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Commentaries and editorials

What Did Lonesome Larry Teach Us?

by Andy Munter
Idaho Mountain Express, August 22, 2012

20 years ago, Lonesome Larry was the only sockeye salmon to make the 800-mile trip from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake, once a popular spawning area for salmon.

As your recent story suggests, the lessons of Lonesome Larry are complex. I too, have mixed emotions when I contemplate that 20 years ago a single sockeye salmon returned to Redfish Lake to spawn and this year we will have around 300, mostly hatchery-raised. It certainly was a colossal effort by Fish and Game to rush Larry's species to the "emergency room" and bring Idaho sockeye salmon back from the brink of extinction, but long-term survival is still uncertain. What took us so long to realize there was problem and why is taking us so long to get real about the cure?

It's like Granny with an acute emphysema attack being rushed to the ER and given more and bigger doses of oxygen to keep her alive but all the while leaving that carton of cigarettes at her bedside. The vast majority of independent fish biologists believe that the only way to recover Idaho's salmon and steelhead is to remove four dams on the Lower Snake River. A growing body of economists and energy experts believe that with proper infrastructure investment we wouldn't miss the dams. And it would be way cheaper than leaving the fish in "intensive care."

It's time to take the issue out of the courts, get all the stakeholders together, and work towards a collaborative, scientific, common-sense solution to recovering these endangered fish. It can be done if we really care.

Related Pages: Count the Fish

Andy Munter, Ketchum
What Did Lonesome Larry Teach Us?
Idaho Mountain Express, August 22, 2012

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