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Commentaries and editorials

Bold Action Needed
to Save Idaho's Salmon

by Justin Hayes
Idaho Mountain Express, April 12, 2019

These are tough issues that require bold action now.

Adult counts of wild Chinook and Steelhead returning to Idaho (source: Idaho Fish & Game) Will an "Idaho-style solution" emerge from the Andrus Center Environmental Conference on salmon, steelhead, energy and community?

On Tuesday, April 23, the Andrus Center for Public Policy at Boise State University will bring together policymakers, experts, stakeholders and concerned citizens to discuss ideas and solutions to two crises facing the northwest region: salmon and steelhead extinction and energy policy.

It's clear that Idaho's iconic fish populations are collapsing despite the hard work of many local communities, ranchers and others to save them. Though efforts have kept the four stocks of Idaho salmon and steelhead from going completely extinct, salmon and steelhead populations are nowhere near recovery levels.

The result isn't simply fewer fish for Idaho anglers and recreationists. Towns and businesses that rely on these fish for recreation and tourism have been hurt economically. Water from irrigators, farm owners and other users has been called for to help flush fish past dams, straining their resources. If we lose salmon and steelhead, not only will these species perish, an integral part of Idaho's history, culture, economy and outdoors life will also disappear.

At the same time, the Northwest region's energy system faces pressure from market forces and technological changes that challenge the longevity of current programs. Keeping decades-old infrastructure running without looking at more cost-effective alternatives to maintain a reliable and affordable energy supply is short-sighted. Similarly, with strategic investments, the grain currently shipped downstream on barges can be moved just as economically and efficiently by rail.

The region has a unique opportunity to reshape the energy and transportation systems, save taxpayers and electricity ratepayers money and divert savings to other uses. And yes, save Idaho's fish.

These are tough issues that require bold action now to avoid Idaho's salmon and steelhead from completely dying out, and to avoid relying on an energy system that strains local, regional and federal budgets. The current situation is not working. Our fish are spiraling toward extinction. The Idaho Conservation League knows that bold action is needed now, or Idaho will lose our salmon and steelhead within a generation.

Regional leaders -- like Rep. Mike Simpson and Gov. Brad Little -- and representatives from rural communities that depend on fishing for the economy, farmers, utilities and environmentalists will all gather at the Andrus Center conference. The question is, will folks come together to find an "Idaho-style solution"? Will a gathering of folks that traditionally view each other with caution find a means of setting their differences aside and focus on creating a path that saves fish while also keeping communities and interests whole? Can Idahoans take a leading role in saving Idaho fish and ensuring a rational, cost-effective energy system, and a modern and efficient means of ensuring that agricultural interests are kept whole?

We look forward to hearing, discussing and sharing ideas and solutions at the Andrus Center's Environmental Conference.

The ICL is working with others on saving Idaho's salmon and steelhead. But we need your help. Your individual voices and actions will make the difference. Visit to learn how you can be part of this effort. If we don't take bold action now, Idaho's salmon and steelhead will be gone in a generation.

Justin Hayes
Bold Action Needed to Save Idaho's Salmon
Idaho Mountain Express, April 12, 2019

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