan calls for $600 million to be spent annually on new, unproven gadgetry at the dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
"These three anti-salmon policies do not address the real problem with salmon declines in Idaho," said Kristin Troy, co-owner of a fishing and river outfitting company in Salmon Idaho and former Salmon Chamber of Commerce president. "My business and hundreds of other family businesses in rural communities throughout the Northwest need real solutions that will bring salmon back to our rivers."
Jeremy Brown, a commercial salmon fisherman from Bellingham, Washington, says, "The federal government wants to spend six billion dollars on a federal salmon plan that guarantees nothing but the continued decline of salmon dependent communities up and down the West Coast."
"This plan is a six billion dollar roadmap to extinction," said Trey Carskadon, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, which represents 36,500 family wage jobs in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that are dependent on healthy rivers and streams.
He says for the Northwest's rural sportfishing communities, the Bush administration's salmon policies "will cost thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars."
On the other side of the coin, a study released Wednesday in Idaho concludes that a restored salmon and steelhead sport fishery would bring almost $550 million every year to the state's economy. That is a 170 percent increase from what Idaho saw from a limited fishery in 2001.
"The Potential Economic Impact of Restored Salmon and Steelhead Fishing in Idaho" by Dr. Don Reading of Ben Johnson Associates was reviewed and endorsed by the Office of the Mayor, Riggins, Idaho; City of Stanley, Idaho; Stanley-Sawtooth Chamber of Commerce; Lemhi County Economic Development Association and North Custer County Economic Development Association.
It is based on current economic data, and fisheries data from the 1950s, when full salmon and steelhead fishing seasons were last allowed in Idaho.
Reading's estimates based on the spike of good salmon returns in 2001 show that season provided the region more than $1.9 billion and almost 18,000 jobs.
"Even the historically modest salmon and steelhead returns that we saw in 2001 meant more than $1.9 billion to our region," said Carskadon. "If annually harvestable runs were to be reestablished, the boost throughout our economy would be tremendous, with major business and job growth in a cluster of industries, including boat building, outdoor gear, outfitting, restaurants and hotels."
"Wild salmon are an important economic asset," said John Sterling, program director of the Conservation Alliance, a group of more than 80 outdoor businesses that support habitat protection efforts. "More fish means more people fishing and using our member companies' products.
Neither the Idaho study nor the Oregon and Washington 2001 numbers include any of the economic benefits from commercial or tribal fishing.
Restoring Fish Populations would Boost Economy, by Associated Press, Times-News 2/10/5
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