the film
Commentaries and editorials

Let's Work with Judge's Decision
to Find Way to Save Our Wild Salmon

by R. L. "Nick" Nicholson
The Idaho Statesman, June 16, 2005

In a recent letter to Secretary of Commerce, the Honorable Carlos Gutierrez, Idaho Congressmen Butch Otter and Mike Simpson asked him to seek timely appeal of Judge James Redden's recent court rulings. What Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited would like to know is "why?"

How can they in good conscience appeal a ruling that invalidates a biological opinion that is so terribly flawed it is ridiculous? We ask them to please stop trying to defend the notion that 47-year-old man-made dams are part of the natural environment simply because they were in place prior to the fish being listed as endangered.

The plan also attempted to rewrite the Endangered Species Act to say recovery of a listed species is not mandated. That little gem, had it been allowed to stand, would have spelled certain doom for our wild fish, and we ask them to please not pretend otherwise.

ISSU asks the congressmen how they can claim the ruling "represents a setback to the considerable successes realized through regional efforts to protect abundant salmon and steelhead listed under the Endangered Species Act." If that is so, where are the abundant fish? Fish counts have been decreasing every year since the record 2001 run, and it's time to stop camouflaging the issues with record claims. Never have we seen such vivid examples of mismanaged programs, and the proof is in the rivers. Or perhaps better said, not in the rivers.

ISSU wonders why no Idaho politician ever acknowledges the potential $544 million that studies show a healthy wild fish run could produce in Idaho. The possible $100 million loss in power revenues for BPA to be passed on to ratepayers pales when compared to the income that could be generated in the private retail sector.

All of us should ask both our state and federal politicians why Idaho was the only Northwest state listed in the suit on the side of the federal government.

ISSU believes we should be working together to save our fish, and it's really puzzling when our elected officials claim to be trying to do that by supporting another failing fish plan.

We ask our congressmen to drop the call for an appeal. Let's instead get an honest appraisal of the costs and the benefits of a free-flowing lower Snake River. We're talking about the immediate and shrinking benefits of the port of Lewiston, and the power generated by these four low-value dams, making sure citizens understand the relevance of less than 2 percent of Idaho's power load. Let's investigate the costs of remuneration to those affected. Today's fish count shows the billions spent on so-called fish restoration projects have been wasted dollars. Show us why the $6 billion new plan has more chance of success than its predecessor. Federal dams are killing our fish, and it's becoming obvious Idahoans are getting tired of waiting for a fix.

ISSU's goal, simply stated, is we want a restored sustainable and harvestable wild fish population returning to Idaho. Salmon and steelhead tag holders number into the thousands, and they are starting to speak out and ask why courts are forced to protect our fish from those we have hired to manage them. Politicians need to hear from every angler in our state, every business owner, and anyone who cares about our magnificent wild fish that are bordering on the edge of extinction. Contact our congressmen and ask them to work with Judge Redden's decision with us, not against us, to save our wild fish.

R. L. "Nick" Nicholson is president of Idaho Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited.
Let's Work with Judge's Decision to Find Way to Save Our Wild Salmon
The Idaho Statesman, June 16, 2005

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