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Commentaries and editorials

Facing the Facts on the
Future of Northwest Salmon

by Robert Lackey
The Oregonian, September 28, 2009

What does the future hold for West Coast salmon as the population continues to grow? (Oregonian photo) Over the past 135 years there have been many salmon recovery plans. During the past two decades their frequency has increased. The Clinton administration offered several detailed plans. The Bush administration tweaked the Clinton plans and offered several even more detailed ones. Now the Obama administration has tweaked the final Bush plan and offered its own with a few new wrinkles. Good luck.

Not one of these plans has much of a chance of achieving its publicly stated goal. Why is it that experts, behind closed doors and off the record, pretty much agree that they will not be successful? To find out why, we need to consider what we learned from Joe Friday.

Radio, television and movie detective extraordinaire Joe Friday demanded and provided "just the facts" as he sleuthed out truth amid the gossip and hearsay of criminal investigations. Scientists (the experts) who are tasked with informing the public and policy-makers about natural policy issues should attempt to do the same -- just the facts -- the straightforward, inflexible, sometimes unpleasant realities.

Lets use a Joe Friday approach to the salmon crisis.

Whatever policy-makers propose to do about the 2009 collapse of West Coast salmon runs, these four facts cannot be ignored. Policy-makers should demand from scientists realistic and honest assessments of the current and future conditions for salmon.

Joe Friday was a tough, no-nonsense professional. Those of us who provide the public and policy-makers with the best available information about salmon ought to follow his lead: "just the facts."

Robert Lackey is a professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Oregon State University and is a former senior scientist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Facing the Facts on the Future of Northwest Salmon
The Oregonian, September 28, 2009

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