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Wolves are Here to Stay
The Dams Ain’t

Bill Cope
Boise Weekly - September 3, 2003

Larry Craig (that stiff, stuffy guy who shows up about every six years to collect the bag money for the protection racket he fronts) says breaching the dams will never happen.

Oh yeah? Is that so?

Well there, Mister Stiff & Stuffy, I say the dams will too get breached. I say it’s just a matter of time.

Following are a number of related factoids that have crossed my attention span:

  1. Americans have overcome their cultural aversion to eating any meat that wasn’t once a cow and are now consuming fish on a regular basis. And it’s not just the Tuna Surprise casserole the family chef throws together because he/she hasn’t had a chance to get to the grocery store, either. Grilled fish, fried fish, baked fish, blackened, shell, raw, fish in salads, fish in tacos, puréed fish flavored to taste slightly like crab … you name it. This trend reflects the news from medical science that fish, assuming it’s not contaminated with something gucky, is good for humans. Even fish fat is good fat. Just a week or two ago, a study was released that indicated a couple … three servings of fish a week may well keep Alzheimer’s at bay.
  2. Credit the Pews Ocean Commission for this: the Seven Seas’ stock of bubba fish (like tuna and swordfish) has been over-harvested by up to 90 percent. Other food fishies (such as cod and herring) are down to a fraction of what they were. The way things are going, someday soon the only fish you’ll still be able to stuff yourself on relatively cheaply may be the farmed kind. Oh, and anchovies. Enjoy.
  3. Farmed salmon is going for $4.98 a pound at Winco. This tub-raised salmon has become one of the few sources of fish flesh average folks can afford.
  4. About mid-summer, it was revealed the pink in farmed salmon is an additive. It seems wild salmon get all pink inside naturally because their primary diet is pink shrimp. But fish farms can’t afford to feed their caged-up fishies shrimp, now can they? Yet people expect their salmon to be salmon-colored, even at $4.98 a pound. The answer: paint. It’s edible paint, true … but what else do you call a substance that changes the color of a surface when applied?
  5. The August 11 issue of Newsweek reports that farmed salmon also contains as much as 16 times the level of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that wild salmon do. (You might remember PCBs as being a flavoring to electric transformers and hydraulic fluids.) The source of all those yummy PCBs is the fish food they feed the salmon before they feed the salmon to us.
  6. Since the four Lower Snake dams were put there, wild salmon runs have decreased by 99 percent … give or take. Think about it. Not so very long ago, there were enough wild salmon returning annually to the Northwest to feed several million life forms—us included. Anymore, if a wild salmon or two make it all the way to Redfish Lake, Kempthorne throws a smiley-face press conference and brags about what a good job we’re doing.
  7. Craig has taken to implicating the dismal salmon runs on sea lions and seals, the populations of which have exploded … according to Senator Larry Craig… as though he’d know.
  8. As reported in the August National Geographic, between 1960 and 1990, fishermen were allowed to shoot 34,000 sea lions in the waters of Alaska simply because the marine mammals were eating fish that otherwise might end up on the plates of Skipper’s Fish & Chips patrons. (This number is in addition to an estimated 50,000 that ended up dead in the nets of floating fish factories.) Fortunately, because of the expanding eco-consciousness of decent people, those days are over. Unfortunately, sea lion populations around Alaska are down to a tenth of what they were and for unknown reasons, still declining. Despite such a drastic reduction in fish-eating marine mammals, the Alaskan fish harvest is also down to a shadow of what it was. (Craig’s tactic of blaming creatures that can’t speak in their own defense has been taken up by a few Idaho elk-shooting enthusiasts who insist that all the wolves be either relocated or killed because the savage beasts eat some elk, which are so much better off being shot. I have not the space here to address the truths and lies of reintroduced wolves, so consider this Part One of an extended column. Soon, I’ll get to the “Wolves Are Here to Stay …” part. Promise.)
  9. Craig also maintains that bringing wild salmon runs back to abundant levels is not worth devastating the economy of the Northwest by breaching those dams.
  10. The power contribution of the four Lower Snake dams averages out to four percent of the total electricity used by the Northwest states. You heard me right … four percent. (During low water seasons, the contribution was a pitiful one percent.) Furthermore, whatever benefits Lewiston’s port operation gives to a few Idahoans can be easily offset by rail and trucking. And as to the irrigation benefits that the dams supposedly provide, you tell me … how do you irrigate when there is no canal system anywhere close to the reservoirs, huh?
  11. Even with the measly share of wild salmon (and steelhead) that still manages to struggle all the way to Idaho waters, the sports-fishing trade employs approximately 5,000 Idahoans and brings $170,000,000 into the state annually.
It’s like math, fellow Idahoans. No matter how you arrange the numbers, the bottom line remains the same. Nor should you take my word for any or all of the above items. All I ask is that you check it out and add it up for yourselves.

And a note of hope to those who despair that good sense and the wild salmon will never prevail, remember: a guy like Craig isn’t gonna be around forever. Fact is, it’s only the regular infusion of huge amounts of money that keeps guys like him afloat. And when his breed finally goes extinct (over-education will eventually finish them off), have your breaching tools prepared.

Bill Cope is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News in Paonia, Colorado ( He is a musician, freelance writer for the boise Weekly, and part-time gardening assitant in Meridian, Idaho.
Wolves are Here to Stay / The Dams Ain’t
Boise Weekly September 3, 2003

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