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Governors' Salmon Plan Will Help

by Editors
The Oregonian, July 26, 2000

Instead of feuding over dam breaching,
four Northwest governors wisely agree to try to save salmon other ways

Four Northwest governors, who have disagreed in the past on what to do about saving wild salmon and steelhead, released Tuesday a set of general principles to guide the region's recovery effort.

By focusing solely on strategies that all four agree are necessary to help the fish, the plan has a chance to break the political deadlock that has plagued salmon recovery in the past.

The emphasis the chief executives of Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Washington have placed on state cooperation with local, federal and tribal governments is unprecedented. And this kind of coordinated state clout will be helpful when the federal government, under the Endangered Species Act, asks the citizens of each state to make financial sacrifices on behalf of the fish.

The governors' plan, released two days before the National Marine Fisheries Service announces its strategy for recovering the 15 stocks of imperiled salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin, does not include breaching the four dams on the lower Snake River.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has endorsed dam breaching, disagrees with the other three governors --Dirk Kempthorne of Idaho. Marc Racicot of Montana and Gary Locke of Washington -- on that point. But to his credit, Kitzhaber recognizes that dam breaching is not a silver bullet and that there are many other things to be done -- very expensive things -- to restore the Columbia River ecosystem. That the Oregon governor has agreed to back away from his dam-breaching advocacy if the governors' strategy works is laudable.

The governors' plan calls for improving and restoring habitat, including the creation of special sanctuaries for salmon, attacking predation of the fish by birds and marine mammals, limiting commercial and sports fishery harvests, refocusing some hatchery production toward rebuilding naturally spawning fish, and modifying hydropower operations but only as long as the region's electric supply is not jeopardized.

None of these steps can be achieved without public support throughout the region. By joining forces to promote these initiatives in their states, the four governors have demonstrated a willingness to move beyond the paralyzing debate over dam breaching.

Governors' Salmon Plan Will Help
The Oregonian, July 26, 2000

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