Slow-Fading Salmonby Editors
San Francisco Chronicle, December 2, 2004
Restoring salmon and steelhead trout runs in West Coast rivers is a monumental challenge. Dams, farming, logging and population growth all contribute to declines that border on extinction.
What will it take to fill streams again with these silvery fish, symbols of nature and a clean, thriving environment? There are lots of answers, but don't expect any good ones from the Bush administration.
Step by step, it is rolling back policies and changing rules to undercut a revival of these fish. The latest is a plan to cut protections for rivers, which are the vital nurseries of the fish to spawn and grow before heading out to sea.
The proposal wipes out 80 percent of the habitat controls that prevent timber cuts and roads that muddy the clear-flowing water needed by the fish. The shift also helps developers who want to build near streams, another activity that can lead to lower water quality.
It's a giveaway to business and a loss for the environment. Coming a month after the presidential vote, the move seems timed to minimize fallout for President Bush.
The cuts in river protections aren't the only dismaying setback for salmon. Earlier, the administration tried to count hatchery-raised fish along with slim numbers of wild fish to show that populations weren't endangered.
Also, this week Bush officials formally buried talk of taking down federal dams on the Columbia and Snake rivers that obstruct migrating fish. Removing the
eight (four) major dams -- a radical step, to be sure -- had at least stayed on the table in a long-running argument in the Northwest about salmon losses.
Salmon and steelhead are no match for the White House's political calculations.
(bluefish: No one is suggesting removal of Columbia dams, though removal of four dams on the Lower Snake river is discussed.)
learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs